The Clash have given their blessing to a new version of their song London Calling by a Ukrainian punk band called Beton. Kyiv Calling, recorded near the frontline, has lyrics that call upon the rest of the world to support the defence of the country from Russian invaders.
All proceeds of what is now billed as a “war anthem” will go to the Free Ukraine Resistance Movement (FURM) to help fund a shared communications system that will alert the population to threats and lobby for international support.
In the last few days the three members of Beton, which means “concrete” in Ukrainian, have rewritten the lyrics to the hit, after being given permission by the Clash’s surviving members, in order to put out a morale-boosting message of resistance and to call on other countries for aid. The new track has been mixed in Los Angeles by the music producer Danny Saber, a former member of Black Grape who has worked with David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. The new lyrics include the lines “The iron age is coming, the curtain’s coming down” and “Kyiv calling to the Nato zone/Forget it, brother, we can’t go it alone”.
Beton’s band members, Bohdan Hrynko, Oleg Hula and Andriy Zholob, recorded Kyiv Calling in a studio in Lviv lastThursday and Friday. A video for the track features footage shot by the band’s friends, family, colleagues and volunteers, and captures some of the recent attacks in towns and cities, from Kharkiv to Kyiv.
The musicians are now also playing a part in the war effort. Zholob, the guitarist and vocalist, also works as an orthopaedic doctor, and is treating war victims and soldiers, while Hrynko, the drummer and vocalist, and the bassist and vocalist, Hula, are part of the territorial defence and are ready to join the resistance when called upon. In normal times Hrynko is an architect and Hula the co-owner of a company that supplies sound and lighting kit for concerts and festivals.
“Many Ukrainian musicians are now on battlefields or in territorial defence,” said Zholob. “They’ve changed guitars to guns. We hope this song shows Ukrainians’ spirit and our defiance to Russian aggression. We are glad it is going to be played around the world as a symbol of solidarity and hope.”
Punk music is a major part of Ukraine’s cultural scene and is providing an outlet to express anger in the face of Russian aggression.
The original song was written in 1979 by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, the Clash’s late singer and lyricist, while the band travelled around the world playing gigs through another period of international instability. Their travels were marked by the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the Iran hostage crisis and the Ixtoc I oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Back in Britain, there was also growing public discord over Margaret Thatcher’s political power, in addition to the effect of an energy crisis. Drawing on the chaos he felt around him, Strummer wrote a chorus line that deliberately echoed the old BBC radio broadcast call sign, but was intended to come from an impending dystopian future.
Beton, who describe themselves as “punk-hardcore”, have played together for more than a decade at gigs and festivals in Ukraine, and admit they started out as more of a joke than a band. But since 2019, they have gained recognition for their powerful sound. Their latest album, last year’s Members Only, took a more serious look at the issues confronting Ukraine before the invasion, including police violence, the rise of shopping culture and joblessness.
The band has played at some of the leading Ukrainian festivals, including Zaxidfest, Tarasova Gora festival, and their fans are said to range from children to Ukrainian soldiers.
“We have no doubt about our victory, we are proud to be Ukrainians and feel the support from musicians abroad. This means so much!” said Zholob, who is also a member of FURM, a citizen-led network of thousands of people from across many professions, linking more than 30 organisations throughout Ukraine. Its mission is to restore territorial integrity and strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty, building for a future as an EU and Nato member country.
All donations made to FURM that arise from the record will go towards the non-military work of the movement in communications and support for humanitarian partner networks and organisations.