so yablo's post about London Calling in the Hi Greg thread stirred up memories of the first time I heard the album. Everyone else can share theirs too. If not about London Calling then about the one album that most influenced the way you hear music.
January 1980. I'm back in Texas after christmas break, freshman year. I'm there a few days early. I'm hanging out with my friend RB. RB was about 6'3 and probably weighed 125 lbs, most of which would have been nasal cartlige, as RB had the single largest nose I've ever seen on a human being. But I digress.
KTRU, the local campus radio station, had an advance copy of London Calling (it was out in the UK but not released in the US til mid-Jan) and they played the thing start to end, no interruptions. RB and I sat there and listened to it, drinking beer but hardly talking, just taking it all in. I knew a bit of the Clash's music but London Calling was a revelation. I was only 17, didn't know much, but I knew I had just heard something amazing. When it was done I told RB that the record was an instant classic and would be known as one of the greatest albums ever. (This is a true fact. It was the only instance of my being correct that entire year, however).
A couple weeks later the album came out, I bought it and played it incessantly. Friends thought I'd lost my mind. Some of my more musically conservative friends (the Lynyrd Skynyrd / Molly Hatchet folks) were unimpressed to say the least. Comments were made. Arguments were had. Friendships were damaged. Fuck 'em all if they couldn't see past their drum solos.
London Calling started me down the path that puts me on the Coachella message board. By August that year I had a weekly radio show on KTRU. I was exploring all sorts of new sounds and quickly discovered that the stuff I'd grown up with on mainstream radio really paled compared to what else was available out there. A few months later I held a sale and got rid of my old vinyl that I considered "dinosaurs".. out went the Zeppelin, the Floyd, the Black Sabbath records. (I was obsessive and used poor judgment. Fortunately I had the good sense to hold on to my Beatles, Dylan, and Who).
London Calling led me to discover the rest of the Clash's work, and then similar music, and then related music, so on and on. My love of punk rock comes from the Clash. Not just "punk rock" but really any kind of energetic, passionate, and intelligent music. But it wasn't just rock, either. I got into reggae because of the Clash, specifically "Police and Thieves" and "White Man in Hammersmith Palais". It may surprise you that my love of country music comes from the Clash too. (The Clash were playing gigs with Joe Ely, so my devoted fandom meant I had to check him out. Joe Ely led to Steve Earle led to Lucinda Williams. Also, Joe Ely led to Lone Justice led to Jason & the Scorchers led to Uncle Tupelo led to Wilco).
Much of what's on my iPod today ties in somehow to this journey, this process that started with London Calling. Certainly no other album has influenced my tastes the way it did. Part of it was the timing (it came out in my musically formative years) but most of it was just its awesome greatness. In 2002 I got to meet Joe Strummer, briefly, but I was too stupidly starstruck to do much more than shake his hand and say "I'm a big fan". Less than six months later he died.