The Clash to end the week. The legendary New York Palladium concert, the one in which the cover photo for London Calling was taken. Yeah, that one. Remember?
London Calling was met with widespread critical acclaim. Reviewing the album for The New York Times in 1980, John Rockwell said it finally validates the acclaim received by the Clash up to that point because of how their serious political themes and vital playing were retained in innovative music with a broad appeal. “This is an album that captures all the Clash’s primal energy, combines it with a brilliant production job by Guy Stevens and reveals depths of invention and creativity barely suggested by the band’s previous work”, Rockwell said. Charles Shaar Murray wrote in NME that it was the first record to be on-par with the band’s hype, while Melody Maker critic James Truman said the Clash had “discovered themselves” by embracing American music styles. Rolling Stone magazine’s Tom Carson claimed the music celebrates “the romance of rock & roll rebellion”, adding that it is vast, engaging, and enduring enough to leave listeners “not just exhilarated but exalted and triumphantly alive”. In a five-star review, Down Beat journalist Michael Goldberg said the Clash had produced “a classic rock album which, literally, defines the state of rock and roll and against which the very best of [the 1980s] will have to be judged.”
Some reviewers expressed reservations. DJ and critic Charlie Gillett believed some of the songs sounded like poor imitations of Bob Dylan backed by a horn section. Garry Bushell was more critical in his review for Sounds, giving the record two out of five stars while claiming the Clash had “retrogressed” to Rolling Stones-style “outlaw imagery” and “tired old rock clichés”.
At the end of 1980, London Calling was voted the best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice. Robert Christgau, the poll’s creator and supervisor, also named it 1980’s best record in an accompanying essay and said, “it generated an urgency and vitality and ambition which overwhelmed the pessimism of its leftist world-view.”
In case you missed it – or were there and never thought you’d hear it again – here is that Palladium gig, as it happened on September 21, 1979.
Crank it up.
(Editors note: As was graciously pointed out to me – I had the wrong Palladium in my head when I initially wrote and posted this – and not being one to perpetuate Urban Myths, added the correction; this is The Palladium in New York, not the Hollywood Palladium – sorry for the bonehead mistake, but it’s the reason I rely on readers like you to point those things out. We’re here for the facts, not the fancies.)