Listen Closely: 1979-1980 Catches Up to Us

The film Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten was on cable recently, and I was lucky enough to catch it. First, I love the Clash and Strummer’s work in general. The film traces his history, and the story about how he and his views evolved is rather interesting.

For example, in one period, Strummer and his friends squatted as a political statement. With so many people homeless, vacant buildings were offensive to them. I wonder whether the rising foreclosure and unemployment rates will produce similar sentiments today? Who knows? Maybe one way to address the so-called toxic assets (one of the great euphemisms of late) is to have the government buy up the houses and use them as public housing. Heck if California is spending on building prisons, why not take funds to give people some succor and save the absurd policies of the banks too?

Second, close your door, turn up the volume to full, maybe even blow out your speakers, and take a listen a truly great song, London Calling. The Imeem embed below plays a clip only but go to the site and you can login to hear it all. YouTube has the video (embed disabled). (so much for punk freedom I guess)

London Calling – The Clash

Here is the chorus:

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in

Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin

A nuclear error, but I have no fear

London is drowning-and I live by the river

Sound familiar? Ice age? Astronomical disasters? Energy problems? Food problems? Floods? The verses are great too as they capture decline, violence, and manic energy.

Eternal bloody return.

In the film Strummer explains that the number of ways the world was to end made him put them into one mix with the odd solace that by living near the Thames he might drown anyway.

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3 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    Actually that line about the ice age reflected the prevailing theory at the time which was that the earth was facing “global cooling.” My how things change.

    First it was global cooling, then global warming, and now climate change, which sounds an awful lot like “i don’t know what is going on, but i know i don’t like it.” Really, people have told me my whole life that i was going to die, either from those climatalogical catastrophes, or from acid rain, or holes in the ozone layer, ecosystem disruptions, on and on. And you know what? I don’t believe it anymore.

    Anyway, I love the album, but great political thought it is not.

    Btw, I assume you have also listened to Midnight Oil, especially their classic “Diesel and Dust?” They are very much the heirs to The Clash, doing that style of “nice, hum-able punk rock with an obvious message.” If you have somehow missed them, i recommend “Diesel” as well as “Breathe” as my two favorites, and “Earth and Sun and Moon” and “Blue Sky Mining” as two other quality albums from them.

    Of course for me sometimes I just like to Nevermind the Bullocks and enjoy the Sex Pistols. 😉 What a gloriously offensive album.

  2. Deven says:


    Thanks. Didn’t mean to mash the cooling warming point; I do recall that difference and agree it is funny how it all blends into a general sense of same as it ever was. Honestly, Midnight Oil never worked for me. Not sure why. Just didn’t. As for the Clash, I guess I see how they may be a little more tame than some other punk, but for me they were a little more coherent too. Either way, it is difficult to beat the Sex Pistols for that offensive edge.

  3. A.W. says:


    As for The Clash, I really for the life of me can’t understand why anyone was offended by them.

    Its like jazz music. I know people used to call it the devil’s music but f*** if i know why. At least with jazz you can write it off as at least partially racist, but not so with people who considered The Clash controversial.

    I mean, my God, I felt okay playing those guys for my mother while driving. (Of course my mom was uniquely cool about those things, but still, you know the Sex Pistols never made it into the car radio.)

    And I will forgive your failure of taste on Midnight Oil, but if you didn’t at least like Nirvana’s Nevermind, well, there is just no talking to you. /kidding