Many movies rely on songs to set the mood, and there are some that are relied upon a lot – what we like to call soundtrack staples. The Clash’s London Calling began life as a biting clarion call regarding the band’s fears for the state of the world, but where did it end up?
The title track of The Clash’s third album was the key to their breaking through to commercial success in many places, Australia included, where it went top 40. But with punk’s contradictory ambitions of attention-seeking and also not selling out, was this a good thing?
Well, if you ask any muso, royalty cheques are always a good thing, and The Clash would have received some chunky ones, not least because of this track. But it wasn’t until around the turn of the last century that they actively started pimping their music for soundtracks and beyond. They’ve had many a taker both for movie soundtracks AND beyond – with London Calling even featuring in ads for the very British Jaguar car company, as well as British Airways…
The song has also featured on some 11 movie soundtracks since the year 2000, a combination of high profile releases and the odd obscurity. They almost all have one thing in common though, which is using the song as a lazy way to introduce an arrival in – or trip to – London.
Billy Elliot (2000)
The first movie soundtrack use of London Calling was also arguably (we would have said “inarguably”, but people do like to argue) the best. It soundtracked Billy’s brother’s attempted escape from riot police, as Billy – who is fighting an internal battle between his love of ballet and local cultural expectations of “manliness” – watches on. Sadly, it’s only downhill from here for the song…
A film that straddled the arty/mainstream divide, this one starred Mak Rylance as a muso who has a weekly shag with an anonymous woman (Kerry Fox – not so anonymous now, hey?) who he starts falling for. The soundtrack was also stuffed with cool classics from the likes of Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Bowie and, erm, Boney M.
My Wife Is an Actress (2001)
It begins… The French romantic dramedy starring Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg features London Calling as, you guessed it, the story heads to London – as evidenced in this trailer…
Die Another Day (2002)
As Bond flies home – via British Airways, of course – and we head to Buck Palace, the obvious musical accompaniment fires up…
What a Girl Wants (2003)
Remember Amanda Bynes? Last seen in 2010’s Easy A, there was a time when she was as omnipresent as… as… erm, London Calling soundtracking a sightseeing expedition in England’s capital.
Bang Bang Orangutang (2005)
Erm, WTF?! London Calling is somewhere in this odd-looking Swedish romp that stars Michael Nyqvist and Lena Olin, apparently. MUUH! (Warning: It contains some top-half nudity).
Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Well, at least it’s a music-related London montage, as Jonah Hill heads there to track down Russell Brand with 20 hours to spare.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
“Ah, London town. The most romantic city in the world”. Guess where the plasticine pirates in Aardman’s adventure – known as The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists in the UK – are heading?
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)
“We have to go to London to figure this out”. Cue The Clash…
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Oh look, another London montage!
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Time to finish up with a slight twist as, following a quip about the British monarch, London Calling heralds a change of scenery… to Paris.