A Season of Songs, day 57: London’s Burning

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “London’s Burning” by The Clash taken from their 1977 self-titled debut.

All across the town, all across the night
Everybody’s driving with full headlights
Black or white turn it on, face the new religion
Everybody’s sitting ’round watching television!

Judging by the collection of 45’s that are in my collection from my youth, my sister and I had a strange mix of influences when we were young.  I know we had a lot of Hall & Oates (Philly favs) and other similar radio friendly stuff, but then we also have some that puzzle me and I wonder how we got into those songs in our youth.  We had the single version of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”.  Where were we exposed to that?  And then we had the single for The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”  I know at this point The Clash were having some commercial success, but it still just seems weird to think that around the ages of 7-9 I had these couple singles that were doors to musical styles that I wouldn’t fully get into until some years later (hip hop would come with Run DMC and Beastie Boys in 1986 and punk wouldn’t really come until 6 years later when I went to college).

When I did get into punk in college, it was a period of intense DIY activity so I think I tended to shy away from a lot of the bigger punk bands.  It would be years before I would really actively listen to bands like the Sex Pistols or The Clash.  It wasn’t so much that they were major label bands (I was, after all, a big fan of the first Rage Against The Machine record at the time), but rather just something that I didn’t search out to listen to.

Like the Misfits, I would familiarize myself with The Clash’s self-titled record after moving into an apartment with my then girlfriend Lisa and discovering that she has a tape of that album.  Like The Misfits cassette, I think I accidentally walked off with her Clash cassette as well but somewhere along the line I think I made good and got her that one back.  A couple years back, Eric the Red would buy me a CD copy of the album, feeling it was a tragedy that I didn’t own it.

I’m just discovering now as I write this that the UK and US versions of this album are completely different.  Different order, different set of songs.  Four of the original songs were dropped and replaced with five other tracks. It’s weird to think that when we talk about The Clash’s debut that a lot of people could be talking about fairly different records.

I love this album.  Obviously after this album The Clash went on to become a highly influential punk band and made a handful more records – “London Calling” and “Sandanista” especially.  That being said, I’ve never listened completely to either of those albums, even after having fallen so madly with this record.  I think if you’ve been keeping up with these daily write-ups it’s become obvious that sometimes after finding one record by a band that I really love, sometimes I feel like “That’s enough.”  Here’s a record that is near perfect, why should I besmirch the legacy of this one album with these other albums that i’m bound to find lesser in quality?

But anyway, seriously, if you don’t own this album it is a travesty.  Just pick it up.  What are you waiting for?  Energetic UK punk with just the right amount of grit.  Songs about politics and the economic situation in late 70’s England.  Nothing cartoon-y and silly like Sex Pistols.  Not overly political nor obscure.  Just a great rock record that is fun to sign along with and that’ll help you get riled up.  Still a kicker almost 40 years on.

* * *

FYI for anyone actually following this blog, I’ll be on the road for the next week+ with limited internet, so i’ll be trying to continue this project in some form, but it will likely result in my posts not actually happening daily.  We’ll see what happens.  Worst case scenario, there will be one HUGE post when I get back to town.


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