Is it too obvious to finish Clash week with London Calling? Errrr Not if you get Bruce Springsteen to play it for you.
As is the standard set here this week, I’ll be posting The Clash video below along with the cover version. But really what am I going to tell you about London Calling? OK maybe if you’re not from London… Or not from England even, then London Calling is just a really great Clash song. Title track to their biggest, best and most popular album. With that incredible iconic sleeve.
If you have ever been to a rock music festival in Hyde Park, Brockwell, Finsbury or Victoria you’ll have heard this song boom out of a PA somewhere between the special guests and the headliners. It’s the same for stadium shows. You’ll have felt the bow wave of emotion sweep around the stadiums of Wembley, The Olympic Park, Twickenham, The Emirates and Mile End as those opening chords stamp their way out of the speakers. You’ll have witnessed the conversations stop. The crowds turn towards the empty stages and you’ll have joined in at least on…
‘I live by the river!’
London Calling is the national anthem for Rock N’ Rollers all over the capital. I can tell you it works further north, east, south and west too. I’ve heard it before headliners took to the stage at Milton Keynes, Stourbridge, Reading, Leeds and of course Glastonbury.
Joe loved Glastonbury. He wrote Coma Girl from The Mescaleros album Global A Go-Go about Glastonbury. When I saw him play there in 1999 he did a smattering of Clash songs in with his newer material and I’d never heard it sound more at home than in that soggy Somerset field.
Tens of thousands of alternative folks of all ages had already been treated to some real legends that weekend (I’ve written about the FLC and Hole sets here before, same weekend) including Blondie, R.E.M, Manic Street Preachers, Billy Bragg and Ian Dury & The Blockheads and a fair dose of weather. Joe opened the set with something about Techno DJ’s battling each other then went into the anthem of anthems.
People who were worn down by the weather and only halfway through the three day event stirred to their feet. Joe stamped it out from the stage. Then followed a set heavy on The Clash back-catalog which was as close a many of us younger folk in the audience could ever get to seeing the real deal live (there was a time…).
Fast forward 10 years and Bruce Springsteen is headlining the 2009 Glastonbury festival. He opened his set with a cover of Joe’s solo tune Coma Girl. Joe had been gone quite some time by this point. Joe and Bruce had a mutual appreciation for one another. Joe once wrote a letter endorsing Bruce for this very gig. Bruce and The E Street band put on one of the festivals greatest ever headline shows. It was spectacular.
My Glastonbury days were over by this point. Too old, too busy, too skint for a 5 day gig. I was very excited to watch the TV coverage of Bruce’s show live on the BBC though because I had tickets to see him the very next night in Hyde Park London.
I’d bought my ticket online ages and ages in advance and yet… even 24 hours before the gates opened “they” were emailing folk telling them to meet outside the venue where our prepaid tickets would be with an agent. It wasn’t looking too legit. Just hours before the show the news arrived.
There was some cock up with the vendor which meant I got an email while watching Bruce on TV playing this legendary show saying my ticket had been mis-allocated and I would be due a refund in the coming month. I was gutted but I was not beaten.
I got on the jungle drums with my old connections and rustled up a replacement ticket. I had to pay cash, to a chick called Motorcycle Mary in a pub in St Albans at 11am before I could head into London for the show. There was a risk I’d miss The Gaslight Anthem but I could still make the show. Motorcycle Mary had taken a tumble a week ago and was now just going by the name Mary while her leg was in plaster. She was also an angel who saved my plans that weekend.
I hauled arse across the home counties and into the city just in time to see Brian Fallon and his boys play tracks from The 59 Sound. To the shock and amazement of the half full arena Bruce himself joined them for one song. A classy thing to do but not entirely unpredictable. I’d seen him do it the day before on the Glastonbury TV coverage.
A great way to boost a young Jersey bands profile. We’d see Brian again on stage with The E Street Band that night doing back up vocals on No Surrender.
I hooked up with some friends I’d met at other shows and we passed bottles and the time between James Morrison, The Low Anthem and Starsailor.
The whole site was buzzing with the promise of what Bruce would open the set with. It had to be London Calling right? I mean it had to be. He’d done Strummer last night at Glasto. This very festival is called Hard Rock Calling. It. Had. To. Be… It was.
Bruce paid his dues. He tipped his metaphorical hat at Strummer and then he lead his band in a show that covered everything I could have wanted over 3 hours from Badlands to Dancing In The Dark.
The spirit lives on. This has been The Clash Week. I hope you feel better for it.