December 2018

Elvis Presley & The Clash’s London Calling

Exploring the idea of artistic homage, the Classic Album Covers column in the December issue of In Tune discusses the covers for Elvis Presley (1956) and The Clash’s London Calling (1979).
Both covers feature iconic black-and-white images of the artists in performance: Presley thrilling a young audience with his unprecedented gyrations during a concert in Tampa, Fla., and The Clash’s Paul Simon smashing his bass onstage in New York City, frustrated at the venue’s overzealous crowd control. The cover of Elvis Presley featured the singer’s name in almost lurid pink and green lettering, which was a provocatively mod touch in the mid-’50s; the designer of The Clash cover used the exact same lettering for the band’s name on the London Calling cover. Along with paying tribute to their American predecessor, the English punk-rockers were seeking to align the volatile energy of punk with the visceral allure of early rock’n’roll.

The Elvis Presley LP – the artist’s debut full-length album (which followed a run of standalone singles, including No. 1 hit “Heartbreak Hotel”) – featured such signature tracks as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Money Honey” and “Blue Moon,” tunes that the members of The Clash grew up knowing. London Calling was the band’s third album; although politically charged and deeply evocative of the group’s environs in the British capital, the LP proved to be The Clash’s Stateside breakthrough, led by the great, galvanizing “London Calling” title track and the hit single “Train in Vain.” Here’s a playlist featuring some of the key tracks from both Elvis Presley and London Calling.Bradley Bambarger