It all began on the 20th September 1979. On that day, in Palladium club in New York took place the concert of a British rock group, The Clash. During the concert, the upset bassist wrecked his guitar on the scene, and the moment was captured on photography by Pennie Smith. Thanks to this photo, one of the most famous album covers in the history of rock came to existence.
The final version of the cover was designed by Ray Lowry. Pennie Smith at first didn’t want to allow the use of her photo, arguing that it’s blurry. Lowry convinced her that the lack of focus was in this case a good thing, as it made it more authentic and spontaneous.
London Calling cover quickly became famous all over the world. It was a pastiche, meaning a conscious reference to another piece. Lowry used composition and lettering similar to Elvis Presley’s earlier album. It was a bit provocative, as Elvis was acclaimed back then as the king of rock and the less famous band The Clash was only about to begin another revolution in rock music, but in a way more hardcore version.
The photo of bassist crashing his guitar became a pop culture icon, a symbol of young rebels. In 2002 Q magazine acclaimed it as the best ‘rock’n’roll’ photo ever, saying that the image perfectly depicts the turning point in history of rock’n’roll, a total loss of control. The bass guitar itself was later put in a museum.
The Clash marked its name forever in the history of rock music and London Calling cover did the same for history of graphic design. In 2010 British post office issued a series of stamps with important vinyl covers, including of course London Calling.
The cover was also referred to by the famous street artist Banksy. The character holds an office chair instead of guitar, how to interpret that? Maybe Banksy wanted to say that we spend too much time in front of computers? Or maybe he encourages us to rebel, and we should get up and do something instead of just watching?