CLET and “London Calling” / Paul Simonon’s Bass Smash with The Clash / Dispatch From Isolation # 64

It’s September 1979, the creaking fissures of societal liberalism were being formed by a retrenchment of money into public coffers, attacks on labor, and to fund western war machines – privatization was afoot on both sides of the Atlantic and the punks were now in a full scream, those counter-cultural canaries in the coal mine.

We had the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, the USSR invading Afghanistan, the bombing by the IRA in England, Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, the cold slap of Margaret Thatcher in the UK, 17% inflation for the UK.

CLET”s interpretation of the iconic photo by British photographer Pennie Smith of Paul Simonon of The Clash smashing his bass guitar at a concert at The Palladium in NYC in 1979.

New York and London were making common cause on the street with a shared interest in this new music and its defiantly angry peacock anti-fashion, and the London Palladium had a bill with Sam and Dave, the Undertones, and The Clash.

A bloated middle-class decade of arena rock bombast and coke-fueled disco hedonism had left Boomer white youth with rage with a rumbling sense of emptiness. Rebellious Punk was a vehicle, ready to tear a self-satisfied commodified hippie system down, perhaps thinking someone else would build it for us later. The lore is that bassist Paul Simonon was frustrated and furious at the ushers telling people to sit in their seats, not stand. In a rageful heat, he smashed his bass on the stage, the act was captured by Pennie Smith, and it became the iconic cover of their album “London Calling.” 

Here we find a Brooklyn “Do Not Enter” sign on the street with artist Clet’s inspired tribute to that now-famous pose – a symbol of blind rage that ultimately was self-sabotage. Simonon is quoted as saying he wished he hadn’t done it to one of his favorite guitars “a shame because the bass I had to play for the rest of the tour was a lot lighter and didn’t have any density to it when you played it.”