“London Calling” by The Clash is a well-known punk track that has been enjoyed through the decades and has not lost its place in the punk movement that signified– and still signifies– the messages of independence, originality, and rebellion in teen culture.
While many variables set “London Calling” apart in its time from other popular recordings, one aspect was the guitar performance of Joe Strummer. Strummer’s technique, according to engineer Bill Price, involved “damping the chord with his right hand, which used to produce this incredibly urgent, clanging and clashing sound, which I’ve never heard any other guitarist ever produce” (Michie 2000). Even as Strummer recorded his vocals, he would need to strum along unplugged or ball his fist and hit his chest.
Another factor that made the recording unique for its time was Price’s technique to mike the kick drum with a tube condenser. His mentors even made fun of him for doing so, believing the kick was primarily to keep the musicians in time, but Price believed differently and, going with his gut, continued with his technique (Michie 2000).
Before studying the details behind the making of “London Calling”, I can’t say that I have been directly influenced by the song in any conscious way. However, there was one interesting method producer Guy Stevens used that may inspire me to more creative methods in my techniques down the road. To incite a more heartfelt performance, Stevens would use physical and verbal aggression toward the artists, and for certain people, it was very effective (Michie 2000). I wouldn’t go so far as to incorporate physical fights or verbal abuse in my production process, but the eccentric method has me wondering what creative ways I could draw out more raw emotion in my performances.
In a contrasting genre to The Clash’s recording, the rock track “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac also incorporated powerful performance driven by provoked emotion in production. However, this was not stemming from the producer’s methods or an intentional technique on anyone’s part. Due to strained relationships in each of the band member’s lives, most of which were happening within the band, there was passive aggressive writing and delivery of lyrics toward one another, and members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham would emphatically sing the lines toward each other (Buskin 2007).
In sum, “London Calling” is a fascinating example of the combination of originality and eccentricity that comes to light when people come together to create a timeless work of art. The strange stories and techniques behind this classic song should inspire everyone to play their strengths and idiosyncrasies when creating, to allow the people they are creating with to do the same, and to masterfully blend it all together into something that carries through generations as this classic track does.
Buskin, R. (2007, August). Fleetwood Mac ‘Go Your Own Way’ Retrieved September 11, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/people/fleetwood-mac-go-your-own-way
Michie, C. (2000, November 01). Classic Tracks: The Clash’s “London Calling” Retrieved September 11, 2016, from http://www.mixonline.com/news/profiles/classic-tracks-clashs-london-calling/365379