Friday, 19 August 2011

SP - Deconstruction: The Clash - London Calling

Artist: The Clash
Song: London Calling
Genre: Punk Rock
Director: Letts 
Year: 1979
Audience: Over 40's

"London Calling" is the third studio album by the English punk rock band The Clash. It was released in the United Kingdom on 14 December 1979 through CBS Records, and in the United States in January 1980 through Epic Records. The album represented a significant change in The Clash's musical style, which now featured major elements of ska, funk, pop, soul, jazz, rockabilly and reggae far more prominently than in their previous two albums. The album's subject matter included social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict, drug use, and the responsibilities of adulthood. The album received unanimously positive reviews and was ranked at number eight on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. London Calling was a top ten album in the UK, and its lead single "London Calling" was a top 20 single. It has sold over five million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum in the United States. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Clash's London Calling is a completely performance based music video with no narrative or concept. The whole video is footage of the band playing their instruments along with Joe Strummer, the band's frontman lip syncing the lyrics to the song. It has long takes of Joe Strummer signing infront of his band who are set up behind as if they are playing live to an audience. However it is set outside and it is very dark. It is also raining and very cold as when they sing you can see their breath coming from their mouths. It is a very old school and very low budget music video which is all about the band. This is very typical for this time period and was frequently used in music videos. This was probably because it saved alot of money having perfomance videos.

The first shot of the music video is of Big Ben. Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is generally extended to refer to the clock or the clock tower as well. It is the largest four-faced chiming clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. It celebrated its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place. The clock was finished being built on 10 April 1858. The clock tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England, often in the establishing shot of films and in this case music videos set in the city.

After the shot of Big Ben at the beigning of the music video which shows us the setting of the music video the shots shift the focus on to the band members. The shots are very drak and it is hard to make out which band member is which but i think this is intended to add a but of mystery to the music video. The camera quality also does not help but at the time of the music video camera quality isnt as good as it is now. Everything is very dark. Even the band members clothes are very dark. They are all wearing black suits whith a black blazer, black trousers and black shoes. This with the gloomy lighting and poor camera quality shows us the time period the music video is set and this is only the first couple of shots. There is another of someone running down a tunnel. I guess the person is a band member and this shots fits in the the song name. Yhis person is running and the song is called Londons Calling so there is an onbvious link here. The shots are also very shakey which adds a interesting effect to theopening shots. There are no lyrics being sung at this point just instruments being played and these shots are obviously and introduction the music video. It isnt the most interesting start to the music video but it is quite old and it is different.

Throughout the whole video there are very long takes like i said before of the band playing but mainly of the frontman lip-syncing. The majoriy of the shots used for the performance music video are medium shots and close ups. However this particular music video has a panning shot throughout the set-up of the band. The shot starts at one side of the band and it slowly moves across to the other side of he band. There is not much shot variety throughout the video because alot of the shots are very similar and some are even used more than once. The only bit of variation in the whole music video is a side on angle of the band and it is a slight low angle shot. However, just like most of the shots in this music video, it goes on for too long. It is also not a very interesting shot. Its not just shot variation that is lacking in this music video it is also quick paced editing. There are long takes and a lack of shots which results in slow feel to the video. The shots are all very shakey and not very still which gives it an amateur feel which might not be intended but works very well because it gives it a feel as if it is a live performance and a real rock band style. It is also very dark and gloomy which isnt very appealing either. The fact it is set outside and it is raining is stereotypical for British weather.

This music video is not all about the band though. Some of the shots in the London Calling music video by The Clash are cut shots away from the band. For example, I have picked out a few. Some of the lyrics in the chorus are 'Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river. At this point there is a cut shot away from the band and to an darker shot of a river which according to the title of the song must be the River Thames. However we cannot really tell. Another cut shot is of what i think is the London Tower Bridge but again it is so dark we cannot really tell what it is. That sums up the music video really well. There are alot of shots that you cannot really tell what they are or where they are because it is all filmed at night time. The only shots that are easily visible are the performance shots and thats only because there is artificial lighting to illuminate the stage they are on. It is a very old fashioned music video.

Here is the music video London Calling by The Clash

1 comment:

  1. The lo-fi aesthetic is intentional and vital - as a punk band with a left-wing ideology they had to be seen to anti-corporate, non-slick. The Thames reference has some intertextuality: the Pistols famously sailed down the Thames to promote God Save the Queen in '77.
    The shot you pick out of the bridge also has echoes of the opening of The Warriors ('79 film), while the driving rain would later be used for moody effect in vids such as Sisters of Mercy "This Corrosion"


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