On the Street: New York Fracking

These flyers were posted on East 33rd Street in Manhattan a few weeks ago. They caught my eye for two reasons. First, they made a visually striking display on the blue-painted plywood surrounding a construction site. Second, their design was an homage to a classic album cover.

“London Calling” was The Clash’s third album, released in 1979. Its cover photograph (taken by Pennie Smith) showed Clash bassist Paul Simonon smashing his instrument onstage. It was, and is, an iconic image of rock rebellion and angst. (The overall design was inspired by an Elvis Presley cover, but that’s another story.)

I don’t know who created and posted the “New York Fracking” flyers, and I don’t want to get into a discussion of hydraulic fracturing here and now, but I do admire this appropriation. “Fracking”‘s artist reduced the musician to a silhouette and replaced the bass guitar with a giant drill bit, and the altered image’s message comes through loud and clear.

I’m not an expert on The Clash, either, but I’m guessing that this piece of street art refers back to the apocalyptic mood of the album’s title track…

“The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in 
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin 
A nuclear error, but I have no fear 
‘Cause London is drowning—and I live by the river…”

You can hear the whole song and see a video here.

(When I returned to 33rd Street a week later, the flyers were gone.)

Images: street photograph by Tinsel Creation; album cover via The Clash’s official website.


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