It’s not lost on me that when London Calling and Sandinista! were originally released, The Clash forfeited their royalties so that the multi-record sets could be sold for the same price as a single album. A quarter century has passed, Joe Strummer is gone, and Mick Jones has traded character for cocaine, so it should surprise no one that the band’s label is doing everything possible to eek out every last dime that The Clash’s limited catalog has to offer. Gone are the days of consumer-minded pricing; the latest catalog revamp places every one of the band’s 19 UK singles in a 19-disc box set that spans their entire career. The Singles is a completist’s dream and is priced high enough to sway new listeners away from using the release as a starting point.
But I’m willing to bet that novices who spin London Calling for the first time will jump head first into the rest of the catalog and, quite possibly, end up at the same point that I was when I shelled out the $64.95 needed to say “I have every one of the Clash’s singles in one convenient package.” Call me a music geek, a completist, or a sap for buying into Sony’s thinly-veiled marketing efforts; I’m perfectly content, nay, happy, about my purchase of The Singles.
First of all, this is a record totally devoted to those collector-driven few who would gladly give up convenience (after all, this is a singles package in the most literal sense: some discs only have two songs on them, just like the real thing) over a sense of nostalgia.
Secondly, it contains some absolutely wonderful packaging; it lovingly recreates the original single-sleeve artwork, the original record labels (complete with black vinyl colored discs), and a 44 page booklet penned by fans like Shane MacGowan, Nick Hornby, Bernard Sumner and others.
The collector also gets a chance to own all of the band’s b-side (six cuts have been unavailable before now) and the rare NME giveaway EP, Capitol Radio. They’ve also included every promotional item you could possibly imagine, so if you’re hankerin’ for that Argentinean 7″ promotional version of “Overpowered By Funk,” it’s here.
The music? Are you kidding?! It’s The Clash we’re talking about! It sounds just as vital, as immediate and relevant today as it did when first issued. By the time you reach “This Is England,” the Jones-less single from the forgettable Cut The Crap, you’re pissed that the whole thing had to end on such a down note, but holy shit, those other 18 singles…
Speaking of: The Singles manages to demonstrate the band’s affection towards the seven inch format. From the early punk singles, to the later genre-hopping material, each subsequent release provides fans a chance to catch up with a band not content on standing still, while still offering new listeners a reason to jump on board.
Of course, some thirty years after The Clash’s first single, everyone should be on board by now. The Singles is just a first class ticket to enjoy the band’s thrilling ride once again.
Track List (bold = unreleased on CD)
Disc 1: White Riot / 1977
Disc 2: Listen / Interview With The Clash On The Circle Line (1 & 2) / Capital Radio One
Disc 3: Remote Control / London’s Burning (live) / London’s Burning
Disc 4: Complete Control / The City Of The Dead
Disc 5: Clash City Rockers / Jail Guitar Doors
Disc 6: (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais / The Prisoner
Disc 7: Tommy Gun / 1-2 Crush On You
Disc 8: English Civil War / Pressure Drop
Disc 9: I Fought The Law / Groovy Times / Gates Of The West / Capital Radio Two
Disc 10: London Calling / Armagideon Time / Justice Tonight / Kick It Over / Clampdown / The Card Cheat / Lost In The Supermarket
Disc 11: Bankrobber / Rockers Galore…UK Tour / Rudie Can’t Fail / Train In Vain
Disc 12: The Call Up / Stop The World
Disc 13: Hitsville U.K. / Radio One / Police On My Back / Somebody Got Murdered
Disc 14: The Magnificent Seven (Edit) / The Magnificent Dance (Edit) / Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice) / One More Time / One More Dub / The Cool Out / The Magnificent Seven / The Magnificent Dance
Disc 15: This Is Radio Clash / Radio Clash / Outside Broadcast / Radio 5
Disc 16: Know Your Rights / First Night Back In London
Disc 17: Rock The Casbah / Long Time Jerk (long version) / Mustapha Dance / Red Angel Dragnet / Overpowered By Funk
Disc 18: Should I Stay Or Should I Go / Straight To Hell / Inoculated City / Cool Confusion
Disc 19: This Is England / Do It Now / Sex Mad Roar
For those of you who just want the a-sides, you can pick up the 1991 single-disc version of The Singles for under ten bucks.