Classic Music Review: London Calling by The Clash


This is what music criticism should be about—reader enlightenment rather than something that feeds the critic’s ego. I am proud to have the honor of editing her upcoming book-form collection of reviews because of pieces like this.



Depending on the source, the working title for what would become London Calling was either The New Testament or The Last Testament. The story works better if you believe Kosmo Vinyl’s argument for The Last Testament—that The Clash intended London Calling to be the last rock ‘n’ roll album, the paired bookend to Elvis’ first album, right down to the pink-and-green lettering. While some critics have expressed outrage that The Clash could have been so presumptuous to believe that they alone could unilaterally terminate a much-beloved genre, and so arrogant to think that only they were qualified to write and record the closing chapter in the history of rock’ n’ roll, their outrage is seriously misplaced.

Since The Clash continued to make rock music after London Calling, it’s silly to take the “last rock ‘n’ roll album” assertion literally or as evidence of a collective ego gone mad. I think it’s more accurate to say that…

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the guilty reek with noxious innocence

reveling in their shielding shame

while the dark one—the one with the chip—

serves as the convenient object of their disaffection

and their inability to fight clean and fair

fair: a word that is twistable, bendable

and unyieldingly rigid on the tongues of the guilty

or the innocent, or the object

a threat perceived and real and fantastical

expressing wounds impervious to healing

and the rotten distrust of self

You’ve Got to Be Kidding: Commentary on Today’s Politics


RomanOrgy2I have watched the unfolding of the quadrennial electoral orgy with grim fascination, amazed that there appear to be passionate supporters rallying around the various candidates.

Damned if I can explain it. These are the worst bunch of presidential candidates I’ve seen in my lifetime. I wouldn’t vote any of these people into any political office, including the proverbial job of “dog catcher” (and yes, there were elections for dog catcher, as noted in this article I found in the Washington Post).

How anyone can get passionate about any of these clowns is beyond me. None of them inspire me in the least, and if the definition of a leader is “a person who inspires people to do great things,” these candidates are completely unqualified for any leadership position.

I’m also fascinated by the intense attraction to outsiders. People actually believe that if we we elect a president from outside the establishment everything will change as if by magic. People who believe that ignore two things. The first is obvious: the president can’t change much without the support or acceptance of the other two branches of government. The second should be obvious but I guess Americans are so used to being played for fools that they’ll believe anything.

None of these candidates are outsiders. They are all part of the establishment. Bernie Sanders is a United States Senator—how much more establishment can you get? Donald Trump is part of the business establishment—-the people who run our capitalist economy. Ben Carson is a wealthy physician . . . none of these people would be on your television screens if they were your typical working person. A true outsider would have no connections, allegiances or debts to the establishment, and the people we see in those embarrassing spectacles called debates are all establishment insiders with varying amounts of juice at their disposal. Real outsiders would be the musician who plays the local clubs, the production control manager at the local factory or the high school science teacher.

Let’s get to the truth: if you want a government that is responsive to the needs of its people and who have no ties or obligation to the current power structure, you are going to have to elect one true outsider as president, 535 outsiders to fill seats in Congress and wait thirty years to replace all the justices on the Supreme Court with the un-beholden.

What we are hearing is noise without purpose or a plan. We are hearing the whines of angry and impotent people who are tired of their impotence but have no idea how to cure it. Unfortunately, we can’t give them all little purple pills to take care of that problem, and until they come together and realize they’re getting exactly what they deserved by allowing themselves to be manipulated by the powers that be, nothing will ever change.

Effective people accept responsibility for what they have created. I haven’t met many Americans lately who accept responsibility for much of anything.

And the most probable result of al this is that is we’ll wind up with a choice between two candidates few people respect, trust or even like.

What a country.