I can barely remember the details, really. But I remember what it felt like. The first time hearing some selection from The Clash at my friend's place, and then heading to the Record Peddler in downtown Toronto to pick up my very own copy of London Calling. Then, on the floor in front of our home stereo, hearing that absolutely. new. sound for the first time. I was hooked. I was in. I had no idea what was starting then and there for me.
When I hear London Calling now, I am transported immediately to that place and time, but most especially to that feeling. The feeling, I suppose, of both finding and being found, of "that's what I was waiting for!"
It's that feeling that made adolescence tolerable, and my reflections on many of the things The Clash sang and seemed to stand for that gave some insight and direction for my developing ideas about ethics, life and relationships. If I survived to adulthood (and, evidently, I did) it was, in no small part, thanks to them. (There were other great influences too, of course, but nevertheless, The Clash was a large part of helping make me who I am.)
And the music. Yes, I know: They weren't Mozarts by any means. They weren't Freddy Mercuries either. But they. were. The Clash. There was never, and still hasn't been, anyone who quite sounds like them. It was a sound of their own, and it became the soundtrack of my youth. And London Calling - the album - had it all.
So, today I've just pulled it out of the drawer to look at it again. The very album that started my journey some 35 year ago.
The vinyl still looks pretty good, despite years of use. I'm surprised, impressed, and pleased. I wish I had a vinyl player. Been meaning to get one. Don't know which ones are good anymore.
And there there's the album cover. I wrote on it. Idiot. There's my name and address at the time, and this: "Yellow Highlight -- okay for dances." There were rules then about what could and couldn't be heard at school and church dances. Strangely, I included Brand New Cadillac, but not London Calling. I also highlighted Lost in the Supermarket (every teen should hear that song), Wrong 'em Boyo (the excellent counter-point to Cheat, Cheat), The Card Cheat (following the same theme), I'm Not Down, Revolution Rock, and then -- I penned it in too -- song #5 on Side 4 (back side of album #2) -- Train in Vain (Stand By Your Man).
Lastly, I look at the sleeves, with the lyrics scribbled down in Joe Strummer's cartoon-lettering-like scrawl. How often I stared at those and sang along. One side of one sleeve is missing. Crap. It's the side that would have had London Calling and Jimmy Jazz on it. Crap. What remains are reasonably clear, but wrecked at the edges from use. I was never a good "collector" of things. I got things I loved because I wanted to use them. The album #2 sleeve is intact, but yellowing at the edges. "Recorded Winter '79" it says. I bought it shortly after that, I think. Cool.
What all that means to you, I don't really know. What it means to me, I can't really convey. If you've been able to walk through these memories with me, and remember like experiences of your own, I think you're pretty lucky, and I'm glad to recognize a somewhat kindred spirit. I'm happy with that part of my past; I'm glad that I still retain it; I'm even more grateful that I can still enjoy it, and even relive it a little -- one of the blessings of Strummerfest.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ BELOW: Their best video, no. But like a memory, it's fuzzy, it's performed with feeling, and it's appropriate for this post.