Project Description

Pennie Smith made one of the the most famous photographs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll – the cover image for London Calling by The Clash

Pennie Smith is one of the UK’s leading rock photographers.  She had been photographing for NME when she first met The Clash in 1976.  She recalls ” They knew my work through NME. I think they decided  I was the photographer for them because I could do in pictures what they made in noise. ” She stayed with them throughout their US tour in 1979, and a book of her Clash photographs, The Clash Before and After, was published in 1980 by Eel Pie Publishing.  She is modest about her contribution:  ” I don’t think I created their image – I just added atmosphere and perhaps the setting to the image they already had “

Pennie hardly ever exhibits her work, as she is still a full time working photographer.

London Calling (1979)

The classic London Calling album cover photograph. It is one of the most famous photographs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. It is not cheap, but sometimes the good stuff has to hurt a little.

The photograph shows Paul Simonon about to smash up his bass during a show at The Palladium, New York City on 21 September 1979. It is an acclaimed shot, receiving the ultimate accolade from Q Magazine by being voted the best rock and roll photograph of all time. Pennie had accompanied The Clash throughout their 1979 US tour, and very nearly didn’t attend this particular concert. In the end she chose to turn down the offer to go out with friends and ended up stage right at The Palladium. The band were used to getting a big response from their US audiences, but not on this night – The Palladium had fixed seating. Paul’s frustration turned to anger, and then he lost it completely. His watch stopped at 9.50pm. Later, when it was time to choose an image for the cover of London Calling, the band spent a long time pouring over hundreds of Pennie’s photographs from the tour. Joe Strummer saw this shot on the contact sheet and said “That one”.

London Calling by Pennie Smith
Sandinista! by Pennie Smith

Sandinista! (1980)

This is the Sandinista! album cover photograph. 

On this original photograph you can see the West Ham graffiti that was removed from the actual Sandinista! LP cover artwork. Pennie Smith photographed the group behind Kings Cross/ St Pancras Station in London. The group had recently finished shooting a video for ‘The Call Up’, and Mick Jones is still wearing the helmet he wore for the filming.