Happy 40th Birthday. A love letter to “London Calling”



Happy birthday to you.


I have been entranced by you from the first moment I heard you. Your spark, your anger, your joyousness, your exuberance, your sarcasm, all wrapped up into a beautifully presented package. You are of, and from, a different time – but still so relevant.


And now, today, you are 40 years old.


But you have not aged. Not one bit. It is a credit to Joe, Mick, Paul, and Topper that you still sound as fresh and vital as the day you came into the world, kicking and screaming, railing against Thatcherism and injustice, and the injustice of Thatcherism. There are no creases. How have you aged so well?


You had me entranced from the moment I laid my ears on the urgency of those guitars and that pounding rhythm section on the glorious opening title track. Four decades on, who does not know the opening bars of London Calling? This is truly a band at the apex of their game.


The variety and innovation that you continue to display is a joy to behold. Ska, reggae, jazz, and of course the punk scene from which you were born. The rocking Hateful, the jazzy Rudy Can’t Fail, the rocking politically charged Spanish Bombs, the didactic Clampdown, Simonen’s unforgettable bass and vocal drone on The Guns Of Brixton and, by the way, how catchy are the horns in The Right Profile? Note that these are only the highlights on sides 1 and 2 of this epic double-album! We are merely scratching the surface of what you have to offer.


There are covers, but mostly it is the work of two of the finest songwriters of their generation: strummer and Jones. I will never forget Casey Kasem attempting to explain to his American Top 40 listeners that Train In Vain was the first American hit by an important English band called “The Clash”. The song became my favourite, the yearning for a love lost simply bursting from the vinyl.


You have garnered many accolades over the years. Rolling Stone declared you number 8 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I know I am biased, but I would have had you higher than that.


Your cover is my social media avatar. I see you every day. Pennie Smith’s iconic photograph has been judged the greatest in all of popular music. And I listen to you every week.


Your influence, glory and majesty lives on down through the generations; and long may it continue to do so.


Happy 40th, London Calling. I love you.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Beautiful, Smokie. I didn’t pay much attention to London Calling 40 years ago but my son has recently brought my focus to it, and I’m glad he did.

  2. Big hearted passion on display Smokie Dawson

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ripper Smoke. You’ve inspired me to dig out the CD and whack it on in the car.

    To think that Train In Vain was a very late addition. Wow.

  4. Like you Smokie this album blew me away from first listen. Haa never let me down. Playing it this week in celebration and honour of it turning 40 I continue to marvel at it’s breadth and wisdom, at it’s musicality and bolshieness. Personal secret fave is The Card Cheat.


  5. Smokie this is the best album ever. A double with no filler. The bass riff on Guns of Brixton, the fate of the card cheat, the reference to Federica Lorca in Spanish Bombs, the rockabilly in influence in Brand New Cadillac, with so much more to savour. Paul, Topper, Mick and Joe were like Rudy: they can’t fail.

    Correct ‘Swish’ Train In Vain, wasn’t even listed on the cover. What was the last song listed for side 4 Lovers Rock?

    Smokie you are so right, this is an album that’s glory, influence and majesty lives on, and will as long as humans enjoy great music.


  6. But wasn’t it released before Thatcher became PM, and while Callaghan was PM?

  7. Punk was a rebellion against glam. And also against music. And then came London Calling – punk meets unforgettable tuneful rhythm. Bought the album for the title song and will never forget the constant musical surprises you describe so beautifully. Loved “Rudy Can’t Fail”. The Specials on speed.

  8. Well said Smokie. Remember hearing it for the first time and it rang like a bell. Someone once (rudely) asked Joseph Heller why he’d never written another novel as good as Catch 22. He replied, “the question is why hasn’t anybody else?” I ask the same about London Calling.

  9. Excellent tribute Smokie. I went to three Big Days Out and a highlight was seeing Joe Strummer one hot afternoon. London Calling was incendiary.

  10. Thanks for all your supportive comments.
    I note with interest that there are a number of different “favouite” tracks on the album.

    Gigs, your son has excellent taste. There is something collaborative and heart-warming when a child introduces you to new music. It has happened to me many times.

    Tom, I’m passionate about some things, others not so much.

    TT, Thatcherism had just commenced (Maggie was six months into her reign), but I reckon the Clash saw what was coming.

    PB, “musical surprises” is an excellent description of its breadth.

    Anson, that is a very adaptable quote by Heller.

    Mickey, Strummer’s early passing was a tragedy. I wonder how good a Clash reunion might have been? RIP Joe – and the Big Day Out

  11. “Now sing Michael, sing” .

    On the route of the 1 bus, ”


  12. “But I believe in this
    And it’s been tested by research
    He who ****s nuns
    Will later join the church.”

    Oh, Sister Bertrille, where are you now?

    Death of Glory. (Just another story.)

  13. Whoops i made a serous typo. It should read,

    ” On the route of the 19 bus ……..”.

    And i hadn’t even been drinking brew for breakfast.


  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful Smokie. I actually have this album on second hand vinyl. But it sounds so good on Spotify.

  15. “Nembutol numbs it all,

    but i prefer alcohol !”

  16. Your snakeskin suit and your alligator boot
    You won’t need a launderette, you can take ’em to the vet!

    to this in the same song:

    Your eyeballs feel like pinballs and your tongue feels like a fish
    You’re leapin’ from the windows sayin’ “don’t get me none of this!”

  17. Ripper reflection, Smokie.
    Looks like you and I were singing Happy Birthday simultaneously…


    … and in unison (no fancy harmonies here).
    I’ll only add that I’ve never heard anyone play that rather silly game, It Should Have Been a Single Album, with the mighty London Calling. Perhaps that’s because it’s ‘all killer, no filler’, great from start to finish. Breathtaking!

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