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Vinyl Sessions: The Clash – London Calling

March 17, 2024

Tickets £3
Doors open 12pm, session starts at 12.30pm
This show is for a seated audience
The bar will be open throughout

“London Calling is one of the greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll albums ever made”

Released in 1979, the Clash’s third album changed everything — punk rock, the band that made it, and the fans who worshipped it. Decades later, its rich, eclectic, propulsive sound hasn’t aged a minute, and its messages are as urgent as ever.

The Clash’s first two LPs, 1977’s self-titled debut and 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope, split the critics but galvanized a large and loyal UK following. Now it was up to them to consecrate their standing as the biggest band in the world, or at least “The Only Band That Matters,” a nickname they had self-applied. Brimming with talent, energy, and camaraderie, the Clash sensed they were close to something monumental — a commercial breakthrough and a masterpiece. They had material to spare and an unbreakable date with destiny. They just needed someone to bring it all together, to bring it out of them. They sorted through their options. And then they hired Guy Stevens.

Thirty-five years old at the time of the album’s recording, Guy Stevens had a well-earned reputation as a surly and dangerous figure, a historic consumer of speed and alcohol who had done hard time for possession in London’s Wormwood Scrubs. The notion of retaining Stevens as producer understandably sent a chill through the Clash’s label, CBS. Even the Sex Pistols had ultimately elected to work with the decorated industry pro Chris Thomas for their big leap forward.

Trouble was, no one could find Stevens. No one had a number for him, and anyway he never stayed in any place very long. Joe Strummer combed the pubs of Oxford Street, where Stevens was known to hang out. It took a while but he finally discovered him slumped over a bar, the spectre of a much older man. “Have a drink!” Stevens insisted, and Strummer obliged. London Calling was off and running.

From the group’s outset, the elements of the Clash that distinguished them from their peers in punk’s first wave were their sundry departures from the usual mundane three-chord thrash. Emerging forays into blues, glam, reggae, and early rock ‘n’ roll suggested a considerable depth of field implausible for many of the Clash’s perceived rivals. On London Calling, seemingly with great suddenness, all of these disparate influences snapped into focus, crystallizing into something entirely singular. Like the Band or the Rolling Stones before them, the sound is an unrepeatable mosaic of obsessions and influences.

Four decades later London Calling is a landmark, immeasurably improved by time and the album’s vision of a world growing both smaller in technological terms and more threatening by permanent class inequity. More so, it is one of the most generous, gratifying, and galvanizing works of art the latter part of the twentieth century has to offer. It begins with apocalypse and then lights a way out. The path is an arduous one and filled with peril. But win or lose, the principled fight is always worthwhile.

The album will be presented by Ian Fowler

The album playback will be followed by a Q&A session After a short break, we’ll follow the album with our usual ‘Dead Wax’ session. Bring along a 7” of your choice and hear it played through the Arts Centre PA. This can be anything you like, for any reason – the more ‘out there’ the better.


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Sun, March 17
12:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Church St, CO1 1NF Colchester, United Kingdom


Colchester Arts Centre