Joe Strummer’s London Calling is prose brilliance. It is punk poetry. He was a Dylan Thomas punk. This is the song that made the band. It’s too bad they were cut short by a movement that imploded rather quickly. The Clashes failure was U2’s gain.
The line “London is drowning / And I live by the river” comes from concerns that if the River Thames flooded, most of central London would drown, something that led to the construction of the Thames Barrier. Strummer’s concern for police brutality is evident through the lines “We ain’t got no swing / Except for the ring of that truncheon thing” as the Metropolitan Police at the time had a truncheon as standard issued equipment. Social criticism also features through references to the effects of casual drug taking: “We ain’t got no high / Except for that one with the yellowy eyes”.