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The Clash - London Calling: An anthem of its time

Updated on February 25, 2016
London Calling: The Clash
London Calling: The Clash | Source

London Calling

This album, and in particular the title track, could be considered as the north of England's anthem during the early 1980s.


The title in itself conjures up an image of unrest. The reason for this is that 'London calling' was used by the BBC during the Second World War when it made broadcasts to other countries; often those that were occupied by the German army.

Unrest in the early 1980s

The world was in a bit of a mess in the first years of the decade, as was Britain. When this song as written (in 1979) the Three Mile Island nuclear 'incident' had taken place and many people saw that as the 'beginning of the end' of civilization. Had we advanced to the stage that we would destroy the world?

In the UK

By 1982, Britain was at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Two years later, industry was dragged almost to a standstill due to the year-long miners' strike which had a dramatic effect on the north of England in particular.

London WAS calling

During the miners' strike, the north / south divide, as it was called, still existed. And London - the south - was interfering with the north. This is one reason why the song became a somewhat anarchic 'battle cry' in the north. (See the video below).

But we survived

Hearing it today, reminds me of those times but also reminds me that we survived them. It's almost as if the song is saying 'look how good things are now. There are no longer riot police in our streets; innocent people are no longer seen as being criminals because of fighting for their rights'. It has become uplifting.

The video below is from what I consider to be the best film made about life during the miners' strike.

Hear London Calling and see what life was like in the north of England during that time.

This is not an exaggeration. This is reality.

Scroll down to see another film about the situation the miners of the north found themselves in.


You might like to watch the video from which the above video clip is taken.

Billy Elliot
Billy Elliot

The video clip above is from this film.

I don't know if the movie started life as a comment on the miners' strike - probably not. As you saw, the police were drafted into the area in huge numbers to react with their riot shields and truncheons against ordinary members of the public.

They were brought in from the south as the local police were largely sympathetic towards the miners (their neighbours and friends) and concerned about the communities.This film is the story of an athletic lad who, bored with football and boxing, wants to become a ballet dancer.

His tough father and brother, both miners on strike, object heartily. This is my favourite type of film - one that will make you laugh ... and cry.

Brassed Off
Brassed Off

Here's another film that graphically describes the effects that the disruption of the mining industry had such an effect on the north of England - in this case, Yorkshire.

I have long objected to the cover of this DVD which gives the impression that this film is some sort of light hearted chick flick comedy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This film is entertaining - and incredibly funny - but it's also a serious reflection of what life was like in the north during the problems within the mining industry.


London was not only calling

London was interfering. Throughout history, the north of England had survived as a growing and thriving community. We did not need police drafted in from the capital to 'control' us.

Our local police forces were sympathetic with the miners' causes. After all, the miners were their brothers, cousins, uncles, friends.

Only in uncivilised societies do brothers and friends fight each other with any seriousness. That certainly didn't happen in the north of England. The north was generally united.

The deployment of coppers from the south of England (typified by London) was a horrifying development. We were used to a system of self-government and now outsiders - who didn't understand the situation at all - were muscling in. With powers.

The scene you see above is probably, with local variations, being repeated all over the world - a young man who is standing up for what he believes in for the sake of himself and his family - being beaten up by 'authority'.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson


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    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @amytrumpeter: Thanks so much Amy!

    • amytrumpeter profile image

      Amy Trumpeter 4 years ago from Oxford

      Love this album - thanks for a brilliant historical context to the songs.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Anthony Altorenna: One of the wonderful things about lyrics is that we can often read into them our own personal lives and this is a great example. Something that was so relevant in the north was 'the reign of that truncheon thing' (or is it 'rain'?) as can be seen in the video above. It was normal at that time to see friends with stitches on their heads, particularly after the mounted police had been drafted in from the south.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 4 years ago from Connecticut

      The title track is such a powerful song, from the opening chords through the repeated refrain. The images conjured up by the lyric always seemed haunting to me, and I also thought that it was about a working class protest. Now that you've pointed it out, I can hear the connection to Three Mile Island.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JohnTannahill: I never saw that aspect at all. As far as I know, it was an anti-nuclear protest in the wake of the Three Mile Island incident. Five years later, during the miners' strike, it seemed to be an 'anthem' for the north who were protesting about 'London' (the government) destroying its main industry and therefore the livelihoods of the majority of people. I'm pretty sure that the Clash didn't look into the future and see that :) What's interesting is that the makers of Billy Elliot knew.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @smine27: Me too - and I still do.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @mojoCNYartist: I see that you are falling into a common trap and judging by the wrong criteria. 'To be or not to be' or, at the other end of the scale, 'finger-lickin' good' are both examples of minimal content but they certainly get the message across. There are hundreds of reviews of this album on the internet so if you'd like details such as a track listing then it would be a good idea to click the orange button above. Or simply go to Google. On the other hand it's unlikely that you'll find many, if any, articles online that explain how this was seen as a 'protest song' about the south - London - imposing its will on the mining industry in South and West Yorkshire in the 1980s.I doubt that you were in northern England in those days and saw scenes like the one in the video above so I don't blame you for not understanding.

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 4 years ago from CNY

      Loved this album, but your "review" doesn't seem to be much of a review. Plus it's minimal content.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I didn't know that. All I knew was that I was fond of listening to this song over and over again.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      See I "lived by the river" back then and I saw it as a song of unrequited solidarity with our 'brothers and sisters' in the north. Was I wrong?