Paul Simonon’s Fender Precision bass, smashed onstage during a September 21, 1979 Clash gig at New York’s Palladium, a moment in time which was caught on film by photographer Pennie Smith and subsequently used as the cover artwork for the The Clash’s London Calling album, is to go on permanent display at the Museum of London later this month.
Previously included in The Clash: London Calling exhibition at the museum from November 2019 to September 2020, the bass guitar is now being featured in a world city gallery, which tells the story of London from the 1950s to today. Other artefacts chosen for the exhibition, which will open from July 23, include a Vespa scooter, the Bill and Ben string puppets from the popular kids’ TV show, and swimming trunks which diver Tom Daley wore at the 2012 London Olympics.
Speaking of his memories of smashing the instrument in New York, Simonon has said, “The show had gone quite well, 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 as I smashed up. ”
Smith’s iconic photograph was once cited as the best rock ’n’ roll photograph of all time by the now defunct Q magazine.
“It wasn’t a choice to take the shot,” Smith told The Guardian in 2019. “My finger just went off. You can’t really tell it’s Paul. But I guess that’s the point.”