London Calling

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
London Calling Music Poster Image
Punk rebels fuse aggressive rock with Jamaican roots music.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

The Clash's influential album London Calling is a unifying force of nature for the working-class, kids in bands, and for young people in general. The anthemic tone of political songs like "London Calling" and "Working for the Clampdown" is like a call to arms, musically speaking, and every rebellious teenager who gets into The Clash feels inspired not only by the band's fight-the-power message but also by the terrifically varied styles the band used (reggae, ska, punk, rockabilly) to put their point across.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a band, The Clash set a high standard for garage bands everywhere, making records that resonated emotionally and politically with their audience, and matching their musical aggression and great stylistic versatility.

Violence

Most of the songs on London Calling employ violent imagery: guns, bombs, death, war -- but most often this is to shine a light on senseless violence, cruelty, and abuse of power. For example, "Spanish Bombs" equates the horrors of the Spanish Civil War with the Irish "Struggles," and "Guns of Brixton" depicts police brutality. The title track has an almost apocalyptic tone, but it has more to do with a band-vs.-label battle, or little people vs. the man, than with actual war.

Sex

The Clash's records are generally much more political than personal, but "Lovers Rock" says, "You must know a place you can kiss to make lovers rock," and talks about a lover taking off his clothes.

Language

"Brand New Cadillac," which includes the exclamations "balls to you, Big Daddy" and "Jesus Christ!" "Death or Glory" (a song about the music business) says, "He who f--ks nuns will later join the church." "Clampdown" depicts racial prejudice: "Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?"

Consumerism

"Koka Kola" is an indictment of the power wielded by advertising/publicity world; the Coke in the song then morphs into cocaine (also spelled with 'K's in the lyrics).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Koka Kola" begins as a song about ruthless ad men, but then changes into a description of cocaine abuse. "Revolution Rock" mentions being "pilled up." There's an opium den and "barroom gin" in the song "Card Cheat." "Four Horsemen" includes mention of a spliff (joint) and drinking. In the popular song "Rudie Can't Fail" people are "drinking brew for breakfast," and it's likely not coffee.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that London Calling is the masterpiece of British punk pioneers The Clash. The double-album and one single, "Train in Vain," were Top 40 hits in the United States, and the album tops Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums of the 1980s (even though it was released in '79). The Clash fused aggressive punk with ska, reggae, and rockabilly to put across their strong anti-authoritarian, anti-brutality message. These songs feature a substantial amount of violent imagery -- guns, bombs, death, war -- but most often to emphasize the cruelty of abusing power and the anger of the oppressed. There are also a few songs with profane language, and several depictions of drug and alcohol use (cocaine, pot, opium, gin, beer); these incidents are meant to show a gritty slice of life, and substance abuse is never glorified.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhiimcarolyn November 24, 2012

Can't believe no one reviewed this yet!

This has to be one of the greatest albums out there, regardless of the genre. I wouldn't say there's too much parents need to watch out for or worry a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMalifee February 19, 2016
It's a complex, multilayered masterpiece. Do you want your kids listening to it? That depends, really, on what your motives for monitoring your kid's... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 25, 2015

Iffy

Dear, people that have been saying its bad. It's not! There's one small f-bomb and one JC but it's tucked away/ mumbled and you won't hear i... Continue reading

What's the story?

The double-album LONDON CALLING was the third release by British punk band The Clash, and is widely considered to be their masterpiece. The album takes the group's hard-rocking garage-band style to a new, varied level by introducing elements of reggae, ska, and rockabilly. Fronted by vocalists/songwriters Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, The Clash was a very political band, whose original songs have served as a rallying cry for oppressed, working-class youth, and as an inspiration to young bands since the 1970s.

Is it any good?

London Calling is arguably the greatest punk record of all time, and it's certainly The Clash's best. Not a single song on this double-album is a throwaway. All are powerful political anthems, in varying styles and tempos, with brutal, insightful lyrics. To rock 'n' roll listeners in the late '70s/early '80s who had never heard reggae or ska before this album was first released, London Calling was a revelation that opened up a world of new music. Today, in a more globally aware musical time, the sounds may not be as life-changing, but the ideas still can be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of the title track, "London Calling." What do they mean when they sing, "Now that war is declared," or "Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust"?

  • Why do you think the lyrics on London Calling contain so much violence?

  • Why do you think this album was chosen by Rolling Stone as the greatest album of the 1980s?

Music details

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