Rock and Roller T-Shirts
The epic tale of a man, a band shirt, and one of the all-time great albums.
Sometimes letting go is the only way. As the owner of at least a hundred band shirts in my lifetime, I realized at one point that it was no longer important for anyone to know that London Calling was one of my choice LP’s. I chucked the garment as well as a number of others, most notably DEVO, The Murder City Devils, Echo & the Bunnymen, and U2. These were either bands no longer together or held in esteem. Either way, none needed the advertising anymore, unlike older acts who remain cult icons and newer acts suffering for exposure—f’rinstance, I will never give up my Soft Boys or Rogue Wave paraphernalia.
I did lose the London Calling, though. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do. At once a vicious punk pose at the end of the punk era and a harkening to the true oldies, the classic rock the band loved, the cover (and my t-shirt’s face) stamps the lettering from Elvis’ 1st LP over Paul Simenon’s famously fuzzy bass smashing shot. An end of an era has rarely been captured in such a poignant moment.
This album is one of the most obvious “ten” raters in existence. I have never seen or heard a bad word about London Calling and the only time I’ve had any trouble with it has been when I’ve worn down the grooves and my patience by repetitive play, ironic because their other albums are just as strong (their first, self-titled release, either country) and just as, if not more, joyously expansive and experimental (Sandanista!), but few albums *by anyone* serve as such a crisp statement of a band at its hilt. A band at the height of its collective powers doing just exactly what it ought to with all members kicking in excellent contributions,.
Rather than describe the album in detail—a disservice because to know this album is to know it by heart, to not know it, ah such an enviable position...enjoy what is generally referred to as the last great rock and roll record—anyway, my job is to rate this release and rate this handsome package I will.
Sheathed in plastic, extract the double gatefold CD to view what would normally be the album’s front and back, but CD-sized. Open it up and the inside includes handsome artwork of couples at a sock hop. Tug on one side and that involuntary squeal of delight emanates from the surprise of what looks like an original lyric sheet, hand written. Yank on the other side and whoop! there’s a 31-page booklet, lavishly illustrated and just spilling over with great photos and yet more rediscovered *and well-preserved* flavor with song notes from the original Armagideon Times and check it out!: yet more words on the era from essays by underground historian Tom Vague and Mojo magazine’s Pat Gilbert.
And speaking of the ephemera of a certain time, the hopeless addict or potential blithering fan then whacks open the rest of the neatly symmetrical double-gatefold and is greeted by three discs, the 1st, the original LP, the 2nd, the renowned lost Vanilla Tapes, the third “The Last Testament” a priceless making-of documentary DVD put together back in the day by none other than supercool dancehall personality and sometime Clash and B.A.D. contributor Don Letts and reconstituted amid an informative documentary for easy digestion. Untoppable.
I chatted with someone the other day about a class they took on the Beatles. A music appreciation deal, the goal was to give the Beatles their due and study their work as art, which it certainly is. Consider London Calling: the Legacy Edition as text. Hand-picked by Jones and Simenon and featuring four new songs, the lustily-sought Vanilla Tapes spotlight a jamming Clash morphing into the band capable of creating the jaw-dropping masterpiece on disc one. The DVD features highly entertaining rare footage such as performance footage, promo videos clips, and best of all: nutzo producer Guy Stevens chucking chairs at the band to create additional tension in the studio.
Throw it all into that big hopper that is your head, process it, and then gaze fondly upon the package. Then reshelve it. Then take it out again. Gaze fondly. Repeat. Certainly looks a lot less dorky than a t-shirt on an aging punk fan, doesn’t it?
London Calling...yeah, you guessed it 10/10, it’s food for thought mobsters.
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