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The Clash
Epic, 1979
Designer: Ray Lowry
Photographer: Pennie Smith

t's September 21st, 1979, at a Clash show at New York's Palladium, and Paul Simonon's bass has only seconds to live. "The show had gone quite well," says Simonon, "but for me inside, it just wasn't working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass. If I was smart, I would have got the spare bass and used that one, because it wasn't as good as the one I smashed up." Simonon still has the pieces.

The moment was preserved by photographer Pennie Smith for the cover of the Clash's third album, London Calling, a visionary musical sampler that explores R&B, ska, rockabilly and other genres. "If you're a painter or a musician," says Simonon, "you get your research from the past and you mix it with what's affecting you today." The photo does just that, harking back to Pete Townshend's traditional set-ending tantrum. The typography is another rock homage: It was lifted from Elvis Presley's first album. "When that Elvis record came out, rock & roll was pretty dangerous," says Simonon. "And I suppose when we brought out our record, it was pretty dangerous stuff, too."

Besides smashing his good bass, Simonon does have one other regret about the cover. "When I look at it now," he says, "I wish I'd lifted my face a bit more."

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