When Neil Spencer, then editor of the New Musical Express, rang Louise Bolotin on the payphone in her Edinburgh digs to tell her she was going to New York with the Clash, she didn’t believe him. “I thought one of my mates was winding me up,” she said.

The reality – that she and her flatmate Liz were about to be whisked to the Big Apple, to hang out with the band she had idolised since she heard their 1977 debut single White Riot, took a while to sink in.

She had filled out a coupon in the NME four weeks earlier asking for seven pithy insults about the band’s members, in a bid to win the trip, and promptly forgotten about it.

She can’t remember what she wrote now, although one of them compared lead singer Mick Jones to the bulging-eyed comedy actor Marty Feldman. “It was to mark the release of the single The Magnificent Seven,” she recalls. “I was trying to be funny - I don’t think I really was. But I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting at 19 than going to America with the Clash.”

The English punk band were riding high at the time on the back of their third album London Calling, now routinely referenced by music critics as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Spencer’s call prompted a panicked trip to the post office and then to Glasgow passport office, as well as the US consulate for a visa. Stepping off the train in London she and Liz were met by the then girlfriend of Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, who handed them their spending money and plane tickets: “£200 was an insane amount of money for us in 1981. We flew out of Heathrow that night and had a whole week in New York at the Gramercy Park hotel with the band, roadies and manager, having the most incredible time.”

That summer, the group were promoting the Sandinista triple LP follow up to London Calling, which had a mixed reception then, but has undergone a critical reevaluation. “They were doing a residency at Bond’s Casino in Times Square and played large chunks of it every night. It’s flawed but I love it,” Louise says.

But it is the seminal London Calling which is prompting Louise to plan another trip to the English capital with the opening yesterday of an exhibition dedicated to the album at the Museum of London. Featuring over 150 items from the personal archives of surviving members of The Clash it includes notebooks, clothing, images and music, many of which organisers say are previously unseen.

Highlights include the broken Fender Precision bass guitar which was smashed to the floor of the Palladium in New York City in 1979 by guitarist Paul Simonon, in anger at the crowd remaining politely in their seats – as well as handwritten lyrics for songs such as The Card Cheat, and photographs by revered rock photographer Pennie Smith who had a long-standing relationship with the band.

Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum, said visitors would find the free exhibition fascinating: “‘London Calling’ was The Clash’s defining album, a rallying call for Londoners and people around the world, “ she says. “

From deep-diving into the story of the seminal 1979 double album a few things continue to stand out: the breadth of musical styles that influenced the sound, how the lyrics reflected a moment in the city’s history whilst still resonating today and the close-knit working relationship of the band with creative collaborators”, she said adding that these themes and 150 exhibits, will highlight the captivating story of “an era defining moment in the capital’s history.”

Louise, now 58, who now lives in Manchester and still attends dozens of gigs a year, will find a way to be there. “ In terms of punk, the Sex Pistols were seminal, but I always loved the Clash. They didn’t have the comedy factor of the Damned or the mod sharpness of the Jam, but I liked how they looked and that they were really political and they were just brilliant live.” When she sees bands today, she can always tell whether they’ve listened to the Clash, she says. “They’re still incredibly important, , and not just to old punks like me.”

The anti-establishment politics of the Clash has led to ridicule and astonishment at Boris Johnson’s declaration in an election campaign video that they are also his favourite band. “I’m speechless,” Louise says. “If Joe Strummer was around today he would be ripping into him.

“He stands for the privileged elite - everything the Clash wanted to tear down. Please tell me it’s not true.”