I love museums, and I love The Clash. I grew up listening to “London Calling”, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and other songs from the London guys, far away from me, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
I remember my father, so excited to show me the LP, “London Calling”, I was 6 years old! It took me 40 years to see that bass guitar “face to face”, in my case wearing a mask, at The Museum of London last Sunday. The Museum of London is pleased to announce that the highly anticipated The Clash: London Calling, a free exhibit showcasing a collection of over 150 items from The Clash’s personal archive including notes, clothing, images and music, many previously unseen, is now open and free to view until September, 6 2020. When The Clash’s third album ‘London Calling’ was released in the winter of 1979 it was clear that the band had made an instant classic, an era-defining masterpiece which still stands as one of rock’s all-time greatest albums.
‘London Calling’ was and is a hugely compelling melting pot of musical styles, driven by a passion for action and a fierce political anger, with music and lyrics which remain as relevant today as they were on release. As well as showcasing influences and context for the writing and recording of the seminal double album, this new exclusive exhibit at the Museum of London will also examine how the capital influenced The Clash as they became the most popular British band of the 20th century.
To reflect the band’s diverse range of political, emotional and musical interests a broad range of items are now on show, including:
• Paul Simonon’s broken Fender Precision Bass. The bass was damaged on stage at The Palladium in New York City on 20th September 1979, as Simonon smashed it on the floor in an act of spontaneous and complete frustration
• A handwritten album sequence note by Mick Jones showing the final and correct order for the four sides of the double album ‘London Calling’
• One of Joe Strummer’s notebooks from 1979, the period when the album ‘London Calling’ was rehearsed and recorded. Open at page showing Ice Age, which was to become lyrics for the song ‘London Calling’
• Topper Headon’s drum sticks, which are one of the only remaining items of Headon’s from this time
• The 1950s Fender Esquire used by Joe Strummer during the recording of ‘London Calling’
• Photographs by Pennie Smith featured on the two inner record sleeves of London Calling and taken during The Clash’s ‘Take the 5th’ tour of North America in September and October 1979, printed and shown for the first time
• Original drafts, many never before seen, from cartoonist and artist Ray Lowry’s sketchbooks including the preliminary and final drafts of the artwork for the London Calling album
• Quotes and personal accounts from the members of the band, Don Letts and many other voices from the time
To coincide with the opening of the exhibit today, Sony Music are also releasing the ‘London Calling Scrapbook’ - a limited edition 120-page hardback companion which comes with the album on CD and contains hand-written lyrics, notes, photos and previously unseen material from the period when the record was made. One the same day an anniversary edition double LP will also be released, in a special sleeve - highlighting the layers of the iconic artwork by Pennie Smith and Ray Lowry. A 2CD replicating this is also available, as well as a limited green and pink reissue of the 1979 cassette release.
The Clash: London Calling is curated by Robert Gordon McHarg III with The Clash and Beatrice Behlen of the Museum of London.
Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, said: “We are very excited to be able to finally share the new free exhibit, The Clash: London Calling with our visitors. ’London Calling’ was The Clash’s defining album, a rallying call for Londoners and people around the world. From deep-diving into the story of the seminal 1979 double album a few things continue to stand out: the breadth of musical styles that influenced the sound, how the lyrics reflected a moment in the city’s history whilst still resonating today and the close-knit working relationship of the band with creative collaborators. These themes, alongside 150 rarely seen objects, will highlight the captivating story of an era defining moment in the capital’s history and we hope fascinate everyone with the story behind ‘London Calling.’”
Robert Gordon McHarg III, The Clash Archivist and Co-Curator of ‘The Clash: London Calling’, said: “1979 was a pivotal year for The Clash and the release of ‘London Calling’ was a defining moment for both The Clash, London and music history. The exhibit will allow visitors to really understand and explore how this came to be through many rarely before seen personal objects and accounts coming together like puzzle pieces to tell the fascinating story of a ground-breaking album.”
The Clash: London Calling is open until 6 September and is free to view with timed entry ticket to the museum. Its closing will be shortly followed by the opening of a brand new display, Dub London: Bassline of a City, exploring London’s relationship with dub reggae music and culture as part of its Soundclash season at the Museum of London.