The Clash’s Paul Simonon acted as the brooding action man of the legendary punk outfit. A fist-swinging, look-giving, menacing and marauding figure in the band, Simonon is the man wielding his bass like an axe on the front cover of the band’s iconic album London Calling.
That image will forever be burned into the history of rock and roll but more often than not Simonon’s work on stage outshines his performance in the studio. He may have made the cover of the album but Simonon was an integral part of its contents too. Below, we’re revisiting the album through his isolated bass track.
When London Calling arrived it did so with an almighty thud, throwing out the idea of what punk was as it landed. Confirming The Clash were officially “the only band that mattered.”
It was a biblical trove of rock and roll reference, steering to the sound of the fifties (‘Brand New Cadillac’, ‘The Card Cheat’), the beat of the sixties (‘Jimmy Jazz’, ‘Wrong ‘Em Boyo’), even tipping a hat to the savaged nineteen-thirties battlegrounds that spattered Europe (‘Spanish Bombs’).
Bassist Paul Simonon who had picked up songwriting, had financial, as well as innovational, properties, unveiling his personal love letter to the reggae tracks that enlivened his fender (‘Guns of Brixton’).
Having been somewhat drafted into the band, Simonon far more concerned with his art and paintings, the bassist was beginning to own his place in the band.
He and Strummer were the beating heart and the bulging bicep of the group, they were also vision. Through the duo’s political leanings, The Clash navigated their way through a tumultuous career. One album which set out their vision more than any other was London Calling and it’s also an album which houses Simonon’s best work.
Luckily, thanks to YouTube user ieatmdf, we can now listen to this album through Simonon’s ears as they’ve isolated the bass track and completely changed our level of appreciation for his work within the record.
Using either his trusty Fender Precision or Epiphone Rivoli for laying down the songs, Simonon delivers a scintillating performance which flirts across musical genres yet deeply roots itself within the rhythm of the city. London was a bubbling melting pot of creative energy and Simonon acknowledges it on every bouncing rhythm.
Running from the album’s titular opener through classics like ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, ‘Koka Kola’ and ‘Spanish Bombs’, ending with ‘Train In Vain’, it is one of the most sensational albums of all time. If you’re a bassist you may already know of Simonon’s vital importance to the album’s success, if you’re not yet convinced of that fact, then please visit the audio below.