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Bass guitar smashed at Clash New York gig to join relics at Museum of London

Paul Simonon’s shattered bass from the iconic ‘London Calling’ cover photo is going on permanent display at the London museum.

The split and battered bass guitar that featured on one of the most iconic album covers of the punk-rock era, The Clash‘s London Callingwill go on permanent display – along with Roman mosaics and 15th-century altar paintings – to help tell the history of Britain’s capital city at the Museum of London from July 23.

Paul Simonon has indefinitely loaned the museum the Fender Precision bass that he smashed at a September 1979 concert by his legendary band at the New York City venue The Palladium.

The now-iconic photo snapped by Pennie Smith of Simonon smashing the bass at the end of the show wound up on the cover of the band’s classic album, which was released in December of ’79 in the U.K. and January 1980 in the U.S.

It would probably have been forgotten had not photographer Pennie Smith been standing less than six feet away with her 35mm Pentax camera.

“It wasn’t a choice to take the shot,” Smith told the Guardian in 2019. “My finger just went off.”

The resulting photograph was later named the best rock’n’roll photograph of all time by Q magazine.

London calling

Smith recalled Simonon being in a “really bad mood” during the gig which was not like him. He later said it was an emotional response to an audience sitting in their seats and not moving.

The bass previously was featured in the popular “The Clash: London Calling” exhibit that ran from November 2019 to September 2020 at the Museum of London and celebrated the 40th anniversary of the album.  The instrument will now go on display indefinitely in the museum’s World City gallery, and it eventually will be displayed at the facility’s planned new location in London’s West Smithfield section.

“We’re thrilled to have Paul Simonon’s Fender Precision bass on long-term loan,” says Museum of London curator Beatrice Behlen. “A seminal piece of music history.”

She adds, “We are aware that many were unable to see the guitar as part of our exhibition The Clash: London Calling in 2020 due to coronavirus, so we are pleased to provide a second opportunity to see it.”

Free tickets to view the World City gallery can be reserved at MuseumofLondon.org.uk.

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