London Calling, el álbum que hizo que The Clash sea “la única banda que importe”

London Calling, el álbum que hizo que The Clash sea “la única banda que importe”

Existen álbumes que llegan en un momento y lugar correctos y marcan un hito para la música. Hace pocos días se cumplieron 40 años de uno de estos álbumes, pues el 14 de noviembre de 1979 se lanzaba London Calling de The Clash, un álbum que reinventó el punk.

The Clash –formada por Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon y Topper Headon– ya era una banda de punk consagrada a mediados de 1979. Tenía en su haber dos álbumes muy populares, su primer disco homónimo y el segundo titulado Give ‘Em Enough Rope, que ya fue grabado en los EE.UU.

Recordemos que en los últimos años de los setentas fue cuando el punk llegó a su cúspide y The Clash era uno de los grupos insignia del movimiento.

Sin embargo, luego de estos dos álbumes, los miembros de The Clash estaban en una crisis creativa. Todo lo que componían y escribían les parecía que era más de lo mismo. Para su productora, eso no importaba con tal de tener un nuevo disco de uno de los grupos más populares del momento. Sin embargo, la banda no compartía esta visión y tomó una drástica decisión, despedir a su manager y volver a Gran Bretaña.

Entonces, con un nuevo mánager –Johnny Green– se concentraron un pequeño estudio llamado Vanilla Studios, situado en la parte de atrás de un garaje. Allí el grupo ensayó, escribió y grabó varios demos, con Jones componiendo y haciendo los arreglos de la mayoría de la música y Strummer escribiendo las letras.

Querían apartarse del crudo y básico punk y empezaron a improvisar sumando otros ritmos como reggae, rockabilly, ska, R&B, pop, lounge jazz y hard rock. El resultado fue una increíble cantidad de material que prolífico que terminaría en un álbum doble con 19 temas.

Una vez elegidos los demos para el nuevo álbum convocaron al productor Guy Steven para comenzar, en agosto de 1979, la grabación del esperado tercer disco de la banca: London Calling.

El nombre del álbum está inspirado en una frase usada al inicio de las transmisiones de la BBC durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial: “This is London calling…”.

El álbum trae canciones que hoy son clásicos del punk y del rock en general, como el tema que da nombre al disco “London Calling” donde hacen referencia a la situación de crisis económica, social y política que vivía el Reino Unido en ese momento. También es bien conocida la versión trastornada de psicobilly de «Brand New Cadillac» de los años cincuenta, el rock and roll británico Vince Taylor.

A lo largo del álbum se nota la experimentación musical del grupo, como en “Jimmy Jazz” con su característica influencia jazz -desde luego-, en el

ska de “Rudie Can’t Fail” y “The Guns of Brixton”, el reggae de “Revolution Rock” o la casi pop “Train in Vain”.

Sin embargo The Clash no olvida mostrar sus convicciones políticas con una canción como “Spanish Bombs”, que trata sobre la Guerra Civil Española. Así también el álbum trae uno de los temas más íntimos que grabaron, “Lost in the Supermarket”, que muchos piensan que se trata de un alegado contra el consumismo, pero en realidad hace referencia a la infancia de Mick Jones, quien se crió con su mamá y su abuela en un pequeño departamento del que casi no salía.

London Calling tuvo varias particularidades, pero la más notoria es la disputa entre la banda y la CBS Records, que no estaba de acuerdo en que sea un álbum doble, sino de un solo disco, eliminando varios de los temas seleccionados por los Clash. Desde luego esto era por una visión puramente comercial, un álbum doble costaba más producirlo y no se vendería tan masivamente como uno simple.

Pero tal fue la determinación de The Clash que los cuatro integrantes llegaron al acuerdo de reducir sus regalías con tal de que el álbum, aún siendo doble, cueste lo mismo que uno simple para los fans. Ningún artista había hecho eso antes.

Otra cosa distintiva de London Calling es su portada, que utiliza una fotografía de Paul Simonon rompiendo su bajo Fender, y fue diseñada emulando el primer disco de Elvis Presley.  Mucho se ha especulado sobre lo que quisieron transmitir con esto, tal vez sea la intención de demostrar una ruptura con el “viejo rock”, pero son solo conjeturas.

London Calling destrozó la ortodoxia punk y bandas tan diversas como U2, Beastie Boys, Green Day, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica y Nirvana han versionado canciones del álbum.  La revista Rolling Stone tiene a London Calling codeándose con Dylan y The Beatles en sus 10 mejores álbumes de todos los tiempos.

En definitiva, London Calling fue el disco definitorio de The Clash, un llamado donde reflejaban sus preocupaciones de la clase trabajadora inglesa del momento, muchas de las cuales todavía son relevantes actualmente, y en que la banda dio un paso más allá del punk tradicional y lo reinventó con influencias sonoras de lo más variadas.

Rodolfo Insaurralde

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