I've "resurrected" (recreated) his article on 22 December 2010! ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002) Never Forgotten, Always an Inspiration, Always Missed!!! –pjoef (talk • contribs) 10:00, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
"There's nothing but bad news in the newspapers to make us live in a constant state of paranoia. That's what they want because it keeps people in fear."
"I think we're going to have to forget about the radio and just go back to word of mouth."
"We're all going to have to learn to live together and develop a greater tolerance and get rid off whatever our fathers gave us in the way of hatred between nations." ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002)
"You gotta be able to go out there and do it for yourself. No one's gonna give it to you."
"Everyone has got to realise you can't hold onto the past if you want any future. Each second should lead to the next one." ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002)
"People have told me songs I've written have changed their life. That's remarkable. That keeps your faith."
"Feeling lucky punk? Oh, good."
"The Future is Unwritten!" ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002)
"To write good songs you have to be somewhere between a genius and a village idiot."
"We deal in junk, you know; what we've got is what other people put in the rubbish bin."
"I will always believe in punk-rock, because it's about creating something for yourself. Part of it was: 'Stop being a sap! Lift your head up and see what is really going on in the political, social and religious situations, and try and see through all the smoke screens. ... We can at least be optimistic in (that) it forces the renegades and the underground to get it together. The worse sh*t gets, the more interesting the underground becomes. So I'm always quite hopeful. I believe in human beings. Human beings won't let this happen. We won't all end up robots working for McGiant Corp or whatever. It can't happen." ~ Joe Strummer, July 2002
"You've gotta be slightly stupid."
"Feeling lucky punk? Oh, good."
"I think we're going to have to forget about the radio and just go back to word of mouth."
"Do not go in there; do not sign with this company, or you'll end up like me - screwed and out on the street. And I am a living legend, you bastards!"
"The Future is Unwritten!"
"I have a weird life because I live on songwriting royalties, which are a strange income. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn't."
"I sometimes look at myself, I'm sitting with a biro and a cigarette packet, desperately scrawling dribble on it. And sometimes I put down my fag pack and think, what am I, a grown man, doing at this hour of the night? Then I banish that thought, pick the fag pack up again."
"Everybody has a story to tell."
"I began thinking there should be an American phrase book, 'cause I've got an Italian phrase book, and an Arabic one… now a British one. I think it'd be pretty good to have an American phrase book."
"Do you know those shots from above a rocket gantry, especially those Sixties, early-color shots of Cape Kennedy or Cape Canaveral? There's that moment after they count down, 'Three, two, one...' when clouds of smoke billow from the rocket and then it begins to thrust and burn a whole in the atmosphere - that would be the feeling of a Clash show. And it would seem about that length of time too." ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002) (Rolling Stone Online)
"Remember: Musicians memories are very short." (Rolling Stone Online)
"We deal in junk, you know; what we've got is what other people put in the rubbish bin."
"The way you get a better world is, you don't put up with substandard anything."
"Authority is supposedly founded on wisdom. But I worked out from an early age that authority was just another form of control, and there wasn't any inherent wisdom"
"You gotta be able to go out there and do it for yourself. No one's gonna give it to you."
"To write good songs you have to be somewhere between a genius and a village idiot."
"I smoked so much dope I'm lucky I didn't turn into a bush."
"We're all going to have to learn to live together and develop a greater tolerance and get rid off whatever our fathers gave us in the way of hatred between nations."
"Are you kidding? Have you ever thought what it would be like to be Joe Strummer driving a cab around London? To have people in the back go, 'He used to be Joe Strummer'? I've had a fair taste of hasbeenness and it's been deserved. The worst part is when people ask 'Are you Joe Strummer?' and then they go, 'Oh, I used to be a fan of yours.'"
"If I had five million pounds I'd start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat."
"I think it's a sin to be boring."
THE WORD ON PUNK PAST AND PRESENT FROM THE FORMER CLASH FRONTMAN
Spin: Who would you say were the ultimate punk band?
Joe Strummer: The Television Personalities.
Really? Well, they're second place. First place are the Ramones. They're the daddy punk rock group of all time. The Television Personalities, they're slightly obscure, but they brought a severe sense of intelligence to it, just at a time when punk needed the piss taken out of it. And three, maybe I'd put in the Buzzcocks. Oh yeah, the Minutemen. Big ups to the Minutemen!
How do the Clash rank? I wouldn't put us in any punk Top 10, really, because we were wider than that. We ended up playing "Rock the Casbah," kind of funking it up. If we were a spaceship, we'd have tracked right out into the galaxy in a straight line. You couldn't get from "Janie Jones" to Sandinista! quicker if you tried.
It took two years for your [self-titled 1977] debut to come out in the U.S. Why was the American music industry so resistant to punk? Because it sounded like shite, like a load of people thrashing up and down. They just held back to see which way it would develop. We came over there and started doing gigs, driving around in a bus. We managed to get known in a huge country through word of mouth.
You were accused of being sellouts for signing to CBS. Is it pure or isn't it? You get that question raging in California today. Are you punks or aren't you? It's a tough debate. We didn't know what was going on, but I don't regret anything we did. Our defense would be that it helped make punk a worldwide concern. When we signed, people went, "My god! That means it's serious!" We weren't thinking like cool music heads. We were insane idiots, which helped make our music better.
Which punk rockers have best kept the spirit of the music going? Fugazi. They're totally, utterly Fugazi, from the beginning of the world until the end.
You currently record for Rancid's indie label HellCat, ironic since Rancid are forever accused of sounding like the Clash. It's funny; we could talk about jazz, and it's the same. As soon as the form is identified as a form, then everybody is in a lot of trouble. But, on the other hand, I'm glad that people are still playing accordion-balalaika music, 'cause when I feel like hearing it I can get some. It can be a good thing to keep a form going. Green Day are playing great Green Day music.
Why did the Clash break up? They had the intelligence to break up. That is not a bad piece of intelligence to have. Didn't I have a go at flogging a dead horse?
You're talking about [1985's] Cut the Crap? Yeah; I mean, I flogged the horse until I was arrested by the animal society. You wake up, and you're over. It's not a bad thing.
A lot of rock bands have survived their moment. Was there something about punk that made it harder to survive it? Yeah, definitely. You live by the punk sword, and you'll die by the punk sword. I wish I'd been more like Ricky Martin, grooving on the Latin thing. He probably has a better life than punk rockers do, walking around tied up in metaphysical knots. Also, don't forget that we'd banged out a hell of a lot of vinyl in five years. We'd had our say. You need to shut up.
But now you're back full-time again with your band, the Mescaleros. I had an 11-year layoff. And that's kind of nice‹to keep your powder dry. Now I'm reaping the benefit. My [upcoming fall] album, Global a Go Go, is the best record I've ever been involved in, as for personal satisfaction. We've got a new flavor here‹funky, organic. I'd hate to be sitting on a record that anybody would understand. I prefer it when we're banging our heads on the wall. It keeps you alive.
One band we haven't talked much about is the Sex Pistols. The only point I could make about the Pistols, being an eyewitness, is that they could absolutely play. The four of them could get on a shite stage on a shite Tuesday night, and the sound you'd hear was total.
This was before Sid Vicious joined? Before, man. I'm talking about playing here!
Idealism tempered but undimmed by the years, former Clash frontman Joe Strummer tells Dan Grunebaum why his upcoming Japan tour may be his last.
“I am looking at this as possibly our final jaunt into Japan,” says Joe Strummer in a telephone chat from his country refuge in Somerset, an area three hours' west of London that he notes is famous for alcoholic cider. We're an hour late for the interview due to a time zone mix up, but Strummer is friendly and unfazed.
It's mid September and Strummer is preparing to set out on tour with his latest band, The Mescaleros. Formed in 1999, the band has just released Global A Go-Go (Hellcat), the follow-up to their 1999 debut Art & The X-Ray Style, which helped resurrect the career of an almost forgotten punk legend.
Strummer's not trying to sound depressing, just realistic. “Sooner or later I think we'd have to be defeated,” he says. “Not that we'll give up, but I doubt we'll be able to travel many places in the future—and we fly economy! You've got to fly ten guys into Japan and get the hotels and feed them, so I would think that pretty soon Japan will be out of our reach.”
You'd think the fact that Strummer fronted one of punk's most important bands would guarantee him an audience, but the soft-spoken singer explains that the mechanics of the contemporary music business mean that nothing is guaranteed.
“Even though there are extremists in the world…we've got to hold on to our sanity and not allow ourselves to get crazed with vengeance.”
“We exist in a kind of nether world beyond MTV where only hipsters venture,” says Strummer about The Mescaleros, whose eclectic mix of rock, R&B, reggae, Latin and techno makes them difficult to “niche market.” When pressed, Strummer—while careful to note that the band operates as a democracy—admits that, “Calling ourselves Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros has made it easier for us than if we were just called The Mescaleros.” This, despite the fact that the Mescaleros also include other rock illuminati such as guitarist Anthony Glenn formerly of Elastica and multi-instrumentalist Martin Slattery of Black Grape. “It's a very competitive world in rock,” concludes Strummer. “So if you've got any kind of name in the world it's advisable to use it.”
And a name he has indeed. Not only did Strummer's The Clash change the course of rock ‘n' roll, but his career since the group disbanded in 1985 has been varied and productive. He's acted in movies by Alex Cox and Jim Jarmusch, filled in as Pogues frontman, and composed soundtracks for Sid and Nancy (1986), When Pigs Fly (1993) and Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), just to name a few of his accomplishments.
But Strummer's various attempts to launch a solo career and new bands were dogged by setbacks throughout the '90s, a period his biographer refers to as “Joe's Wilderness Years.” After the flop of his 1990 solo debut Earthquake Weather, CBS/Sony blocked any further solo efforts, hoping in vain for the Clash reunion Strummer insists will never take place.
Unable to come up with the five million pounds necessary to buy himself out of his contract, Strummer went on strike in 1997. Finally, CBS/Sony gave in, terminating his contract and paving the way for his signing to Hellcat, the indie label headed by SoCal punk band Rancid singer Tim Armstrong, a rabid Clash fan of long standing.
Recently, The Mescaleros have been touring with many of their Hellcat labelmates, who represent the new wave of West Coast punk. So how does a grand old man of punk feel about the young kids on the block? “We get to see how they play on stage as well as hang out with them. A lot of them are excellent musicians and also very witty people,” he enthuses. On the other hand, he says that, “As far as the content, I think it's more for younger people than I; it's music for a different generation.”
Strummer—49 and a father of three children—is confident about his band's ability to rock out. “When we get up there and knock into it there aren't too many people complaining,” he boasts. “We've done our homework, and we haven't made anything bad.” Strummer says that, perhaps surprisingly, fans don't request Clash tunes, even though he does say “We play all kinds of music that I have been involved in, from all parts of my particular history.”
Strummer—who says he makes music for “his own age group”—is scathing about the current state of rock and its domination by worldwide conglomerates. “MTV has constructed its own universe—many songs are being written specifically to be the soundtrack to a video which is specifically being made to be shown on MTV 12 times a day,” he complains. “MTV, which started out as an observer, is now a decisive factor in which kind of music is being made.” He adds that his band can't be found on radio, either. “All the radio stations are on a corporate diet so it's a corporate menu.”
But despite Strummer's view that “We won't be able to survive for too much longer,” the singer is philosophical. “MTV world has nothing to do with my world,” he says. “So we just kind of get on with it.”
And get on with it they do. The Mescaleros are spending the better part of the fall touring the US and UK, with a brief detour to Japan. It's a busy life about which Strummer has mixed feelings. “I've been to Japan many times but I've never seen anything,” he laments. “As soon as they get you into Japan they want to work you. My usual schedule is 20 interviews a day. You get half an hour to go buy some funny presents for your kids and that's it.”
While realistic about the chances of getting his message of peace through, Strummer—who grew up all over the world as the son of a British Foreign Office employee—insists that, in a world horrified by the Sept 11 terror attacks, commitment is critical.
“The message is even more pertinent,” he concludes. “Even though there are extremists in the world, if we represent the sane people of the world, then we've got to hold on to our sanity and not allow ourselves to get crazed with vengeance and make an inopportune movement.”
A Guy Named Joe by Emily Blunt
Joe Strummer is no longer with us…I wrote this a couple years ago to help promote the Mescalero album…He was by far one of the greatest influences in my life, and by far one of the greatest humans in life.
Global a Go-Go Review
interview The Mescaleros
A long time ago…in a land far away… a few boys got together and ripped the roof of their local punk-rock venues. They were The Clash.
They came to America, toured the rest of the world, partied a bit much, made a sell-out album or two and ultimately went their separate ways. Sounds like nearly every British band (any band for that matter) or perhaps just another Gary Oldman script…
But, The Clash were/are too good to be dismissed so easily. The music is as fresh today blasting in the CD player as it was when the needle still innocently meant vinyl time…
And as far as I'm concerned there' s still just nothing like sitting back and drinking in the Clash's historic album Sandinista! with a large Belvedere Martini…
In the early eighties when they hit big there were two types of punkers…The ones who liked The Clash and the ones that dug the Sex Pistols. I didn't get the angst of the Pistols and thought The Clash were more cerebral, intelligent, as well as different enough to drive mum mad.
When I was eighteen-ish, I toured as a friend of The Clash for four incredible days …I came home with a mohawk, a new pair of red basketball sneakers and many happy memories of a great man (Joe) with a heart of gold, and a brain of steel. I am still looking for that kind of guy…Since I know that they do exist.
My fondest memory is of Buffalo NY. It was about 300am, Joe, myself, and Alex (a life-long friend) sat contemplating life - in that "altered state" way. We'd all escaped the groupies by pretending we were, err, more than friends (which we were not). When back in Joe's room for a good night cigarette - aka "waiting till coast was clear" - the three of us got into one of those life altering moments…for Alex and I at least.
We three talked about beatniks, politics, giving up pot, vitamin B, put some avocados on the sill to ripen, and what I was going to do in the future. Joe said in his unique voice, " Follow your passion! Or it's all piss i'dnt it?" He also giggled and tried to help me come up with a good story to explain my new mohawk to mummy…What were his plans? He was going home and continue to try and make a difference with his music.
Alas, the Clash are gone (sniff). But, lead talent -in my humble opinion- Joe Strummer is still ripping through towns spreading thought provoking tunes and giving a damn! I just love this guy. Joe's now with the Mescaleros and has once again come prancing along with original thought provoking music.
The cds Rock Art & The X-Ray Style and Global A Go-Go can catch you off guard. At first your like, "Hmm how decidedly different." Then your snapping your fingers, dancing about and quoting lines at passer-bys. Scrumptious. And absolutely worthy for any die hard Clash fan that got it.
Joe's grown and the growth is not so much better - since I thought he was brilliant before - but it's a transition and we get to come along for the ride.
Check him out- he's a myth on Earth. Yes, Yes, I will take some lithium- just visit the man and continue to dig his music man.
from the Sunday Sun 2 by Jeremy Robinson
That famous quiff may be greying at the temples. And the once boyish face has a distinctly lived-in look after 30 years of good times.
Joe Strummer might not be a young man any more but there's no doubt he remains an angry one. The 50-year-old former Clash frontman can legitimately claim to have been one of the voices of his generation.
Ageing punks still get misty-eyed about the Clash gig at the old Newcastle Polytechnic in 1979 that descended into a near riot.
And Strummer's more recent performances in the North made it clear that he retains the ability to move a crowd in a way precious few frontmen ever manage.
His two Newcastle shows in 2000, at the city's university and as support to the Who at the Telewest Arena, proved he has lost none of his fire and ferocity.
And you can expect more of the same from Strummer when he brings his band, the Mescaleros, back to Newcastle on Tuesday night.
After the Clash split in 1985 Strummer acted in and scored films before releasing his debut solo album, Earthquake Weather, in 1989.
He then virtually disappeared from view for almost a decade, until the forming of the Mescaleros in 1998 and putting out the album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style the year after.
Released on Epitaph's Hellcat Records it buzzed with the energy of a man kept quiet for far too long.
The Global A Go-Go album followed two years later, and found him dabbling in everything from rockabilly to reggae. "I'm enjoying this freedom of being able to do whatever the hell I want," he said.
"We don't sell that many records and that fact alone makes us the wildest gang in town, which so many people can't be because of the restraints of working for big record companies.
"We can do more daring music and we like that because the more wages you are getting paid the music conversely has to be less interesting.
"Sometimes I look at people on Top of the Pops and think you have no freedom because there's going to be so much pressure on you just to remake this record."
His long lay-off has also paid dividends, he believes.
He said: "It wasn't a conscious decision to take a breather, but in the long run it'd turned out for the best. Sometimes you save the best for last."
Though Strummer is fiercely proud of the songs the Mescaleros have produced, he also loves dipping into the Clash's back catalogue when he's out on the road.
He said: "It's my Bee-Gees theory. I don't want to go and see the Bee-Gees if they are not at least going to play Stayin' Alive or Massachusettes… and you have to look at yourself like someone who's into the music. Put yourself in that position.
"What are you going to do? Be some pompous ass who says, 'This is our new stuff, hope you like it'. You are up there because people want a night out, after all.
"The band love the old Clash songs too because musicians like to play songs with a good beat, good chords, interesting lyrics… and it's fun to communicate with other people like that."
Strummer, Jones Jam on Stage Nov 18, 2002
Unlike every other Clash reunion rumor, this one isn't made up … Former front man Joe Strummer was joined on stage Saturday night (Nov. 16) by Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Jones strolled on stage during an encore of The Mescaleros set at a benefit for striking firefighters at Acton Town Hall in England. The duo played two Clash staples, "White Riot" and "London's Burning."
While there's been no motion to reform the legendary act, it was the first time the pair had played on stage together in nearly two decades. Since the dissolution of the Clash, Strummer and Jones have worked in separate projects, although the pair collaborated on writing a few tracks on Big Audio Dynamite's No. 10 Upping Street (1986, Columbia).
LONDON, England -- The Clash were for many THE punk band of the 1970s and in their lead singer and songwriter Joe Strummer had a voice that spoke for a generation.
Strummer, who has died aged 50, was an intelligent, passionate musician who with Mick Jones, the other creative force in the band, absorbed a range of influences from reggae to rockabilly but distilled a uniquely British sound.
Strummer and the Clash burst onto the British punk scene in the late 1970s on the heels of fellow countrymen and punk rockers The Sex Pistols.
But they transcended the three-chord aggression to deliver messages of anti-racism and social consciousness in such songs as "London Calling," "Rock the Casbah," and "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
The Clash are scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 10, along with AC/DC, the Police, Elvis Costello and the Attractions and the Righteous Brothers.
Strummer also enjoyed a successful solo career after the Clash broke up in 1985, dabbling in acting and writing music for films.
Born John Mellor when his diplomat father was stationed in Ankara, Turkey, he was sent to the City of London Freeman School in Ashtead Park, Surrey and would visit his parents in Tehran during school holidays.
Back in England he went to art school but dropped out and spent his time busking on the Tube during the early 1970s before forming a pub-rock band called the 101'ers.
A turning point in his life came when he saw the Sex Pistols in 1976 and decided the pub-rock scene was dead.
He immediately left the 101'ers and joined up with three musicians he had met earlier, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky "Topper" Headon who were in a band called London SS.
The group changed their named to The Clash and later that year signed to CBS Records.
The Clash's self-titled debut a year later had the seeds of the sound that would bring them international success within a few years. Rolling Stone magazine called it "the definitive punk album."
It included the frantic sound of "White Riot," which became a punk anthem, and a cover of Junior Murvin's reggae classic "Police and Thieves."
The band followed the release with "Give 'Em Enough Rope" in 1978, then "London Calling" the following year.
Strummer: Rebel with a cause
This double album was reckoned to be the band's best. The next release, the triple-album "Sandinista!," finally brought The Clash major recognition in America, which continued with 1982's "Combat Rock," and the hit single "Rock the Casbah."
But at the height of success, things started to go wrong. Mick Jones left the band in 1983 and "Cut the Crap," the final album released by The Clash, was a commercial failure. By 1986 the group had disbanded.
Strummer reunited with Mick Jones and his new band Big Audo Dynamite (B.A.D.) for songwriting before taking film roles with Alex Cox in "Straight To Hell" (1986), Jim Jarmusch in "Mystery Train" (1989) and Aki Kaurismaki in "I Hired A Contract Killer" (1990).
He also worked on soundtracks for the films "Permanent Record" (1988) and "Grosse Point Blank" (1997).
In 1989 Strummer released his first solo album, called "Earthquake Weather," and spent a long time on tour with The Pogues, playing with the Levellers and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
He also recorded the single "England's Irie" with Shaun Ryder's group Black Grape and worked on South Park's "Chef Aid" album and Keith Allen's Fat Les project.
After a decade without a release under his own name, Strummer brought out the album "Rock Art" and the "X-Ray Style" which he recorded with his band The Mescaleros.
The second album of Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, "Global A Go-Go" followed in 2001 and was described as probably his most eclectic effort. Strummer is survived by wife Lucinda and three daughters.
Punk legend Strummer, 50, dies Dec 23 2002
U2 singer Bono called the Clash "the greatest rock band" and said they "wrote the rule book" for later acts.
Among the bands for which The Clash were a huge inspiration was Manic Street Preachers.
The Manics' bass player Nicky Wire, speaking on behalf of the south Wales trio, said: "We're shocked and saddened to hear of the sad loss, especially at this time of year.
"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Stars' tributes to Strummer
The Clash hold court: Strummer (left) was an articulate frontman
Stars including U2's Bono have paid tribute to Joe Strummer, who has died of a suspected heart attack aged 50. Bono led the tributes saying: "The Clash was the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2.
"It's such a shock."
Bob Geldof: Strummer's legacy was "imperishable"
Bob Geldof told BBC News 24: "He was a clear contemporary and we were rivals. I believed we had to get inside the pop culture - he believed you should aways stay outside and hurl things at it. We had endless arguments about it.
"As we all got older I realised what a nice person he was. He was a very important musician.
"The Clash will be endlessly influential. They will always be one of the deathless rock bands.
"If they can influence people especially in this age of manufactured pop music then God bless him, he's left something imperishable."
Billy Bragg: The Clash "politicised" him The Clash were a major influence on the Manic Street Preachers.
The band's bassist Nicky Wire said: "We're shocked and saddened to hear of the sad loss, especially at this time of year. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Left-wing singer Billy Bragg told BBC News 24 the band made him aware of politics after he saw them aged 17.
"I met him a few times after I became well-known, and we did a few shows together. I had great admiration for the man.
"Within The Clash, Joe was the political engine of the band, and without Joe there's no political Clash and without The Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled."
UK comedian Phill Jupitus e-mailed BBC News Online to say: "In a business populated by self-serving dullards he shone out like a diamond.
"I feel privileged to have met him a few times… my thoughts are with Luce, the kids and his close family and friends. I'm going to sit down and play Sandinista!. Adios amigo."
Pete Jenner, the manager of The Clash during their heyday, told BBC News Online: "It's a huge loss.
"The band were one of the best live bands, as good as any band I've ever worked with. My overriding memory of him and The Clash was that it was never boring."
Hein van der Ray, the head of Epitaph Records, who released Strummer's two most recent albums with The Mescaleros, said: "It is pretty devastating news."
Clash star Strummer dies
The Clash was the greatest rock band - they wrote the rule book for U2
Joe Strummer performed at the Music Machine in Camden in 1978 U2 frontman Bono paid tribute to Strummer on Monday saying: "The Clash was the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2. It's such a shock."
Bob Geldof - a musical contemporary as frontman for the Boomtown Rats - said he admired their refusal to sell out.
"I know for a fact they were offered huge amounts of money," he told the BBC's One O'Clock News.
"They just said no, that isn't really what we stood for. That's truly admirable. They were very important musically but as a person, he was a very nice man." The Clash's hits
Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Rock The Casbah
White Man In Hammersmith Palais
Left-wing singer Billy Bragg said: "Within The Clash, Joe was the political engine of the band, and without Joe there's no political Clash and without The Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled."
The Clash arguably gave punk a classic pop sensibility and their vital spirit in turn influenced later bands such as the Manic Street Preachers.
They were politically aware and became known as champions of left-wing causes. They even called their 1980 album Sandinista!, after the left-wing guerrilla movement in Nicaragua.
They were anti-racist and noted for inflammatory, intelligent punk songs such as London Calling, White Riot, White Man In Hammersmith Palais and Tommy Gun.
At a November shoot for a pilot hosted by Joe Strummer, the Clash guitarist found out from an MTV producer that his band had been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
"The hall of fame. Like Babe Ruth," he said dryly before smiling.
"This isn't a game?" he asked, looking serious for a brief moment.
When assured the Clash had been inducted, he said, "That's good. There was a short list, but I thought the Police would win."
The producer informed him that the Police were also inducted. "Good, so they're in too. Do you think everyone's gonna play?"
The question might have been sardonic, since the Clash had repeatedly refused to reunite despite lucrative offers. But this time Strummer seemed genuinely excited about the idea of returning to the stage with his former bandmates — guitarist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Topper Headon. Strummer and Jones had a good time playing together for the first time in 20 years on November 16 at a charity gig at London's Acton Town Hall.
"I think we should play [at the hall of fame ceremony]," Strummer said. "It would be sh--ty and snotty not to."
Strummer died of a heart attack before he had a chance to a experience a full-scale resurrection with the band that helped define the punk movement and influenced a myriad of artists musically and politically, including U2, Rage Against the Machine, Moby and Rancid (see "Joe Strummer Of The Clash Dead At 50")
Dressed for the pilot in a brown collared shirt, brown leather jacket and jeans, and sporting a hint of a five o'clock shadow, Strummer looked as friendly and approachable as a pub bartender and seemed eager to reminisce over the glory years of punk rock. He credited the political and social scene in Britain with spawning the anarchic movement.
"In '77 we had some ridiculous things in England," Strummer said. "Like the three-day week. Everybody thought that was a great idea, but it was supposed to punish us and the unions and stuff. There were chaotic times, and it made a lot of people free in their minds.
"Back in those days in England there were two channels on the TV shutting off at 11 p.m., and all the bars shut off at 11 p.m. So through the long, hot nights people were really moving around and talking to each other and writing tunes and getting into the whole thing in a big way. It was a fun time. Every night you could see something completely berserk."
Strummer's eyes glinted as he recalled the music scene that percolated with groundbreaking groups like the Buzzcocks, the Jam and Sex Pistols.
"In '77 something must have happened that affected everybody, whether it was in the air or in the water supply," he said. "I think everybody upped each other's standard because you had one good record and everybody tried to reach that, and it inspired everybody because everybody tried to reach for the furthest they could get to. It was a community feeling, and that helped too."
"It was like a firework display going off," Strummer said of the band's shows. "It was like, 'Bang!' As soon as that first tune came in it seemed to us like three seconds before we hit the last chord of the last tune. It was like a psychedelic, kinetic blur. The energy in the hall [was crazy], not only from the band, but from the crowd. It just egged you on and it fed upon itself. It was like being on a rocket ship."
-- Jon Wiederhorn, with additional reporting by Alex Coletti and Bill Flanagan
Bono, Moby, Tom Morello, Others Remember Joe Strummer 'He was a big part of the whole punk movement,' Sex Pistol Steve Jones says.
"The Clash was the greatest rock band," U2 frontman Bono wrote on his band's Web site. "They wrote the rule book for U2. Though I was always too much of a fan to get to know him well, we were due to meet in January to finish our [Nelson] Mandela song with Dave Stewart. It's such a shock."
Clash bandmate Mick Jones posted a new song, "Sound of the Joe," on the Web site for his band Big Audio Dynamite, along with the brief message, "Our friend and compadre is gone. God bless you, Joe."
"He was a brilliant lyricist and the electric focal point of the greatest live band of all time," Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said. "He played as if the world could be changed by a three-minute song, and when I saw the Clash play, my world was changed forever. His idealism and conviction instilled in me the courage to pick up a guitar and the courage to try to make a difference. Joe Strummer was my greatest inspiration, my favorite singer of all time and my hero. I already miss him so much."
"It's worth remembering that Joe and the Clash made music that was emotional and political and challenging and experimental and exciting and wonderful," Moby wrote on his Web site.
"They were unique because, here they are, breaking up at the peak of their popularity and having plenty of offers to come back, and not doing it," said Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone. "While other bands always come back for the money, they had a belief in what they were doing, and even though they could have used it, they never really cared about the money."
"He wasn't some phony," added Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. "He was a big part of the whole punk movement."
As a member of that movement, Strummer ingrained his music with palpable rage and tension without relying on screaming or overblown volume.
"For another generation, Bob Dylan awoke some sense that you can sing songs that weren't just about crying in your beer," Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins said. "For us, it was Sandinista! A song like 'Straight to Hell' remains totally ingrained of how you can create a whole other world, but another world that wasn't necessarily escapist. For me, he brought ferocity and relevance to music."
Ramone first met Strummer when the Ramones toured Europe in 1976. Although the Clash had just formed, Ramone bonded instantly with the passionate rocker. "We were friends right away," he said. "As soon as I heard 'White Riot' I knew they were a great band. It was the best band I've seen since 1979 and to this day. Of all the punk bands, I felt closest to him than anyone else from that era."
Even those who didn't know Strummer well spoke of his good nature.
"The last time that I saw Joe was in Los Angeles," Moby wrote. "We were dancing together in a nightclub, and I kept rambling on about how important his music was to me. He had such a big heart and was without question one of the most important musicians of the last 50 years."
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend wrote on his Web site, "That heart of his always worked too hard. He's been making great music lately. I will really miss him."
Although Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof and Strummer didn't always see eye-to-eye musically or politically, the organizer of Live Aid said he admired Strummer's determination.
"He was a clear contemporary, and we were rivals," he told BBC News. "I believed we had to get inside the pop culture. He believed you should always stay outside and hurl things at it. We had endless arguments about it. As we all got older I realized what a nice person he was. He was a very important musician. The Clash will be endlessly influential."
Misfits bassist Jerry Only also praised Strummer's tireless work ethic. "Back when we first started playing punk music, the Clash had one of the most powerful sounds out there," he said. "Joe was the hardest working man in the business. He would be comparable today to James Hetfield of Metallica or Billy Joe from Green Day. He sang, he played and he didn't stop. He's someone to be admired. We all took a little bit of Joe. God bless him."
— Jon Wiederhorn, with additional reporting by Joe D'Angelo and Gil Kaufman
My hero is Bo Diddley. Because…he was playing on the street corner and knew that he needed something else. He wasn't the greatest fretsman in the world, so he went to a junkyard and he got some ball cocks out of abandoned lavatory cisterns. Then he filled them with dried peas and gave them to his upstairs neighbour who became his maracas man. That's the sort of thing I idolise Bo for. The spirit wherein you have to do something. To me, it's an inspiration because I'm not the world's greatest fretsman either…people can get caught thinking it's all about technique, when it's not really about technique at all, it's about something even more exciting and unidentifiable. That's why I go for him.
Everybody else was playing 12-bar blues at the time. He looked around and saw that "I've got to do something different if I want to make it in this town". So he came up with something even more African than blues is, the Bo Diddley style. If you want to discover his music, a song called 'Background to the Music' is a good place to start.
It was phenomenal when I met him. To ride on a bus with him and listen to him talk was great. One last thing: each man had a bunk on the bus. I noticed Bo was sitting up late, late, late. So I said. "You know you've got a bunk, don't you, Bo?" He said, "Come and look at this." He pulled back the curtains and his square guitar was there in the bunk, all strapped up. He went, "Guitar rides in the bunk, I ride in the seat."
DUMBO A GO-GO Former Clash man Strummer brings Mescaleros to St. Ann's for five nights By Neil Sloane The Brooklyn Paper
Anton Corbijn Roots Rock Rebel: Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros will perform at the St. Ann's Warehouse, 38 Water St., on April 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.
Joe Strummer is, at age 49, a punk rock legend who feels he has a lot left to prove.
With his 3-year-old band, the Mescaleros, Strummer broke an almost 11-year album recording drought in 1999 with the well-received "Rock Art and the X-Ray Style." Last year, the Mescaleros released "Global A Go-Go," an 11-song CD whose music and lyrics rival his best work with the Clash.
Recorded on Epitaph's Hellcat Records label - an association that Strummer credits with allowing him the freedom to record his music, his way, free of the trappings of major-label demands - the CD explodes with the energy of a poet-musician who has been muzzled for too long.
The London-based Mescaleros -- Martin Slattery on keyboards and horns, Scott Shields on bass and guitars, Pablo Cook on percussion and drums, Richard Flack on various effects, and Tymon Dogg, one of Strummer's oldest mates dating back to their days busking in the London Underground (Dogg wrote "Lose This Skin" from the Clash's "Sandinista!" album) on violin, mandolin and Spanish guitar -- paint a musical masterpiece infused with world beats and out-of-this-world playing.
At the core is Strummer, picking up as if these were the records that followed the real Clash's finale, "Combat Rock."
It was with the Clash, though, that Strummer forged his legacy.
The Sex Pistols may have fired the opening shots in the punk revolution of the late-'70s but it was Strummer's Clash -- "The only band that matters" -- who led the charge.
Where the Pistols merely shocked the sensibilities, the Clash took up the cause -- whatever cause might be handy, in fact, from London squatters to Salvadoran rebels. More importantly, they delivered the goods, both in the studio, and even more so in the most electrifying, balls-to-the-wall live rock 'n' roll performances before or since. Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon left it all on the floor, every night they played.
The Clash reached their recording zenith with 1979's "London Calling," which Rolling Stone magazine declared "the album of the decade" in the '80s, as if fans needed that clarified.
And then, just as major headliner success was biting at their ankles in 1983, the principles, Strummer and Jones, split up. After disbanding the already shattered Clash in 1985, Strummer tooled around on a few film soundtracks, acted in a few movies, played on Bob Dylan's "Down in the Groove," served as occasional sideman with the Pogues and in 1989 released his first solo record, "Earthquake Weather."
He didn't release another until "X-Ray Style."
"It wasn't a deliberate decision to take an 11-year breather, but in the long run it's turned out well," Strummer has said. "Sometimes you save the best for last."
Indeed, Strummer's pent-up lyrical and musical energy is in full flow now with the Mescaleros, a band that seems to feed off his energy and punk sensibilities without being overshadowed. Strummer finally has a band again.
This week, Strummer and the Mescaleros settle down in DUMBO at the St. Ann's Warehouse on Water Street for a five-night stand (April 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6). Strummer spoke with GO Brooklyn this week in a telephone interview from his home in Somerset, England, where he lives with his wife, Lucinda, and three daughters.
Interviewing Strummer, who takes a hands-on approach to promoting the Mescaleros, spending by his account, about a third of his time on telephone interviews worldwide, is like chatting with an old pal in a pub.
"What time is it there?" Strummer asks a reporter.
"2 o'clock," the reporter answers.
"In the afternoon?"
"Uh huh. What is it 7 o'clock by you?"
"Yeah, which means I can have a glass of wine and you cannot," Strummer says, emphasizing the 'not' and then chuckling. "Sorry for rubbing it in there."
GO Brooklyn: How did you guys come up with St. Ann's Warehouse as a venue for all five dates?
Joe Strummer: Well. I think trial and error. What were we looking at, I think the Bowery Ballroom … and then I think maybe we thought of this late in the day and then probably those things are booked and so therefore we scout around the city and you turn up things. I'd actually been there before once, years and years ago to a kind of charity/comedy '30s boxing match.
GO: Really, in Brooklyn?
JS: It was in the same joint, yeah. It was put on by actors and, for some reason I can't remember, this must have been 10 years ago, the theme was of Damon Runyon, everyone was in '30s dress. And it was pretty good fun in there, actually.
GO: Did you come dressed up?
JS: No, like a fool I just got off from the airport so…
GO: The five-night gig at St. Ann's is reminiscent of the Bonds gigs, when you were scheduled for a week and it turned into two weeks on Broadway. [In June 1981, the Clash were slated for five nights at a former Times Square clothing store converted into a huge nightclub, the Bond International Casino. The promoter oversold the shows, and then someone called in the fire marshal and the band wound up playing an additional five nights to even things out.]
JS: Right, well, um, actually I think five days does it here. (laughs) Yeah, but it's the same idea, because we're really, we're doing it for us, to be honest, because it means the band and the crew can have it in a town and hang out, and generally get a flavor of the town. 'Cause you can imagine what it's like when on the usual road trip bang … you're in, you're out.
Your feet don't even touch the ground, really, literally, and it can get a bit odd, you know, if you race through 20 cities like that. You start feeling a bit strange. It's a bit like walking through walls or you know, like you're not exactly existing in the same level or plane of reality that everyone else is 'cause you go in and out of cities so fast. It's just bizarre. You're not even traveling.
GO: Have you had a chance with the Mescaleros to play any long gigs like that?
JS: Well, yeah, we started doing it, let me think, in October, no November, last year when we put up for five nights at the LA Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard, and that was kinda nice. I think it gave us the [idea that] if any city's big enough we'll probably try and just kick in for a few days and just chill out.
GO: Plan on checking out the nightlife in Brooklyn a bit?
JS: Well, I'd like to check out whatever's going on, even if it's DJs or groups, or, yeah, I'd really like to have a look around. We hear there's a renaissance in New York.
GO: Absolutely, especially in Brooklyn.
GO: You played Irving Plaza about a month after Sept. 11 [Oct. 9 and 10]. What was the mood like for those shows?
JS: Well, for us it was great because people were glad that people were coming into town. It was just the right moment, because at first, when I saw, when that thing happened and I saw we were like booked three weeks later into DC, and then New York, I thought, "God, a rock 'n' roll group's the last thing they're gonna wanna hear," you know? But finally, by that time we got there, people were going, "Yeah let's have something. Let's go out for a night." And so, yeah, it was good.
GO: What was your take on Sept. 11? You were in England at the time?
JS: Yeah, I mean, yeah after the shock you begin to think, you have the time to evaluate what they were capable of, like did they have an encore? I think we can probably say now -- what is it six months later? -- now we can probably, hopefully think that they haven't got anything that big in the pipeline. Maybe that was their finest hour.
GO: I guess you hope so, although the government thought the 1993 WTC bombing was the worst that could happen, too.
JS: Yeah, I see, right, God.
GO: What do you think of the U.S. response to the attacks?
JS: Well, I think that it had to be done, because we shagged around in Europe when Hitler -- Hitler was putting his machine together from about, I don't know '33 -- so we gave Hitler six years really, to build that thing into a gigantic machine, and each one of those tanks we had to fight, each one of those shells and bullets we had to take on, boats and submarines and what have you. And so I think that over here there's a very much, you get brought up with that feeling of, "Next time we don't let 'em get away with it."
That was always the unsaid thing in my childhood, you know, when your fathers and people would sit around talking about the war, that was the underlying theme -- alright, next time we'll do the guy in '36 and not wait until 1939. Fifty million people died! So, um, from over here in Europe we're very much of the "nip it in the bud" school, 'cause who knows what the guy [Osama Bin Laden] -- you know there was definitely, he would have had a nuclear bomb for sure. For sure, he would have.
GO: You were kind of critical of former Mayor Giuliani's enforcement of night club rules and anti-smoking regulations. What did you think about his national hero status after Sept. 11?
JS: I think he was really just magnificent, you know, and it's kind of like, I'm kind of like a street rat moaning about it down on the street but you know, perhaps you've got to look at the wider aspects of getting the city free of fear and crime, which is something that we're gonna have to do now. You know it's getting quite out of hand here in London. I certainly wouldn't drive around London in a car worth more than a certain amount or wear a watch worth more than a certain amount.
GO: Not just in certain areas anymore, but throughout?
JS: No, exactly, good point, everywhere. There's a lot of gun spraying going on around here.
GO: Are these the only US dates scheduled so far?
JS: Well, yeah, they're the only ones. Yeah. They're kind of a one-off, 'cause really we're in the middle of trying to come out with a new -- a new masterpiece.
GO: A new Mescaleros album?
JS: Yeah, we're really trying to come up with something and, um, I think it's quite good 'cause if we can get some stuff ready we might be able to bring it out and judge and get an audience reaction on it. A couple of tunes maybe. Also, it keeps you from becoming like a studio boffin. You know, you gotta get out on the road and interact with people. I think if we were an electronic dance act probably we'd sink into the studio and never come out.
GO: But you need to get that live response…
JS: You do really, yeah. I think it really helps to push your music forward, as well, because you're not in a vacuum. In a room it'd be easy, if you kinda never came out of that room, you might spin off into your own kind of stratosphere, but taking it on the road and playing it for people is a great thing in a million ways.
GO: What do you do when you're not touring?
JS: Well, mostly, I'm either on the phone, OK, so you can say my year, you can divide it into three really - singing and recording and writing and rehearsing with the Mescaleros, and then a third of the year talking about it on the phone to Brazil, or Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, you know these are all places that I do phone interviews to, and then the other third, get on a bus and take it out. But, uh, it is bizarre. I'd like to get rid of the phone third. (laughs)
GO: You need to get someone to do all that promotion work for you.
JS: Well, yeah, I missed the chance, 'cause Bob Dylan doesn't have to do any. I should have -- I don't know, just making fun. Also, I get to talk to people like you, it is fun, although I moan about it in advance, but when you actually come to do it, it is quite informative.
GO: OK, lets talk about your music a bit …
JS: [Deadpan] Oh, f-- that.
GO: So, how did "The Minstrel Boy" wind up on the "Black Hawk Down" soundtrack?
JS: Oh, it's a really weird chain of events, and it again tied into New York, but for some reason, connected to nothing really, we decided to record that tune and then put it on the record. And of course after the Sept. 11 s-- went down, that tune suddenly became the famous tune at wakes and funerals for the firefighters and the victims.
About a year before that we started to play that, as an intro number anyway - kind of weird little warm-up number - and so we continued doing that and when we hit Hollywood, or hit LA … a music supervisor down in Hollywood was in the audience and just thought, "This is just what we need" after all the shooting and God knows what in "Black Hawk Down," for the song that would fit in the credits, the song that you get up and grab your coat to. It got in like that.
GO: It's a slightly different and shorter version on the soundtrack than what closes "Global A Go-Go" …
JS: Yeah, they figured, do a bit of singing on it and stuff so we went and cut it again.
GO: The "Global A Go-Go" version is really long, but also very moving and you just sort of want to leave it on…
JS: I know, isn't that strange? I had to decide that. I knew that there was something really strange here, a really long bit of music but there's something mesmerizing, and there's not a lot on that, there's three guys twice on it, but yet it's something and it has that vibe -- you know, it's a first take, one of those real moments in time. I really enjoy those. But usually you hash over and over things and like re-take them, redo 'em, but now and then something pops up that's just fine like it is.
GO: Corporate takeover, especially of artistic outlets seems to be a theme of the song, "Johnny Appleseed."
GO: Do you think there's still bands out there, besides you guys, that are not taken up by that?
JS: Well, it's always easy for us to say, 'cause I've got a really good relationship with Hellcat Records, and we have a kind of punk thing going, but punk reliant of respect. But in other situations it's really difficult 'cause they do have bands over a barrel. 'Cause you're a young group, you're teens, you want people to hear your music, you're in a great place to be levered, and you've got really no defense from people to make it sound more bland or take the sting out of it or whatever, when there really, there's a lot of carrots to be dangled.
So it's very difficult isn't it? I mean, I don't know if you've heard, but over here they're cutting 1,800 jobs from EMI, and then they're blaming poor Mariah Carey for it. (Laughs)
GO: There won't be any Clash or Mescaleros songs hawking merchandise will there?
JS: Yeah, I mean, um, we're up for anything really, but I have a kind of - we get asked a lot. Especially Clash, obviously, Clash stuff. You know we've turned down a lot of beer companies, some cosmetic companies, but I still think it's good to be available. You know, I wear jeans every day, hey, why not advertise jeans?
GO: Why not get paid for it? …
JS: Yeah, and if there was some good liquor that you thought was good, I wouldn't balk at that either. Providing it was decent liquor and not some cheap trick stuff, but yeah I think definitely we've had, uh, Levi's adverts, all kinds of things [offered].
GO: Is that something that you and Mick and Paul would have to get together and decide?
JS: Absolutely. It goes through a very rigorous -- yeah once there was a big row, I remember, about Spanish whiskey, a mark called Ballantine, and Mick was against it, and me and Paul were for it. But Mick didn't understand that me and Paul were whiskey drinkers, therefore we knew it was a good -- it was a good, wee dram!
GO: Do you still see them from time to time?
JS: Well, mostly it's, um, drinks at Christmas. Maybe an odd kid's birthday party or phone or fax.
GO: "Global A Go-Go" sounds tighter than "X-Ray Style." This sounds like it was the next step …
GO: Did you feel more confident when you went in to record this?
JS: Yeah, I think so, 'cause we'd held it together and we'd done a lot of road work, which really hammers things together. 'Cause you're either gonna fall apart or keep it together on the road. There's no middle way. So you get to the end of a road tour and you think, "Yeah! We've kept it together," and it really makes people feel strong, trust each other, you know.
GO: Is it tough, though, keeping the band together, because they get offers for other work?
JS: Yeah, this is tough, because we're kind of bottom feeders, if you like, but it has its advantages in that we can do more daring music, and a lot of musicians kinda like that because the more wages they're getting paid, say in a more popular band with a wider audience, the music conversely has to be less interesting. So, although we're bottom feeders, we always seem to attract the best players on the London scene 'cause we're the ones who are really going out there doing the maddest stuff, 'cause we've got nothing to lose.
GO: That's something that the Clash always brought to every performance, that kind of 'nothing to lose' attitude.
JS: Yeah, exactly.
GO: It's a necessary attitude to keep it at this level …
JS: It's really a great thing and, you know sometimes I look at people who are top of the pops and you think, "God, they will not have any freedom." Imagine if you're some young, U.S. punk group and just sold 2 million records, it's gonna put a lot of pressure on you to remake that same record. That's what kills it. They always want the same record again.
GO: Do you think that would have happened if the Clash had had that kind of success after, say, [the Clash's second album] "Give 'Em Enough Rope"?
JS: Yeah, yeah 'cause it -- well it's inconceivable really, at that time, that punk records … today they sell 12 million, but "London Calling" sold 300,000. So, that would be inconceivable, but yeah, it would have happened.
GO: You booked a lot of interesting, and often local support acts, when you were on tour with the Clash. Are there gonna be any supporting acts at the St. Ann's shows?
JS: Yeah, we're booking, well this is what Fuzzy, the road manager, told me, we're booking some local acts to sort of pick them up a bit. I don't know exactly who they are. But I could have Fuzzy call you. [Joe calls back about an hour later with the band names. On April 1, the Realistics, a NYC-based band opens; on April 2, Brooklyn's own Nada Surf opens; on April 4, another Brooklyn band, Radio 4, opens; and on April 5, Manhattan-based Dirty Mary opens. The opening act for the April 6 closer was uncertain.]
GO: You sprinkle some Clash songs into the sets, is that something you enjoy doing or just do to appease the fans?
JS: Well, I think both come into play, because --
It's my Bee Gees theory -- I don't want to go and see the Bee Gees if they're not at least going to play, hey, at least "Massachusetts" or "Stayin' Alive" or "1941 Mining Disaster." And you have to look at yourself like you're somebody who's into the music of that person. You have to put yourself into the audience position and say well you know, what are you gonna do, come along and be like some pompous ass (breaks into cheesy rock star impersonation) and say, "Hey, this is all the new stuff off our new record. Hope you like it."
You know, you're up there damn it, after all, to -- people want a night out, and we'll take them into all kinds of territory, but we're certainly going to go through the rockin' territory or dancing territory.
GO: What was the highlight of being in the Clash and what was the worst moment?
JS: I think the worst moment was realizing that there was no way forward, like the gap between the rhetoric and the actuality. For example, talking about all the issues that the Clash raised and what your daily life would have been like if we'd have stayed together. I knew it would tear us apart, 'cause I could see after we went Top 5 with "Rock the Casbah" there was a way for us to sort of smash forward and get up there on a U2-type level, yeah. But then I realized that your whole thing could be -- get up, interview, video shoot, photo shoot -- you know, you'd never really have a life that would be real and yet you'd be expected to say something real about life to real people and make some real sense. You know, sing something really new, and you'd just, you'd end up lying.
GO: That honesty is at the heart of what the Clash meant to their fans …
JS: Right, yeah exactly, and you have to take that in.
GO: Did playing the stadium tours in support of the Who at that point feed in to that?
JS: That added all into it, because then you could see this is how gigs would be, while we were used to very closely communicating with a crowd inside a theater, or a cinema, you know, inside a club, and this kind of hugest, sprawled out, strange - you know you're looking at 19,000 people in Shea Stadium and you gotta realize, well a fifth of them must be going up to take a leak or buy a hotdog, so that makes about, I don't know, 20,000 people walking around. All the time! It's kind of very odd.
GO: Did you have any bad flashbacks when the Mescaleros opened for the Who in support of "X-Ray Style"?
JS: No, no not at all. They're gentlemen. They treat you well and make you feel welcome and, in fact, they were better, as a musical force, this time.
GO: Is that how Roger Daltrey wound up singing on the title song of "Global A Go-Go"?
JS: Sure is (laughs). He started hanging out in our dressing room too much.
GO: Will the new album follow the global theme of the first two or are you experimenting with some new stuff?
JS: Yeah, I think we're always trying, as we say, to push the envelope, and we're always gonna try and inch it one way or the other. It's hard to really say which way we're going to inch it but we're gonna try and get into another style maybe, slightly, or go a bit berserk. That's basically -- we're most happy when we're going berserk, as all musicians are.
GO: Thanks, Joe.
JS: See you at the shows. Cheers.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros play St. Ann's Warehouse (38 Water St. at New Dock Street in DUMBO) April 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 at 8 pm. Tickets are $35 and are available with no service charge but for cash only at the Irving Plaza Box Office (17 Irving Place in Manhattan). They can also be purchased at select Ticketmaster outlets and charge by phone at (212) 307-7171 or online at www.cc.com. There is a four-ticket limit per person. The April 5 and 6 shows are sold out. For more info on Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, visit www.strummersite.com, for St. Ann's, www.artsatstanns.org.
©2007 The Brooklyn Paper
Joe Strummer James Ellis - Wednesday, June 5, 2002 JOE STRUMMER WAS was the frontman for one of the most important rock bands of the past 30 years, The Clash, who had hits with Rock The Casbah, London Calling and Should I Stay Or Should I Go, the latter hitting No.1 when it was used on a Levi's ad. This Saturday, he plays London's Fleadh festival with his new band The Mescaleros, whose album Global A Go-Go is out now.
What would the Joe of 25 years ago think of the Joe today? I don't know - that's for the shrinks. What are you, a f**king psychologist? Are you insulting me? Are you saying that Joe's letting the side down? Well, I'm telling you that I'm not (laughs). Over in America, there aren't many British bands that are doing well but The Mescaleros are one of them.
Is it ironic that someone who sang I'm So Bored With The USA is now more successful there? I suppose so. Though credit to the Americans; when The Clash first played there, that was the only song they wanted to hear
How come you still look so good? I dunno, I don't look so great close-up (laughs). It must be luck. I'm hardly the go-to-bed-first type. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll have youthful connotations. People get too mealy-mouthed and that can send you in the other direction. Perhaps a small dash of these ingredients is good for you. If you lock yourself up and do nothing, you get crabby.
How many offers have you had to reform The Clash? Hundreds. There's been intense pressure. You have to remember that Paul Simonon is now an artist and was always a painter. We took him away from that and thrust a bass guitar into his hands. Mick Jones is now a film director. Things are organic and are now in their rightful place. We came, we made music, we exploded.
What about the Sex Pistols re-issuing God Save The Queen? I've always been a supporter of that. The originator never gets paid. There are all these great, new US punk bands using the tools that the Pistols forged and selling 10million albums. The Pistols didn't get a single penny back in their day.
Do you like the nu-punk scene? The Hives and The Strokes are brilliant. You can't fault them. People knock them and say it's 1978 punk with not a lot brought to it but they seem to have revitalised a form. Never mind the sneering from us old hands - it's great.
What was it like working with Roger Daltry on Global A Go-Go? It was probably all over for you before you could peer over the garden fence but you have to think I can remember hearing the first Who record, I Can't Explain. Everyone was staring at their transistor radios going: 'What the hell was that?' He was magnificent.
Do you still get a pretty penny from The Clash royalties? It's enough to live on but there are good and bad years. Normally, people gauge their outgoings by their incomings. Unfortunately, from one year to the next, you never know what your incomings are. It's a strange way to live. We're now recording the third album, which is going to be out of this world. Tell people to hunt it out, in the undergrowth - it'll be out there at the end of the year waiting to be found.
Does playing live still excite you? Yes. We played five nights in Brooklyn last month and we rocked the town. People were screaming and hollering in the streets. We can still knock it out a bit - we ain't no boring, conceited rock group. We like to get out and have some fun with it: playing music to people, to the community. It's now a culmination of all things for me - I've been rocking since 1974. When you were a toddler, I was playing London's Hope And Anchor going 'one, two, three, four'.
Is life on the road as hectic as it was? We never go to bed. I've had a long time to dwell on this. You put so much out on stage, something that comes from inside you, a liquid from the reservoir of your soul. If you go to a room and lock yourself up and watch telly, you get no input. If you razz round town, shouting and screaming, you can put it out again the next day. It's a historical fact that groups go nuts on the road. Maybe one day someone from the University Of Wisconsin will discover the chemical that makes it work.
There's a lot of food references on the new album. Are you now thinking more with your belly? No. I'm still as thin as ever. We were recording the album in Willesden, and I could see people from 15 or 20 different nations getting along - proof to all those idiots that integration can work. The song Bhindi Bhagee is a song of hope.
Is putting albums out a financial struggle? We just about break even. It is difficult to sell records these days but, added to that, we have a couple of strikes against us. People downloading from the Internet and using CD-Rs tend to hurt bottom-feeders like us rather than giant rock bands who sell millions.
Do the kids think dad's cool? I hope so. They listen to a lot of punk rock, though I don't ram it down their throats. They're really into Incubus but I do see the odd Clash badge on their outfits every now and then, now that badges are back. I do get a little swelling of pride in the chest when I see that.
Do they borrow from your record collection? I'm afraid that went down the pawn shop years ago. There's a few old reggae records and they purloin them.
Are you still doing your BBC World Service show? I think I've been fired but working for the BBC is a little like Kafka. No one actually fires you - they just don't get in touch. Perhaps I need to go around and put a little pressure on because I enjoy doing it. People get in touch from all over the world, so I may take a bundle of e-mails down there and have a word with the producer in a dark alley.
What's your greatest memory of the days of The Clash? It was in Metz where we were playing a festival in 1978, I think. The security had hired some French bikers to control the crowd. These guys had cans of Mace and started spraying the crowd while we were on stage; they erupted and started throwing rocks and chasing the security. All I could think was: 'How are Roxy Music going to follow this?' Suddenly, a stretch limo pulled up, an electric window came half way down and went back up, the limo did a U-turn and sped off towards Rotterdam. Roxy Music never played.
A mate of mine is a big fan and copied your quiff but he's going bald. Any tips? Brush it forward in a Beatles-style mop. It's the only way to go.
Are Levi's keeping you in jeans? No, they didn't give us a single, rotten pair. The world sucks when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it (laughs).
If the Clash were together now, would they sound like The Mescaleros? No. People ask why we don't get The Clash back together. One of the things that immediately shoots into my brain is that music has to fit into a certain time and place. Now we have consumed a lot of areas of rock'n'roll that we hadn't in the 1970s and 1980s. You can't keep repeating the same formula, if you plough the same field you reach the bedrock. You can't compare here and now. The Mescaleros can play a range of instruments and that gives us a variety of sound The Clash wouldn't have had. Music is all about the effect it has on the soul.
"The Clash was a real roller-coaster ride", April 2000
"Joe [YOU] will be singing in our blood Joe [YOU] will be dancing like speed in our veins"!
"I've got no doubt the fourth dimension exists. But is it just like the world we're trying to escape from? I need to know if you're allowed to smoke in there..."
"I sometimes look at myself, I'm sitting with a biro and a cigarette packet, desperately scrawling dribble on it. And sometimes I put down my fag pack and think, what am I, a grown man, doing at this hour of the night? Then I banish that thought, pick the fag pack up again."
"I'm no expert on these musics. I try and keep an ear out and keep an open mind and enjoy something where I don't know what the hell is going on inside of it. That's what I really get out of it. Because to me it's new. That's what I get out of it. That joyful feeling of you don't know what's going to happen next." (VH1.com) ~ Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 - 22 December 2002)
Stiff Little Fingers - "Strummerville"
You lit a flame in my heart And it is burning still And every time I hear you shout It still gives me a thrill I can see you up there With your right leg pumping
Goodbye inspiration Voice of a generation Goodbye Inspiration I won't be playing Strummerville again
You wore your heart on your sleeve With honesty and pride You gave me hope,made me believe That what I did was right You brought out a passion That had long been missing Yeah you brought out a passion That you never stopped giving
And if music seems mundane It's cos the companies get their own way And all the young bands seem to say Please turn our rebellion into money
So thanks for giving me my creed I'll try to stay onside Y'or helping me to dare to dream After all this time Cos I still see you up there On a stage and playing Yeah I still see you up there I still agree with what your saying
BEATSTEAKS - HELLO JOE LYRICS
hello hello Joe it all went wrong but I know I'm not alone play this tune all over the town
hello hello Joe I keep on strumming and I know I'll get it done cause I'm not the only one
I got it playing on my stereo I'm never ever gonna let it go And I try to sing along And I know I can't go wrong Go, go, go
hello hello Joe I'd like to have advice but you won't tell I strain my ears to STRAIGHT TO HELL
down in London town in these times of war you won't raise your voice no more
It's still playing on my stereo I'm never ever gonna let it go And I try to sing along And I know I can't go wrong
hello hello Joe
I am not the only one I am not the only one
It's not over it's just begun I try to sing along...
I got it playing on my stereo I'm never ever gonna let it go
hello hello joe
Die Toten Hosen - Goodbye Garageland
There's no Garageland no more, only memories spread across the floor. To the sound of the guns of Brixton we were fighting complete control. We felt like we were prisoners in our save European home. We had 48 hours at the weekends to have a little riot of our own. The cities of the dead were burning bright and Johnny came marching home. There's no Garageland no more. We're left with memories lying on the floor. (Did you believe what they said?) Hear the sound of hate and war. Death or Glory -- we survived it all. (No more riot on the Westway.) It seemed so good to be alive and to dream of better times. You gave us hope and we had enough rope. We were ready for the fight but rebellion turned to money. As soon as the sun went down, up all night we were flying high 'til we got the wake-up call. There's no Garageland no more. We're left with memories lying on the floor. (Did you believe what they said?) Hear the sound of hate and war. Death or Glory -- we survived it all.
Cowboy Mouth ~ Joe Strummer
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! She had all the tattoos and the piercings Hates everything says everybody's wrong She dressed like she slept with Guns and Roses But I busted her singing all the boy band songs
She had to go simply because and I let her go like she never was cause I didn't know and I don't care what she does she had to go cause she didn't know who Joe Strummer was Hey!
At night when we stood in line for hours waiting to see my favorite punk rock band I played with the passion and the power but she's only there for all the fashion trends with her clueless friends
She had to go, she had to go simply because, simply because, and I let her go, I let her go like she never was, like she never was cause I didn't know, cause I didn't know and I don't care what she does, simply because, she had to go cause she didn't know who Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was
She started talkin' bout me and my life but why would I wanna be with someone who doesn`t know the Clash save my life Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Go!
It's not that she didn't rock my casaba it's not that I couldn't burn her London down, it's just that she kept on disappearing whenever the Sandanestas came to town and burned it down
She had to go, she had to go simply because, simply because, and I let her go, I let her go like she never was, like she never was cause I didn't know, cause I didn't know and I don't care what she does, simply because, she had to go cause she didn't know who Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was, Joe Strummer was
She had to go, (she don't know) she had to go, (she don't know) she had to go, (she don't know) she had to go (she don't know) Go! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The Hold Steady ~ Constructive Summer
Me and my friends are like the drums on "Lust for Life" We pound it out on floor toms Our psalms are sing-along songs
And this whole town is like this Been that way our whole lives Just work at the mill until you die Work at the mill, and then you die
We're gonna build something, this summer We're gonna build something, this summer We'll put it back together- raise up a giant ladder With love, and trust, and friends, and hammers (This summer! ) We're gonna lean this ladder up against the water tower Climb up to the top, and drink and talk (This summer! )
Me and my friends are like "Double-whiskey-coke-no-ice." We drink along in double time; might drink too much, but we feel fine We're gonna build something, this summer. Gonna build something, this summer.
This summer, grant us all the power to drink on top of water towers, With love, and trust, and shows, all summer (Get hammered! ) Let this be my annual reminder that we can all be something bigger
I went to your schools, I did my detention But the walls are so gray, I couldn't pay attention I heard your gospel- it moved me to tears, But I couldn't find the hate, and I couldn't find the fear I met your Savior, I knelt at his feet, And he took my ten bucks, and he went down the street I tried to believe all the things that you said, But my friends that aren't dying are already dead.
Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer I think he might've been our only decent teacher Getting older makes it harder to remember... we are our only saviors We're gonna build something, this summer
Tribute To Joe Strummer
Your words were boots Joe, boots in Lewisham When black and white and yellow riot put down the Nazi scum, And in Trafalgar Square in ninety-one When the fury of our rainbow class put Thatcher on the run Your words were firing like a gun Joe, firing like a gun.
I heard your booming words echo Through the streets of Prague- when we shut the World Bank down And you were roaring vengeance in Genoa when we had to fight through gas and bullets just to hold our ground And when the many-headed future met in Florence Everyone knew your name Joe Your songs were all around.-
And when the threw me in a cell Joe I sang straight to hell Joe And when they stood me up in court Joe I hummed the Brixton guns Joe
Oh Joe! when you got up to sing It was a fist in a copper's face It was a pitchfork in a landlord's neck It was a bullet in a contra's gut It was an arrow in the eye of a general It was a kick in the balls for the rich. It was everything good Joe It was everything good
And when us Zombies and us Rastas and us Punks and Workers win You will be singing in our blood Joe You will be dancing like speed in our veins
"'Joe Strummer, founder of the Clash, dead at 50,' is not a headline I would have ever expected to read. How did Joe even get to be 50, only three years older than myself? He is fixed in my mind as the charismatic 25-year-old leader of one of punk rock's greatest bands, that I witnessed firsthand in 1977, tearing up the stage in concert at Leeds University in northern England. Where the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten gave us a nihilistic worldview in "No Future," Strummer gave us fiery anthems such as "White Riot" an "I'm So Bored With USA," anthems that perfectly captured the fledgling punk-rock generation's discontent and served as a call to action to youth- especially in the face of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's right wing Tory government and her harsh use of police force against striking coal miners.
Were it not for the Clash, punk would have been just a sneer, a safety pin and a pair of bondage trousers. Instead, the incendiary lyrics of The Clash inspired 1,000 more bands on both sides of the Atlantic to spring up and challenge their elders, and the man we all looked to was Joe Stummer." - Billy Bragg, singer songwriter to BBC News in England
"My band, Gang of Four, was one of those 1,000 bands that took Joe's blueprint and took to the streets with our own brand of post-punk invective from playing on the back of flatbed trucks in central London in support of Rock Against Racism to playing shows to raise money for the families of striking miners in northern England's coal fields. And it is safe to say that had Joe Strummer and his band not opened the doors before us, we may not have had quite the success that we and many of the other bands were able to achieve.
His legacy lives on, but in a world of political apathy in which artists refuse to bite the hand that feeds, his message will be sorely missed." - Dave Allen, Gang of Four
"What a horrible fucking year for the punk rock pioneers. Dee Dee Ramone and Joe Strummer taught me more about the world than all my high school teachers combined. I saw Joe and the Mescaleros last year and it was the best rock show I'd seen in a long while. He was entering that Neil Young/Johnny Cash/Tom Waits growing-old-gracefully period. Fuck. I was really looking forward to seeing him this summer." - Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam
"Pete, Lou, Craig and myself are all very sorry to hear about Joe Strummer's passing. He was a man who kept it real no matter how the industry or the media reacted to his music, and his fame never touched on hollow celebrity. I wish more people treated the spotlight with his integrity. The passion he exuded in his performances and his courage to defy stereotypes with his songs will inspire musicians forever. We played a few shows with his band last year, and were honored to hear that he had become an avid Sick of it All fan. To gain the respect of a man of his background was incredible.
I prefer to celebrate someone's life when they pass, rather than focus on our depressingly fragile mortality, so please take a moment to thank Joe Strummer for what he started and what he gave of himself to the world." - Armand, Sick of It All
I guess in quite a lot of ways I grew up just like you A bolshy kid who didn't think the way they told him to You kicked over the statues, a roots rock rebel star Who knew that punk was more than just the sound of a guitar And I'll always remember that night at the Rainbow When you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe.
So many bands back then were like too many bands today A bunch of blokes who made a noise with bugger all to say The Clash were always out in front, you put the rest to shame Your words were calls to action, your music was a flame You were our common Dante, and you raised an inferno And you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe.
Reggae in the Palais Midnight till six! Rockin' Reds in Brockwell Park! Sten guns in Knightsbridge! Up and down the Westway In and out the lights! Clash City Rockers! Know Your Rights!
I guess in quite a lot of ways I grew up just like you A bolshy kid who didn't think the way they told him to Like you I always knew that words and music held the key As you did for so many, you showed the way to me Although I never met you I'm so sad to see you go 'Cos you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe." - Atilla the Stockbroker, Musician
"A tragedy, I saw Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros play a gig for the fire fighters a few weeks ago. They were great and a real return to form, a sad loss for music and the left." - James Dean Bradfield, Manic Street Preachers
"The Clash turned punk into a proper political movement, and Joe Strummer showed recently that he still had much of value to say. It is a terrible tragedy to lose him at this early age."
- David Bowie
"The most profound voice of any musician I have ever heard, Joe took his message to the world and the world listened. He managed to influence more than one generation with his innovative and determined manner and I am not alone in repeatedly turning to his thoughts and lyrics when searching for inspiration.
The Clash was the greatest rock band.
They wrote the rule book for U2. Though I was always too much of a fan to get to know him well, we were due to meet in January to finish our Mandela song with Dave Stewart. It's such a shock." - Bono, U2
"The Clash were the greatest rebel rock band of all time. Their commitment to making political pop culture was the defining mark of the British punk movement. They were also a self-mythologizing, style-obsessed mass of contradictions. That's why they were called The Clash. They wanted desperately to be rock stars but they also wanted to make a difference. While Paul Simon flashed his glorious cheekbones and Mick Jones threw guitar hero shapes, no-one struggled more manfully with the gap between the myth and the reality of being a spokesman for your generation than Joe Strummer. All musicians start out with ideals but hanging on to them in the face of media scrutiny takes real integrity.
Tougher still is to live up to the ideals of your dedicated fans. Joe opened the back door of the theatre and let us in, he sneaked us back to the hotel for a beer, he too believed in the righteous power of rock'n'roll. And if he didn't change the world he changed our perception of it. He crossed the dynamicism of punk with Johnny Too Bad and started that punky-reggae party.
He drew us, thousands strong, onto the streets of London in support of Rock Against Racism. He sent us into the garage to crank up our electric guitars. He made me cut my hair. The ideals that still motivate me as an artist come not from punk, not even from the Clash, but from Joe Strummer. The first wave of punk bands had a rather ambivalent attitude to the politics of late 70s Britain. The Sex Pistols, The Damned, the Stranglers, none of them, not even the Jam, came close to the radicalism that informed everything the Clash did and said. The US punk scene was even less committed. The Ramones, Talking Heads, Heartbreakers and Blondie all were devoid of politics. Were it not for the Clash, punk would have been just a sneer, a safety pin and a pair of bondage trousers. Instead, the incendiary lyrics of the Clash inspired 1,000 more bands on both sides of the Atlantic to spring up and challenge their elders and the man that we all looked to was Joe Strummer.
He was the White Man in Hammersmith Palais who influenced the Two Tone Movement. He kept it real and inspired the Manic Street Preachers. And he never lost our respect. His recent albums with the Mescaleros found him on inspiring form once again, mixing and matching styles and rhythms in celebration of multi-culturalism. At his final gig, in November in London, Mick Jones got up with him and together they played a few old Clash tunes. It was a benefit concert for the firefighters union. One of the hardest things to do in rock'n'roll is walk it like you talk it.
Joe Strummer epitomized that ideal and I will miss him greatly." - Billy Bragg
Another quote from Billy Bragg:
"Joe to me was a great political inspiration. The first political thing I ever did was to go a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park, Hackney, in 1977.
I really went to see the Clash and it politicised me. I have a great admiration for the man. His most recent records are as political and edgy as anything he did with the Clash. His take on multi-cultural Britain in the 21st century is far ahead of anybody else.
This is a terrible tragedy, particularly for his family. If you look at the first rank of British punk bands, they weren't really that political. Their relationship to politics was rather ambivalent -- The Sex Pistols, the Damned and The Stranglers -- and the American punk bands had politics at all -- The Ramones, Blondie and Television. It was The Clash that struck the strong political stance that really inspired a lot of people, and within The Clash he was the political engine of the band.
Without Joe there's no political Clash and without the Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled. The thing about Strummer was he walked it like he talked it. He didn't cop out. He didn't show one face to the public and have a different face in himself. It's very difficult to play big stadiums in America and stay true to what you believe in. It's very difficult but I think the Clash stayed true to that." - Billy Bragg
"In 1978, I was playing drums with the Slits on the Clash's 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' tour of the UK. With the Clash's second album debuting at number two on the UK charts, the tour was a sell-out. Joe would leave the stage every night dripping with exhaustion, having given the audience his all in a selfless 'bleeding hand on guitar' alternative to the troubles & depression prominent in Britain at that time. Genuinely concerned for his followers, and there were many, he would leave the door to his hotel room open every night so that anyone without a place to stay could keep warm, share a joke, have a drink and a smoke. Didn't make Joe too popular with the hotels, but it was perhaps an early example of his genuine desire to make a difference that has earned him the respect, and praise of many over the years. Joe was a passionate musician and a true gentleman.
Our love & thoughts go out to his family & friends this Christmas." - Budgie, Drummer - The Slits, The Banshees, The Creatures
"We played in Belfast two nights ago and I woke the following morning with a dreadful headache as a result of the 'End of Tour' party that is traditional with any touring band. However, my headache was about to get a lot worse. There were messages on my mobile phone to call the BBC to comment on the tragic news of Joe Strummer's death. Even through my sleep befuddled haze I thought I must have heard that wrong. But sadly, it was true.
I never really knew Joe. I only met him on about two occasions, but the simple fact is that I would not be doing now what I am (and have been doing for the last 26 years) if it hadn't been for Joe Strummer. He was the inspiration not just for the musical style I adopted but his attitude informed my own with regard to many aspects of the music business. Not least the respect you owe the people who buy your records and tickets etc. Although I found a lot of Joe's politics somewhat naive, there was no doubting the passion, sincerity and commitment he felt towards them. To ally that intensity of feeling with some of the most incendiary rock music ever written made The Clash the vitally important band they were (and still remain.)
I saw Joe's band, The Mescaleros, recently and they were sensational. It was obvious the man had re-discovered the joy of playing live and was revelling in it. It's a shame they'll never get to fulfill that potential now. So, while my thoughts (and those of everyone connected with Stiff Little Fingers) are with Joe's wife and family at this terrible time, I'd also like to take the chance to raise a glass and toast: Joe Strummer. He was the best." - Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers
"First of all I would like to say how very sad it is that Joe has left us at such a young age and with so much more great music to share. I just had the opportunity to meet him this summer when The Cadillac Tramps played The Hootenanny with his band The Mescaleros. I am usually a bit apprehensive to meet people I have idolized, and since the whole goal of The Cadillac Tramps was to be the "American Clash", Joe was pretty high up on the idol list. But he, like the greatest of all great people, was nothing but kind, humble, and so worthy of my respect. It was truly a highlight of my music career to shake his hand and talk with him. Thanks Joe. For the inspiration and for never letting me down. You'll be missed." - Brian Coakley, The Cadillac Tramps (co-perfomer at Hootenanny)
"I'm very, very sad at the news of Joe's death. I cannot pretend that we were that close but I am a great admirer of his songs and lyrics. The last time I saw Joe, we were driving through Notting Hill at 60mph in his Hot Rod VW. I think that this says a lot about him and his spirit. My thoughts are with his family and friends." - Elvis Costello
"Last Sunday night I had wandered up to the attic on some pretext, and was going through a box of papers when a pile of tapes came crashing down. They were audio cassettes that had been sitting on a shelf full of film-related stuff : video masters, temporary versions of things, and tapes of temporary soundtrack music.
I picked the tapes up and put them back, stacking them differently to make them less likely to fall. They were all sample tracks for my film 'Walker', marked up in Joe Strummer's fair hand. I really should listen to them again some day, I thought.
Next morning, a friend called me at 8.30 in the morning to tell me Joe was dead. The phone rang a few times and I found I'd spoken to just about everyone centrally involved with 'Walker' - Rudy Wurlitzer, the writer; Lorenzo O'Brien, the producer; Richard Beggs, the sound designer; Ed Harris, the actor who played the mad hero; Luis Contreras, Miguel Sandoval, and Dick Rude, other actors in the film.
Some of them wanted Joe's address so as to send a letter of condolence. But the only address I had for him was that of his lawyers in Los Angeles, where the 'Straight to Hell' cheques went. I had a fax number in England, so I gave them that. We discussed whether faxes are an appropriate form of condolence. I think they are, and sent mine later in the week.
I hadn't seen Joe in several years - not since the Cannes Film Festival, where we'd attended a swell do in honour of some of Britain's top producers.
We both had the impression we'd been drafted in at the 11th hour because more A-list celebrities had dropped out. But we had a good old time. I met Joe's very nice wife, Lucy. He didn't seem to have changed. Not at all.
Oh, and I saw him and his band last year, of course. The Mescaleros. I was thick with Strummer for only a short time. A three or four year period in which I directed 'Sid & Nancy', 'Straight to Hell', and 'Walker'.
Strummer provided music for all three films, and acted in two of them. It was a year or so after the conclusion of the Clash, and, being at a bit of a loose end, Joe had decided to apply himself to the film thing.
He peppered 'Sid & Nancy' with witty bits of fake source music, all credited to imaginary composers since his record company didn't want him writing too many songs for films. He provided similar background stings in 'Straight to Hell', and was instrumental in all the other odd musical twists and turns of that film, including co-composing 'The Weiner Kid Theme', and proposing that The Pogues sing 'Danny Boy'. He was a decent actor in 'Straight to Hell' and 'Walker', too. But it was his score for 'Walker' that amazed me, and everyone elso who heard it. Strummer's music permeates the film. It sets the film's ironic tone with party music for a battle scene. Then - in the scene between Walker and his lover Ellen (Marlee Matlin) - it's 100% emotional and affecting, like real movieee music. Then, at the end, when Walker and his brother try to burn a city down, it's sweet, persistent, and insane.
When Strummer wasn't confident about what he was doing, he tended to mix his lyrics low. Listen to 'Cut the Crap', or 'Earthquake Weather'. You can barely hear his voice, such is his uncertainty.
On the two songs he sings in 'Walker', you can hear his voice - several Strummer voices, in fact - singing harmony, loud and clear. He knew what he was creating in the 'Walker' soundtrack was great. And it's his alone - there are other musicians involved, including the guitarist and arranger Zander Schloss, but no shared credit, no other bands or composers involved. 'Walker' is the 100% Joe Strummer Score.
Strummer lived in Nicaragua for six months while we shot and edited 'Walker'. He was the guy who named his album "Sandinista!", and he was a happy man composing music there.
Richard Beggs recalled how, as he mixed his effects and dialogue with Joe's music, Strummer took up residence in a cupboard in the corridor outside the mixing room. It was something to keep the vacuum cleaner in, but Strummer made it his office, inhabited it, and kept his rolling papers, lighter, notebook, guitar, and other essentials there. It was the same in Nicaragua. No matter where we were, or what the difficulties, Strummer would always establish a little niche somewhere, in which to plot, and smoke, and dream.
Joe's 'Walker' score is out of print and hard to find today. It is inaudible, as the film - a very political film, about American foreign policy and imperial aspirations - is unseen. I saw little of Strummer after 'Walker'. The fallout from the film was intense. I made some trips to Mexico City, but could not lure Joe along. He remained in LA to record 'Earthquake Weather' with Zander. I moved to Mexico City and made some films there. Joe semi-retired to England for about a decade, then formed the Mescaleros, and did the recent things we know.
After the phone calls died away, I went back up to the attic and brought the tapes down. The ones Joe had marked up with titles for potential songs: 'Extra Seco', 'Aqui Fue Granada' - songs I had heard one time 15 years ago, perhaps, when Joe was trying things out. I played them. They all sounded entirely new. Songs Joe had thought about, back in 1987, taped a demo of, and then discarded. Hours of unused, undeveloped 'Walker' songs. Hadn't seen Strummer in a long time. Dick Rude saw him, when he was in LA. Dick told me Joe had finished a tour, and was recording another album. So there's more.
Given that Joe was a prolific taper of other people's music and of his own potential… possibilities… there might be much more.
I'm listening to those 'Walker' tapes again." - Alex Cox, Director - Straight to Hell, Sid and Nancy, Walker
"It was with great sadness, literally days before Xmas, that I learnt of the death of Joe Strummer, (former singer and guitarist with one of the all-time great London bands, The Clash) at the age of 50.
A passionate, honest fella, he left his mark on a generation of music-lovers, myself very much included.
I first got the Clash bug in early '77. My introduction being the 200MPH rebel rock sound of their debut album. And to this day I can quote and sing large chunks of it unaccompanied and often do!
It wasn't long after that I was lucky enough to bump into Joe on the Edgeware Road, where he subsequently invited me and ten schoolfriends to their Camden rehearsal studio for an interview for our school mag-turned-punk fanzine 'The Modern World'. I guess that was one of the wonderful things about Punk. Apart from the back-to-basics, in-yer-face, life-affirming music - and those ever so cool clothes - there was a wonderful accessibility about the bands, and no one took that more seriously than Joe. I thought he and his band were simply fantastic and they, along with The Jam, provided the soundtrack to my teenage years.
But it's with regret that I think back to the last time I saw Joe. It would have been on an afternoon sometime in 1983 on Old Compton Street.
I'd just started presenting a show on Capital Radio. The Clash - remember? - had written a scathing attack on the station back in 1977 and Joe wasted no time in accusing me of 'selling out'. A row subsequently ensued with me trying to reason that I'd been given this show strictly because I'd be allowed to choose all the music that was played. Joe wouldn't have any of it.
"And what about The Clash signing to CBS in '77?", I argued. "You guys sold out, signing to a corporate!" I sloped off, hurt and disappointed. I really cared what he thought. In hindsight it all seems so silly, but I would dearly have loved to have had the opportunity of meeting up with him again. It obviously wasn't meant to be.
And his legacy? Well, he was someone who made you sit up, think and question things. He was someone who was very serious about what he did. Without him we wouldn't have the likes of Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, U2, the Manics and countless others. And without him and Mick and Paul and Topper, I wouldn't have the memories of all those extraordinary Clash shows I was lucky enough to attend - and those wonderful records and songs he left in his wake. RIP Joe." - Lord Crowley, BBC Radio
"A true genius, a man of class and convictions. A personal hero. I can't believe he is gone. My heart goes out to his wife and children." - Mike D, Beastie Boys
"Joe Strummer. First, last, and only true rock and roll hero. Straight to heaven, I presume."
"Joe Strummer. I could never say enough. I haven't stopped thinking of him since I heard the news. Honestly, it has unexpectedly taken the wind out of me.
"There are very few leaders. Alot of the records I loved when I was younger no longer hold up as great records. They take you back, but they've lost the thrill. Not The Clash. Not Joe Strummer. I really believe they were the greatest band of them all. I met him twice when I was young, during Combat Rock. You may have heard this before, but i told him i liked his vest. He said "You do?" Then he gave it to me. I put it in a frame, as well as many posters. We played with The Mescaleros a year or two ago. I told him about the vest. He laughed. I laughed. I felt stupid. He looked cool. Seriously, he did look cool.
Here's an odd note. The week before he died, I went searching on ebay. Yes, I do that sometimes. I went looking for my Straight To Hell shirt. I lost it many yrs. ago. I found it, I won. I'm checking the mail everyday. I can't wait to wear it.
God bless Joe Strummer. You were not a punk. You played punk, but you were a king. As righteous an artist we'll ever see. I will not forget. I'm still listening, here in my 'garage, with my bullshit detector.'"
- Jakob Dylan, The Wallflowers (from thewallflowers.com bulletin board)
"I remember seeing The Clash at Sheffield Top Rank in 1977 & thinking … Wow!!! …compared to what was usually on at the Top Rank they couldn't really play (in the sense of what was the norm back then) but the excitement that came off the stage was phenomenal !!! …I went in a totally different direction music wise, but nevertheless, The Clash left a lasting impression on me to the point that every time I'm on tour I end up buying "The Clash" & "London Calling" over & over again because I left them at home !!!! What a shame we won't get to see the reunion that might just have happened next March when The Clash are inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame. Condolences to ALL his family, friends & fans …….RIP - Joe Elliot, Def Leppard
""Strummer was a poet. He moved people in a political way because he was totally in tune with what was going on in the world." - Joe Ely, Musician
"Joe Strummer checked out. When we were driving to the Fuji festival in Japan a few months ago we got into this conversation about Joe Strummer. It went like most conversations we have ever had about Joe something like this:
'Joe is the coolest guy with the most integrity'
'Remember that time Joe went out of his way to make someone feel good who was obviously uncomfortable?'
'How about when Joe was accosted by that fan who any other rock star in the world would have run from instantly but Joe gave him a hug and talked to him for 5 minutes because he was grateful that people cared about his music?'
'My favorite record is 'Sandinista!', really you think 'London Calling'?'
and so on.
When we got to that festival all the bands were hanging out in the backstage area and it was fun but not Joe…..he was out camping with the people by a river whooping it up.
I didn't know him that well but hung out with him a few times through mutual friends.
Once I was hanging out in the studio when he was recording his record 'Earthquake Weather' and my girlfriend Loesha (now my xwife) was with me and she was just 17 years old and had come down from Canada and was shy and culture shocked. She sat there fidgeting and drew a picture on a piece of paper of a cat. Joe grabbed it and Thumbtacked it up on the wall saying "This is gonna make us play great!"……just to make her feel good.
Last time I saw him was at a rock show in L.A. and he hugged me and kissed me. I went home feeling great. He was a walking bundle of love.
The Clash are my favorite band. They never stopped growing and changing. Their music means so much to me. It makes me feel so good when I hear it. The sound of it. I know it is supposed to be political but that's not what it seems like to me. To me it is purely humanitarian, it is all love. To me Politics means playing games to get what you want. Joe sang about people he didn't think were getting a fair shake, it is obvious that he cared deeply about them.
I love him. If anyone was ever my role model it is him.
The world has lost one of it's best humans.
When he played at the Troubador before he walked off the stage he said "It's a sad and beautiful world! Goodnight!"
- Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers
"He was a clear contemporary and we were rivals. I believed we had to get inside the pop culture -- he believed you should always stay outside and hurl things at it. He was a very important musician. The Clash will be endlessly influential. They will always be one of the deathless rock bands."
- Bob Geldof, former Boomtown Rats vocalist and Live Aid organizer
"He was one of the most important figures in modern British music, a powerful performer and a wordsmith on the same level as Bob Dylan. His music had compassion and vision, backed with an agenda to change the world for the better… I was shocked to hear of his death." - Pat Gilbert, Editor of MOJO Magazine
Blimey, Joe too. He really was a diamond geezer, and he always really cared. I don't think he ever really changed. We used to do a lot of gigs together back in '76 when he had the 101`ers, mostly at the good old Nashville Rooms. He always used to turn up with a dog on a rope and a plentiful supply of cannibles raisins if I remember correctly, and he always played a blinder. Better make my will sharpish… God Bless ya Joe. - Paul Gray, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Damned, UFO, C.I.A., Mischief,…-
"The greatest legacy he leaves is that he made a generation of people think for themselves. He didn't quite manage to change the world but he changed the way people looked at it. It's a sad day - but what a life." - Johnny Green, Former Clash Road Manager
"I'm in shock over the sudden death of my friend Joe. He was the strongest of men, a real inspirational leader, a guy who never seemed to tire of listening to people and talking to them, learning and teaching all the time. He had true compassion for everyone he met. He was the nicest and also the most fun loving person I've known." - Bob Gruen, Photographer
"Regarding the other couple of things that've been news lately--George Bush and Joe Strummer--the first thing that comes to mind is that things'd be a whole lot better if they could have traded places. I don't want to be wishing even Bush dead but he has about the brains of a pop musician, whereas it would be cool to have Strummer in the White House. Never mind. I didn't know Strummer that well, though I was around him a lot for three weeks in 1977. Ivan, guitar player in the Voidoids at the time, was friendlier with those guys, though it was more with Mick Jones I think. Ivan played some on a record or two of theirs (as per "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" on Sandinista!). Strummer did always seem like a solid guy, and he definitely had principals which is rare and he did his best to make his band's career consistent with those principals. That's a cool thing that originated for teenage music in that era and the Clash probably did more than any of those early bands to set an example." - Richard Hell
"You changed our lives… god rest your soul" - Mick Hucknall, Simply Red
"The Clash were innovative, radical and helped drive a change in music that was ground-breaking. In comparison to some of the music today they sounded like they meant it. I still listen to their music today to remind myself what music made with commitment sounds like."
Another Quote from Chrissie: "I went to his funeral and to the party afterward. I felt very lighthearted and really great and was wondering why. Obviously, it was a very sad day, but the reason I felt so up and good afterward was because Joe provided so much light, he had such a positive force. He had such good innings while he was here."
And another: "He was the great humanitarian to come out of punk."
- Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders
On the morning of December 23, I tuned in the car radio and happened to catch the tail end of a news item. Through the crackle of static came, '. . . and later we remember Joe Strummer of the Clash.' 'Remember'? Fuck!
There is a peculiar sort of emotional frisson that accompanies shocking news, especially a death. It is a weird kind of high that is quickly transmuted into a sickening come down. I had to wait another forty minutes, suffering the interminal whine of live on the air politicos duking it out with cant, until confirmation came.
Their voices reminded me of the time when I first saw Strummer play live. He held up a small transistor radio to the microphone, British politicians discussing the latest IRA outrage, followed by a news report detailing the carnage. '1, 2, 3, 4', and the band crashed in, three guitars like sonic razors cleaving the smoke. The Clash were playing their first gig in London, it was 1976, next up, The Sex Pistols in all their ragged glory.
I was nineteen and transfixed. This was IT! I had taken my little bother Kevin down to the 100 Club, driving the seventy miles south from Northampton down the M1. He too was gob smacked. We decided to form our own punk band there and then. To this day, that gig remains the single most exciting live event that I have ever witnessed and the band's future trajectory, soaring on the wings of passionate idealism, forged the standard for all time.
I saw the man several times following that incendiary event, with the Clash (always wildly exciting), as a sometime member of The Pogues and later, with his great band, The Mescaleros. The last occasion was in San Diego at the 2002 Hootenanny. I saw him in his trailer before he was about to go on. He was extremely sick with a heavy dose of the flu but still gracious, he waved me aboard whilst seated on the shotgun side like a pirate king in his pilfered quarters. What followed was an unbelievably spirited performance. Leg pumping and fist punching the sky, the bastard had me pogoing like it was 76 all over again. 'You've got a big heart, Joe!' I told him afterwards. He shrugged and grinned that lopsided greaser grin and then sat on the damp floor for over an hour signing record sleeves and posing for photos with the fans.
The first time we met was in 1989. He turned up, out of the blue, at the KCRW radio studio in Santa Monica, where I was recording a live session with Max Eider and Owen Jones (poached from The Jazz Butcher) Jones is a massive Clash fan and it was highly amusing to see his reaction as he turned around to face the sound proofed window only to be confronted by a maniacally gurning Strummer. This, seconds before the start of our set. Afterwards, we went out for some drinks with him and a great time was had by all. The following night we played at The Roxy Theater on Sunset Strip. Strummer was there again. Post show he invited us back to his hotel to meet with his cousin Jose' (neat tequila gold.) We became well acquainted and before long Strummer was imparting wise words of advice concerning instruments. He strongly objected to my choice of guitar, an Ovation acoustic with a plastic back.
'The thing is Dave, you've got no bassist so you really need that bottom end, yer know? All yer hear with that fuckin' Ovation is, thwackey, thwackey, thwackey' and that ain't no fuckin' good! What yer need is The Big Wood! Do yer know what that is? No? Well, I'll tell yer! The Big Wood is like a big old fuckin' Gibson or a Gretch or a Guild, something with a bit of soul to it, a big jumbo chunk of fuckin' wood and none of that fuckin' plastic shit! You look at any of yer serious guys, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Van fuckin' Morrison, they all got the Big Wood. Now Barry!' (our tour manager at the time.) At this point Stummer is literally on his knees. 'Barry, will you promise me something? Tomorrow morning I want yer to drive down to the fuckin' river, then I want yer to take those fuckin' shit Ovation guitars and throw em in it! Then take him down to Sunset and get him sorted with the Big Wood! Right!'
Right! We did and it made all the difference in the world.
That last time I saw him in San Diego, the first thing he said to me was, 'You got it, right? You got The Big Wood!' (I hadn't seen him since 89!) I gladly answered in the affirmative.
I also got it' and got it good, in a sweaty little cellar dive in Oxford Street in 1976 and I am never going to let it go.
Thank you Joe. R.I.P."
- David J founding member of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets
"For another generation, Bob Dylan awoke some sense that you can sing songs that weren't just about crying in your beer. For us, it was Sandinista! A song like “Straight to Hell” remains totally ingrained of how you can create a whole other world, but another world that wasn't necessarily escapist. For me, he brought ferocity and relevance to music."
- Stephan Jenkins, Third Eye Blind
"Our friend and compadre is gone. God bless you, Joe."
- Mick Jones
"He wasn't some phony. He was a big part of the whole punk movement"
- Steve Jones, The Sex Pistols
"In a business populated by self-serving dullards, he shone out like a diamond."
- Phil Jupitus, Comedian
"Joe Strummer was a man who wasn't afraid to voice his beliefs. A passionate, vocal, sincere olde punk. The Clash produced a contrast to the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, and educated an audience about the realities of the state. Music has lost one of its true rebels."
- Ken Livingston, London Mayor
"Joe was prepared to fight for workers rights from Nicaragua to Newcastle. It's a fitting tribute to him that one of his last UK shows was a firefighters benefit that he financed out of his own pocket." - Geoff Martin, Representative for the Unison trade union in London
"Joe was not just a great bloke - he was also a great musician who wasn't afraid to take a chance and write lyrics that made a difference. His death is a very sad day for the music scene. Yet again it's one of the good guys who's died young." - Glen Matlock, The Sex Pistols
"I was shocked to hear Joe Strummer had died. Seemed totally inappropriate somehow - not at all believable. There he was at the the Gorillas night at the Royal Opera House just a couple or three weeks ago, looking utterly normal and bouncy and strong - not overweight, seemingly as full of life as ever. I didn't actually even say hello that night, though I'd intended to - the dressing rooms were miles from the stage, and miles from each other, and I was pacing the floor trying to make sure I didn't forget the words of these songs that I never normally sing. So the moment never happened. I DID speak to his violinist when I bumped into him half-way through the show. I said, "You guys should come up and join us on "Crazy Little Thing" at the end of the show". I know Bryan Adams had sent the same message that night - it would have been a nice way to end the evening if it had happened. But probably we all thought of it too late - we should have rehearsed it really…
I didn't know Joe very well - Queen were hardly ever in the UK during the days of the Punk Glories - we were constantly on tour - you become quite distant from what is happening back home. So our paths never crossed at that time. Of the whole movement, I related to the Sex Pistols music very much, but didn't really take to the Clash in that instant - it was much later, in retrospect, that I began to enjoy their stuff. But a couple of years ago I found myself on a long plane journey with Joe. It took a few minutes to warm up - I think each of us thought the other guy wouldn't be interested in talking to us!!! But then we got on like a house on fire - we talked about recording, touring, living, families, fame, and moving on from fame - and found much to share and enjoy. He knew almost everyting about our band, to my surprise, and could quote from our lyrics - I had no idea he liked our music. And by that time I knew enough about the Clash to talk sensibly about his group too! I left the plane thinking we would stay in touch, and fully intended to, but life gets so overcrowded with stuff… I never did follow up….
He seemed such a nice, genuine, mature bloke on that journey, which is now a fond memory.
Happy journey on, Mr. Strummer. God Speed ya to the Better Place!"
- Brian May, Queen
"Sad to hear that the one of the most important songwriters of all time has passed. Joe was truly a visonary with passionate, political lyrics and incredible songs. His influence has helped many make sense of life." - Mike McReady, Pearl Jam
Joe Strummer died today. The last time that i saw joe was in los angeles. we were dancing together in a nightclub and i kept rambling on about how important his music was to me. he had such a big heart and was withoutquestion one of the most important musicians of the last 50 years.
can you even imagine a world in which the clash hadn't existed? the clash were one of those bands who were so amazing and so wonderful that people are often tempted to take them for granted. but it's worth remembering that joe and the clash made music that was emotional and political and challenging and experimental and exciting and wonderful.
if i were to write his epitaph it would read: 'here lies joe strummer, he was a compassionate and wonderful man, he wrote some of the most important music of the 20th century, and his presence here made the world a better place.' thank you, joe, you will be sorely missed by all who knew you.
"The first time I heard of the Clash was in high school. I was working on the school newspaper, and one day a fellow named Dave Vogel came in with a copy of London Calling that he was showing off to anybody who was willing to listen. I thought the cover of the album was really cool, and asked him "is it heavy metal?" He said "no, but it's really great." I doubted him, but asked if I could borrow it, and I made myself a cassette copy. This low-grade Dolby-suffering cassette tape burned its way into my head, heart and soul, and the Clash soon became my favorite band.
At the time, I was playing in a punk rock band. Most of our songs were amusing, funny ditties with names like "She Eats Razors" and "Beat Me, Whip Me, Make Me Feel Cheap." A week after my first listen to London Calling, I penned the first political song of my life, a song called "Salvador Death Squad Blues," a rocking commentary on the Reagan administration's egregious practices in Central America. Shortly thereafter, there was a rebellion at the school paper. The conservative teacher didn't want us writing articles about apartheid, or U.S. support of death squads, or the fact that the dean was a dick. There was a mass exodus from the paper and a very popular underground paper was born called "The Student Pulse." The Clash pushed me into making political music and taking a political stand as a teenager.
Later that year, I got the chance to see the Clash at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, and was totally blown away. Not only were they the greatest live band of all time, but they also cured my musical inferiority complex. Before this show, I had thought that you had to have a $10,000 Les Paul and a huge wall of Marshall amplifiers in order to make "real" rock and roll music. But Joe Strummer had the same cheap little Music Man amp that I did. It was just sitting on a chair, much like my amp sat on a chair at my high school band's rehearsals. And yet they were making the most passionate and compelling music I had ever heard. A lot of kids left the hall that night knowing that they could do it too. The Axis of Justice motto, "the future is unwritten" is taken from a t-shirt I purchased that night.
On the early Rage Against the Machine tours, Clash tapes and bootlegs were always the most important part of my on-the-road music collection. They were a tremendous inspiration and consolation on those long, freezing European bus rides. And in listening to those crappy quality bootleg tapes, you could still always hear in Joe Strummer's voice that he did truly believe that the world could be changed with a three minute song, and that each night, he was up there not playing for ego, self-gratification, money or rock star glory. He was playing with the determination to save the soul of everybody in the room, his included.
The Sex Pistols were the flashpoint that made the world notice punk rock. The Clash, sewed politics into punk and rock and roll irreversibly. And Joe Strummer was the heart, the soul, and the conscience of the Clash.
No one had more of a true punk rock look than Joe Strummer. I always thought he had the greatest no-sell-out teeth in the business. The Clash were great because they realized that it did not in any way impinge their integrity to be a "performing" rock and roll band, and they looked, sounded and dressed the part of the rebel rockers they were.
One thing I always admired about the Clash was their great attention to what it meant to be a band, outside of the music. They would have countless meetings where they would discuss their lives, their opinions, their political views, what they meant to each other, and what it was important for them to say in their songs and how to maintain the highest level of integrity and commitment to continuing to be 'the only band that matters.'
Joe was also insistent on choosing singles not based necessarily on their potential hit value, but rather based on their relevance. The Clash wrote and released "The Call Up" as a single in response to the reinstitution of draft registration in the United States. It was a huge issue at the time and with the shadows of Vietnam creeping across Central America, a song like "The Call Up," with its poetic and brutally true lyrics helped a lot of young people make up their minds about what they would do if a draft actually came.
I've always been really pissed at the way that the British press turned its back on the Clash. There seemed to be a real petty jealousy that British publications had towards the Clash after their debut album. Once the rest of the world caught on to their hometown little secret, they stomped their feet like spoiled brats and turned their backs on such amazing albums as London Calling and Sandinista! ( The London Calling album, by the way, was voted the album of the decade by Rolling Stone magazine).
The Clash always resisted the temptation to reunite for the big money. And their reasons spoke to the greatness of the band and the people in it. It wasn't out of some elitist pomposity that they dare not reconvene for fear of besmirching their "legend," but rather because their friend and drummer Topper Headon, a heroin addict, wasn't healthy enough to do it. And as Joe says near the end of the great Clash documentary "Westway to the World," a band's chemistry is everything. Joe gives a tearful speech lamenting the dismissing of first Topper Headon and then Mick Jones. It's a speech worth listening to, because it truly is a band chemistry that matters. There is a potency to that classic Clash line-up that, had they stayed the course, it is likely that to this day, U2 might still be opening for them.
Throughout my time in Rage Against the Machine, journalists would always ask the question, "what the hell is a band with the politics of Rage doing on Epic Records?" I would often answer with long and flowery sermons about spreading an important message around the globe. But I really could have answered with two words: The Clash. I was energized and politicized and changed by the Clash. And the reason I heard about them was because Dave Vogel bought London Calling at Musicland Records at the local Hawthorne Mall in tiny Libertyville, Illinios. And the reason Dave could get his hands on this album at a nearby mall was because the band was on Epic Records. If in the history of Rage Against the Machine we were able to energize or politicize one person in the same way that the Clash effected me, the decision to sign with Epic Records was not just well worth it, but was crucial.
A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to play on a Joe Strummer record. He was doing a song for the South Park soundtrack, and Rick Rubin asked me to come down and play guitar, because the guy that they had doing it (who incidentally plays in a very popular rock-rap band) just couldn't cut it. I had never been more nervous in my life as I drove up in my 1971 muscle car to the studio and was introduced to the great Joe Strummer. Joe did not disappoint. While the song was not the best, he certainly was. It seemed like very little recording got done, but a lot of storytelling over quickly ingested bottles of red wine did. Joe told us the story of how he used to always travel with an enormous flight case filled with all his music. Everywhere he went, he carried every cassette and album he owned, so they would always be at the ready for him to listen to. After a couple of decades of doing this, he had grown very weary of having to show countless customs agents his entire reggae collection. So he had boiled it all down to one scratchy 30-minute cassette of an obscure Mexican band that he played for us. He absolutely loved it, and it was the only tape he brought with him from then on. I sat there listening and beaming like an idiot.
Joe was fascinated with my muscle car. It's a 1971 hemi-orange Dodge Demon. It was a bizarre site for me to see my greatest rock and roll hero crawling around the front seat of my car marveling over the original Demon-designed floormats with his unique and unchanged accent.
At the studio, he would disappear for hours at a time into his ancient Cadillac, where he would work on lyrics for the song, and listen to the latest mixes that were coming out of the control room. Rick Rubin and I would sit in the control room waiting as a gofer would shuttle notes back and forth from Joe that would read like "I think there could be more treble" or "I've almost got the second verse." Or sometimes they'd be obscure quotations or ramblings that kept us in stitches as we waited for Joe to come back in the room. I took one of these opportunities when Joe was in his Caddy to pick up and strum for myself his famous Telecaster with the "Ignore All Aliens" sticker on it. Joe was of course the reason why I play a Telecaster, and holding this amazing, historic guitar that had written and performed my favorite songs through the years was a sublime moment. And don't think I didn't bring my camera to preserve that moment. Taped to the guitar was an ancient Clash setlist, and I marveled over it and wrote the setlist down to keep for posterity, although Joe couldn't remember what show it was from.
The last time I saw Joe Strummer was when he and his band The Mescaleros played at the Troubadour a year and a half ago. I was truly impressed. Joe played with all the passion and intensity that he had in the Clash's heyday. And his new music and lyrics were forward-looking and challenging. He was clearly a vital artist to the end. And when he threw in the Clash gems Bank Robber and London's Burning, the place went absolutely nuts. I yelled so loud I lost my voice for about a week.
In the song "White Riot," Joe sang:
'Are you taking over or are you taking orders? Are you going backwards Or are you going forwards?'
Write those four lines down, put them on your refrigerator, and answer those four questions for yourself every day. I do.
Joe Strummer was my greatest inspiration, my favorite singer of all time, and my hero. His passing came as such a shock and surprise, and I am deeply saddened by it. I already miss him so much, and I am grateful to have the tremendous legacy of music he left behind. The Clash was one of those bands that even their most remote b-sides are far superior to anything on the radio today. If you haven't checked out this great band, run don't walk to all the Clash albums. I am certain that Joe Strummer and the Clash will continue to inspire and agitate well into the future. God bless you, Joe."
- Tom Morello, Audioslave and former Rage Against the Machine
"Joe Strummer dead of a heart attack at the age of 50. The horrible news arrived on Monday. For a generation in their middle years, it meant more than the death of John Lennon, Elvis and Princess Diana rolled into one.
The general public would have needed some gentle reminding. Joe who exactly? Because although The Clash had some big hit singles - including Rock The Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go - that's not what they were about. Even at their peak, around the time of London Calling, The Clash never appeared on Top Of The Pops, never had celebrity romances, and never played a concert for royalty.
But if you came of age in the late Seventies, then you needed no reminding. Joe Strummer was one of the most charismatic, electrifying and committed performers to ever grace a British stage.
The Clash emerged during the iconoclastic punk years, which means they were obliged to slag off any band who had ever come before. 'No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977!' they bawled, and I am stunned beyond belief that it was all a quarter of a century ago. But for all their jeering about boring old farts, The Clash were part of a long, rich heritage that stretched back to the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kinks, The Who, and forward to The Smiths, the Stone Roses and Oasis. The Clash on stage and on record were a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. Joe Strummer - and his partners Mick Jones and Paul Simonon - did more than entertain us. They changed lives.
They certainly changed mine.
Because they made me believe that, with passion and commitment and a bit of fire in your belly, you could be exactly the person you wanted to be.
I met The Clash in 1976. I was a young journalist on the NME and they were an unsigned band. I did their first big interview for an NME cover story in early 1977. I thought they were the greatest band I had ever seen. And half a lifetime on, in a large part of my soul, I still do.
What can I tell you about Joe Strummer? There was an intelligence about him that allowed his band to change and evolve, just as Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were disappearing up their own bondage trousers. And there was a generosity about Strummer, too, a warmth and humanity about the guy, a generosity of spirit. He was a brilliant musician, a beautiful man, and a charismatic artist. There is a part of me that bitterly resents the fact that The Clash never replaced the Rolling Stones in rock music's hall of heroes.
But The Clash were not about milking it for a lifetime. Their music was more than a pension plan.
Strummer was a working musician. The last time I saw Joe was a couple of months ago. It was the middle of the day in a Soho club and for some reason he was there collecting a guitar. I thought he still looked 23.
'How you doing, Joe?' 'I'll be better when I've had a hug from you,' he smiled, and embraced me, for the first time in my life, and also the last.
Then he was gone. And I am now one of those sad middle-aged blokes who gets all choked up at the thought of Joe Strummer dead from a heart attack at the age of 50.
This is all I know about Joe Strummer.
He was a diamond.
And they don't make them like that any more.
- Tony Parsons, Music Journalist
"God Bless him. He brought me many good times, happy moments and adrenalin rushes. London Calling will be the lasting testament to his muse and through that he and the rest of the band shall achieve immortality. One of the finest albums of the Twentieth Century and one of the most influential musicians of his generation." - John Peel, BBC Radio
"I can't believe it. Joe was as huge an inspiration to me now as he was in 1977. He combined cool with an uncompromising stance, infused reggae into punk and taught a whole generation of us more about politics than any number of teachers or politicians. I desperately wish news of his death was untrue.
Joe - you were the best."
- Iggy Pop
"They were unique because, here they are, breaking up at the peak of their popularity and having plenty of offers to come back, and not doing it. While other bands always come back for the money, they had a belief in what they were doing, and even though they could've used it, they never really cared about the money."
- Johnny Ramone
"Numb, gutted & shocked - 3 words that sum up how I feel. Passionate, principled, genius - 3 words that sum up Joe Strummer." - Martin Scorcese
"He had a very gruff singing voice but there was lots of passion. The Clash played a crucial role in punk."
- Pete Shelley, The Buzzcocks
"The Clash were a major influence on my own music, they were the best rock n roll band. Thanks Joe!!" - Bruce Springsteen
"Shocking news - The Clash had a massive influence on me in my teenage years and even now, 25 years later, hardly a week goes by without one of their albums featuring on my CD player. In the week that yet another dreadful, manufactured 'band' hits the charts Joe is a reminder of what music really should be like. One of the greatest songwriters and musicians of our time, he will be greatly missed." - Neil Tennant, Pet Shop Boys
"It is with great sadness that we heard the news about Joe Strummer's death today. The Damned wish to offer sincere condolences to his wife and family at this sad time."
- The Damned
"The EELS are very sad to hear the news of Joe Strummer's sudden and unexpected death. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family." Click here for a picture of the EELS with Joe.
- The EELS
"On December 23 (sic), 2002, Joe Strummer suffered a fatal heart attack. Joe was a long-time friend, collaborator, sometimes front-man, producer, co-star, and part-time live musician with the Pogues. He was a pillar of the music industry and has influenced more than twenty-five years of music and musicians. His influence on the world will be missed.
With great sadness I extend my most sincere condolences to the friends and family of Joe."
- The Pogues
"It's been confirmed that Joe Strummer died of cardiac arrest, shortly after returning home from a walk with his dogs. As expected, it's also been confirmed that his death was not drug-related. After all the senseless loss witnessed recently, it is no small comfort that Joe at least died naturally, going out as he had lived: uncompromised.
Joe's death will not muster proper acknowledgement in our plastic world. He wasn't a sickly-sweet popmeister, his music isn't for teenagers fucking on warm summer nights. No sentiment nor affectation, no bullshit, the brand he will forever be associated with says it all: Clash. The UK DIY movement was seemingly dismissed once fakers jumped aboard for cash, but raping brilliance is simply part of business. Joe's name has been tarnished as a result (indeed, he didn't come from the slums to front what was admittedly a partly-fabricated band). But Joe wasn't a fake, and he certainly wasn't business as usual. Woody Mellor, aka Joe Strummer, was his own man.
His wife, Lucinda, and three daughters have stressed their wishes that fans show their grief by contributing to the Nelson Mandela SOS charity. Joe was to play at the February fundraising concert, meant to help the virtually ignored battle against AIDS currently raging throughout Africa (and the world).
…. He had been touring as recently as last month with his band, the Mescaleros, and was kicking ass wherever he played. Joe had most recently been recording their third album. I'm still too stunned by his sudden death to wax eloquent about him, but he'd probably want to tell me to "put a sock in it", anyway. Suffice it to say, this guy was the real deal.
- The Small Faces
"Thank you for the being that was Joe Strummer
Thank you for the life-force that came through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the potency, the excitement, the passion, the fire that were expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the conviction and commitement that were expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the music, lyric and song that came through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the explosive and all time great band led by Joe Strummer
Thank you for the sense of community that was expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the democracy and inclusiveness that was expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the idealism that was expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the nobility that was expressed through Joe Strummer
Thank you for the inspiration I recieved through Joe Strummer and his music
Thank you Joe Strummer "
- Mike Scott, The Waterboys
"As 2002 drew to a close, the most horrible and unexpected event occurred. Brian lost a very dear friend and the world lost a musical icon. Joe Strummer succumbed to a heart-related ailment at his home in England on December 22nd. Nothing I could type here could come close to properly memorializing Joe. Clever adjectives to describe him and music related accolades would ring hollow because words alone could not do justice to this wonderful man. His passion and consistent warmth touched so many people in so many countries and in so many walks of life. From squatter to rock icon, Joe never lost the plot. With his passing only days old, the reality of this loss is still too fresh to be absorbed.
I'll end this the way that Joe once toasted Brian and I in a bar in London…
'Never above you, never below you, always with you. Cheers.'
- From Tommy at Brian Setzer's Website
"Joe had moved to the country. He rented my basement to keep a base in London. We spent many an evening spinning everything from Lee Hazlewood to Anthony Newley, only to be found asleep in the morning by my wife, with the table still turning."
- Paul Simonon
"Joe Strummer was one of the greatest stars of the last 30 years Rock is a smaller, less interesting place today." - Anthony Thornton, NME Internet editor
"Just heard from Matt Kent that my old pal Joe Strummer has died of a heart-attack at just 50 years old. That heart of his always worked too hard…….. he's been making great music lately, I will really miss him." - Pete Townshend, The Who
"What a shock - old punks never die they just stand at the back." - Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers
"Obviously I was very sad to hear the news about Joe Strummer. I've taken some time before putting anything about it on the site because I didn't trust myself not to come out with a lot of maudlin shit like some of the email "tributes" that have been going around. I had one that said that music was crap now (apart from Strummer and the Mescaleros of course). But that was never Joe's attitude. The Clash were one of those rare bands like Led Zeppelin who were ready to embrace and absorb all forms of music. That's the attitude that has kept Strummer vibrant, relevent and happening while other artists that came out of the punk thing have turned into fat old dinosaurs just like the ones they professed to despise in the first place.
Last year, twenty-five years and a couple of months after I first saw the Clash, I had the absolute pleasure of doing a gig with Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros. It was a great night – we played loads of new stuff and so did he. While we were playing I suddenly realized that he was watching us from the side of the stage. He came round to our dressing room afterwards, specifically to tell me how much he liked it and to thank me for playing Reconnez Cherie which was one of his old favourites. Most people wouldn't bother, but he did and I'll never forget that.
Their set was utterly fantastic, and after the first hour or so nobody was bothering to shout for old Clash numbers anymore. It's rare to see somebody who's so genuinely into what they're doing – who can put themselves so completely into an actual moment in time – so that for a moment, this moment, this event is the most important thing in the world.
I said I didn't want to get maudlin so I'm not going to say how much I'll miss him because Joe Strummer was unmissable - unique and irreplaceable.
I first saw the Clash in September 1976, a few weeks before I signed to Stiff and made my first record. They left a deep impression. Here's an extract from my book. It's not a plug for the book, it's meant as an illustration of the kind of impact the Clash, and particularly Strummer, had at the time. I've left some stuff around either side of the Clash event to give a bit of social context or whatever:
We didn't know anybody in London and the projected nightly visits to hip, groovy places like the Marquee, the Nashville, Dingwalls and the legendary home of pub rock, the Hope ‘n' Anchor, just hadn't materialised. The Nashville was about the nearest place so that's where we usually went. We had to think in terms of proximity because last buses to Wandsworth seemed to leave about half an hour before the pubs shut. We usually had to walk home. Sometimes we got a District line tube to East Putney and walked from there, or, if we were lucky there was a 28 bus as far as Wandsworth Bridge. Taxis were out of the question - they seemed to cost an awful lot of money, and anyway you'd be lucky to find a driver who was willing to go all the way out to Wandsworth at closing time.
We'd never been to Dingwalls or the Hope ‘n' Anchor - Dingwalls might as well have been in another town, and the bands didn't go on till about midnight. It wasn't possible if you had to attend a bottling plant at seven o'clock the next morning. But we did see the Clash at the Roundhouse, supporting the Kursaal Flyers. Why we went to see the Kursaal Flyers I don't know - probably because they came from Southend which gave them a tenuous Dr Feelgood connection. The Clash were a life-changing experience. Most of the bands I saw around that time were totally harmless, but not the Clash. It was one of their first gigs - September 5th 1976. Keith Levine was still in the band, so there were three guitar players. They were the most confrontational thing I'd ever seen. They looked like stick insects in their tight, straight-legged jeans and short, home-made haircuts. Strummer wore a black shirt with the legend Chuck Berry Is Dead bleached into the back of it. From the moment they came on there were adverse comments and snide remarks about the regular Sunday At The Roundhouse audience sitting on the floor in their smart seventies apparel, smug in their cosmopolitan self-complacency:
‘I like your jeans - didja get them at the Jean Machine?'
After a few numbers Joe Strummer said, ‘I suppose you think you can pay your one pound fifty and just come in here and sit down like it was a fucking TV set…I mean, you could get off your denims in case you wear ‘em out'
Then they played a song that I later found out was called Janie Jones. Their sound was an aggressive cacophany of slightly out of tune guitars and ragged vocal chants. I wasn't sure that I liked it but I found it very attractive. They weren't going down at all well, and after a few more numbers Strummer addressed the audience again:
‘…well now it's time for audience participation, right? I want you all to tell me what exactly you're doing here.'
Somebody shouted, ‘…to drink beer.'
There was a silence. You could hear the amplifiers buzzing…
‘Well listen,' replied Strummer, ‘I don't know what size you are around the waist but I guess it's in advance of thirty-six, so if you want to carry your corpulent body out to the bar and stuff it with a few barrels of whatever you fancy then go ahead.'
I was impressed, even though it was only about five o'clock and the bar didn't actually open until seven, and despite the fact that I could've done with drinking some beer myself. I had a moment of difficulty reconciling my need for beer with the messages that the Clash were sending out, but when seven o'clock rolled round I saw Joe Strummer propping up the bar with a dangerous looking individual who I later realised was Sid Vicious. I would have liked to have talked to Strummer but I was too shy. I almost felt that I should make some pledge of allegiance - there was something going on. I wasn't sure what it was, but this air of dissatisfaction was something I could identify with.
‘Get on with it!'
‘Get on with what, you big twit – haven't you got any brains at all? All right then, so you might've got five A levels - what do I care? That's just a dirty trick.'
I answered an advert in the Melody Maker. The Flying Tigers needed a rhythm guitar player - that could be me, I like tigers. The bloke on the other end of the phone was an American pretending to be a Cockney. He sounded like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins - cor blimey mate. The number was a Kebab shop in Clapham. The American was the singer in the group, and that was where he worked, in the Kebab shop.
The Flying Tigers played garage music - the Standells, the Chocolate Watch Band, and threw in a mixture of R ‘n' B and Chicago blues - Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters and Killing Floor by Howling Wolf. The singer was called Mike. He liked the sound of me, said I should come to an audition they were holding on Sunday in Baddersea - I should bring my Axe, and an Amp.
I went there on the bus with my Hohner Orgaphon 40 watt accordian amplifier with jukebox speakers, and my Top Twenty guitar in a floppy blue plastic case. Their lead guitarist arrived with a brand new Selmer combo in red vinyl finish, and unpacked a Gibson from a professional looking hard case. He had a gingery beard and long blonde hair. He was wearing a green velvet jacket with enormous lapels and high waisted denim flares. I found out later that he was a school teacher in real life. He looked somewhat dismayed when he saw me - my hair was very short, badly cut, and I was wearing an ancient pair of straight Tesco jeans, old plimsoles with no socks, and a blue and white striped long sleeved T-shirt. I was thin, spotty and very possibly drunk. As I said hello a speaker fell out of the front of my amplifier, as though it was winking at him. I was just what they weren't looking for.
- Wreckless Eric, Musician
"I can't say how life changing London Calling was for me. I'll never forget the day I bought it while on a trip to NYC in 1980. My parents took my brother and I to see a musical and I was lucky to find a copy that didn't have an (pre-Tipper) advisory sticker while browsing through a store that sold sheet music. It was a fairly long train/subway/car ride back to rural PA and I spent the entire time looking at Pennie Smith's black and white photos which adorned the inner sleeves. I got home and listened to the entire album start to finish. After finding "Train In Vain" (the one song I'd heard from it -"TIV" was a super-last minute addition to the record and the sleeves had already been printed, hence no mention of it anywhere in the package) I sat there thinking how good the rest of the album was. That record was the soundtrack of my life for the next couple years and is still my favorite album of all time.
I got to see the Clash in '83 and Strummer solo at the Palladium in NYC (where the cover photo of "LC" was taken) in '89. The latter still stands as one of the top five best live shows I've ever seen. I never met him but he was by all accounts a great guy. On par with Dylan as a lyricist in my humble opinion. Don't know what else to say.
- Jon Wurster, Superchunk
LONDON, England -- Tributes have been pouring in from across the music industry for Joe Strummer, frontman with the Clash, who has died at the age of 50.
"He was one of the most important figures in modern British music, a powerful performer and a wordsmith on the same level as Bob Dylan," said Pat Gilbert, editor of British music magazine Mojo
"His music had compassion and vision, backed with an agenda to change the world for the better… I was shocked to hear of his death," he told Reuters.
"Joe Strummer was one of the greatest stars of the last 30 years," said Anthony Thornton, editor of the Internet site of the British rock weekly New Musical Express. "Rock is a smaller, less interesting place today".
U2 frontman Bono said: "The Clash was the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2.
"Though I was always too much of a fan to get to know him well, we were due to meet in January to finish our Mandela song with Dave Stewart. It's such a shock," he told the Press Association.
Left-wing singer-songwriter Bill Bragg said Strummer had inspired him politically and musically.
"Joe to me was a great political inspiration. The first political thing I ever did was to to a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park, Hackney, in 1977," he said.
"I really went to see the Clash and it politicised me. I have a great admiration for the man. His most recent records are as political and edgy as anything he did with the Clash. His take on multi-cultural Britain in the 21st century is far ahead of anybody else.
"This is a terrible tragedy, particularly for his family.
"If you look at the first rank of British punk bands, they weren't really that political.
"Their relationship to politics was rather ambivalent -- The Sex Pistols, the Damned and The Stranglers -- and the American punk bands had politics at all -- The Ramones, Blondie and Television.
"It was The Clash that struck the strong political stance that really inspired a lot of people, and within The Clash he was the political engine of the band.
"Without Joe there's no political Clash and without the Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled.
"The thing about Strummer was he walked it like he talked it. He didn't cop out. He didn't show one face to the public and have a different face in himself.
"It's very difficult to play big stadiums in America and stay true to what you believe in. It's very difficult but I think the Clash stayed true to that."
Among the bands for which the Clash had been a huge inspiration was Manic Street Preachers.
The Manics' bass player Nicky Wire, speaking on behalf of the south Wales trio, told the UK's Press Association: "We're shocked and saddened to hear of the sad loss, especially at this time of year.
"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Strummer's family have asked that instead of floral tributes, money is paid to the Mandela SOS fundraising concert, which is aimed at raising awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
The artist had been due to take part in the show on February 2, from Mandela's former prison on Robben Island.
Trades union leaders were among those who paid tribute to the music icon.
Geoff Martin, London convenor for the Unison union praised the way he supported trade union struggles at home and abroad.
"Joe was prepared to fight for workers rights from Nicaragua to Newcastle. It's a fitting tribute to him that one of his last UK shows was a firefighters benefit that he financed out of his own pocket," said Martin told PA.
"I was lucky enough to know Joe and he was a fantastic human being. He changed the course of many peoples lives including mine. The left and the anti-racist cause will miss him badly."
He said "Left Field" at next year's Glastonbury Festival, a part of the western England pop festival site dedicated to promoting left-wing causes, will be dedicated to his memory.
Strummer knew cost of life December 25 2002
Clash singer Joe Strummer.
Joe Strummer was well regarded in the music industry and his death came as a shock to most of his friends and fans.
Unlike the Sex Pistols, who helped the Clash kick-start the punk movement in the late 1970s and had no problems cashing in on it in subsequent years, Joe Strummer's band refused to re-form without all of its members.
And the fact that drummer Topper Headon, who had played with the band since 1977, continued to be ravaged by drugs put that idea to rest.
There will never be a Clash reformation now because singer Joe Strummer died this week, aged 50, from a suspected heart attack.
Strummer was expected to outlive all of his band members, particularly Headon and guitarist Mick Jones.
When he toured here with his new band, the Mescaleros, in 2000, he looked fit and healthy, winning plenty of new fans at the Big Day Out and mesmerising old ones with a greatest hits show at the Corner Hotel.
In the crowd were the members of local punk band the Living End, whose music is inspired by the Clash.
Bassist Scott Owen said yesterday that Strummer was "the most believable man in rock".
"He always gave his all, with complete and utter conviction. He was one of the first people to encourage people to stand up for their rights in three-chord punk rock, and that was the only way people would believe such a political agenda because it was delivered in a way people would understand. It's exactly what we try to do," said Owen.
In a revealing interview with The Age in 2000, Strummer talked about how much the Clash experience had taken out of him, which suggested he was not as fit as he looked.
"After a trip like the Clash, you've got to unscramble your mind a bit, because there's no way you come out of that normal. No way. I should be studied by modern science."
After briefly taking over from Shane MacGowan as lead singer of the Pogues, Strummer returned three years ago with the Mescaleros, which incorporated world and dance music into his rock equation. He was one of the few old punks still making relevant and exciting music.
Backstage at the Auckland Big Day Out, Strummer invited this reporter into his caravan for a bottle of red wine with his wife, Luce, and two children.
On his nights off, Strummer will be remembered for hold-ing court in his hotel's bar, captivating people with his vibrant wit.
He said he was thriving on touring with a new band again, and didn't expect any punk royalty favours. "If you're inside the bubble, you lose all sense of its real place in the world, as one of many other interesting things. And that's why I feel so relaxed in my mind now, because I can see where it is, what I'm doing in true relation to everything else.
"There's an interesting film, or that's not a bad record, I like to feel the reality of that. When you're young, everything's over-distorted."
His last work was the song 48864, a collaboration with U2's Bono and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics in honour of Nelson Mandela to be played at the AIDS concert at Mandela's former prison on February 2.
Bono said in a statement that: "The Clash . . . wrote the rule book for U2."
HIGHLAND CALLING FOR STRUMMER Billy Sloan PUNK legend Joe Strummer dreamed of settling in a beautiful cottage in the Scottish countryside.
The former lead singer of The Clash - who died of a heart attack last Sunday aged 50 - had planned to buy a holiday hideaway near John O'Groats, Caithness.
According to close friend Scott Shields, he wanted to use the house to throw parties for his Scots relatives.
Scott said: "Joe has a cousin here he used to visit regularly. He loved coming to Scotland.
"He wanted a place where the family could get together for a knees-up."
Glasgow-born Scott, 33, played bass guitar in The Mescaleros - the band Joe formed after The Clash split - and produced their hit album Global A Go Go. Two weeks ago, the pair completed songs for a new CD at the famous Rockfield Studios in Wales.
He toured the world with Joe but one show stands out for him - Paris in 1999.
Scott said: "More than 20 minutes after we finished the crowd were still chanting for us to come back on.
"We'd already played three encores. Joe walked out in his bare feet and pleaded, `People, you're gonna have to go home… we're shattered'."
Scott heard of Joe's death during a 60th birthday party for his dad Robert in Glasgow.
He had last spoken to his friend the previous week.
Scott said: "My dad is ill and Joe phoned to ask how he was. He said, `Don't worry, we can put the album off for a month so you can care for your dad'.
"That was so typical of him. Joe was such a nice man and an inspirational character.
"I feel privileged to call myself Joe Strummer's friend."
Aural Intercourse: The legacy of Joe Strummer
By Mike Prevatt
God's timing couldn't have been any better. According to MTV, upon hearing the announcement last November that his former band, the Clash, was going to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, singer and guitarist Joe Strummer pondered what was once imponderable: a fully reunited Clash, playing music once again.
"I think we should play [at the hall of fame ceremony]," Strummer said. "It would be shitty and snotty not to." This, from a guy renowned for turning down loads of cash from promoters seeking out a Clash reunion tour. Even Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten couldn't uphold that sort of punk rock idealism.
The only thing more anticipated among post-punk fans than a Police reunion--looking very likely thanks to that band's own Hall of Fame induction, in March--would be a Clash reunion. But it might've been too good to be true. On Dec. 22, Strummer died of cardiac arrest in his England home. He was 50.
News of Strummer's sudden death hit as hard as the passing of Joey Ramone, who, like Strummer, was one of punk rock's forefathers. It forced musicians, writers and fans alike to take stock of the artist's career. Forceful onstage presence. Top-of-his-class songwriter. Genius at recognizing and encouraging the rhythmic potential in rock music. Pillar of credibility (despite approving the use of "London Calling" in a Jaguar commercial). Fiercely passionate about social and political concerns. One of modern rock's most influential players.
Much has been said about Strummer's rise in popular music, his contributions to punk rock and his voice of protest, and he deserves every last accolade and homage. What isn't discussed enough is how influential he and the Clash were to so many acts, and the range of artists whose work can clearly be traced back to the band. The Clash was the first group to expand the musical scope of punk, and as a result of its multi-genre output, it motivated legions of artists artistically and socially. Here's a list of significant bands that would not exist as they do today without the inspiration of Joe Strummer:
¥ U2: Perhaps no body of work bears the broad stamp of the Clash more than that of Irish band U2. From the post-punk charge of its early work, to the social consciousness that highlighted albums such as War and The Unforgettable Fire, to its later-era pop sensibility and rhythmic experimentation, U2 has much in common with Strummer and company--and its four members know it. On the day of Strummer's passing, Bono posted, on his band's website, that the Clash "wrote the rulebook for U2." Clash karaoke moment: "Two Hearts Beat as One." (Also see: Midnight Oil, Manic Street Preachers, Pearl Jam.)
¥ No Doubt: The Orange County-based band has seemingly strayed far from punk rock, but it has succeeded by blending a variety of musical genres together, which is to say it has done so on its own artistic terms. Furthermore, its first two albums, as well as its most recent, Rock Steady, are unabashed celebrations of reggae, ska and dub--three pop subgenres introduced to many rock fans in the '80s through the Clash. No Doubt is doing the same thing for its top 40 contingency. Clash karaoke moment: "Rock Steady." (Also see: 311, Madness, General Public.)
¥ The Beastie Boys: The pioneering trio from New York peppered its hip hop with punk (Some Old Bullshit) and other worldly styles (everything after Check Your Head), while questioning the modus operandi of the world's figureheads and leaders--not so much in its music, but in its attitude and participation in several benefit concerts. In the process, the Beasties didn't sound so much like the Clash as they invoked its spirit. Very few modern artists have been able to pull off cohesive, adventurous multi-genre albums like the Clash's London Calling and Sandinista!, but the Beasties have done so with each of their major studio releases. Clash karaoke moment: "Root Down." (Also see: Talking Heads, Primal Scream.)
¥ Rancid: This one's an easy one, because a frequent criticism of this punk act is how much it sounds like the Clash. It might just be that, more than anything, people hear Strummer's rasp in the affected growl of singer Tim Armstrong. That said, Rancid's ska-leanings, poetic disenfranchisement and melodic ardor are unquestionably rooted in the Clash's oeuvre--especially its debut album. Clash karaoke moment: "Time Bomb" and "Radio Havana." (Also see: Bad Religion, International Noise Conspiracy, Hot Water Music.)
¥ Rage Against the Machine: Most people trace the influences of now-defunct Rage to Public Enemy (evidenced in singer Zack de la Rocha) and Led Zeppelin (coming through Tom Morello's Jimmy Page-esque riffage), but if you find the happy medium between the two musicians, it's the Clash--polemics and punk, updated with some hardcore and hip hop. Clash karaoke moment: "Guerilla Radio." (Also see: Bad Brains.)
¥ At the Drive-In: This also disbanded act had much to owe to the Clash, with its punk-inspired anthemry, lyrical nihilism and overall sense of righteousness. Like the Clash, it stands as a band that didn't sell millions, but will somehow inspire millions of bands. Clash karaoke moment: "One Armed Scissor." (Also see: Cooper Temple Clause, the Replacements.)
Billy Bragg: The Joe I knew
Joe Strummer was a massive influence on Billy Bragg
By Billy Bragg Musician and songwriter
The Clash were the greatest rebel rock band of all time. Their commitment to making political pop culture was the defining mark of the British punk movement.
They were also a self-mythologising, style-obsessed mass of contradictions.
That's why they were called The Clash.
They wanted desperately to be rock stars but they also wanted to make a difference.
Billy Bragg: Politically inspired singer-songwriter While Paul Simon flashed his glorious cheekbones and Mick Jones threw guitar hero shapes, no-one struggled more manfully with the gap between the myth and the reality of being a spokesman for your generation than Joe Strummer.
All musicians start out with ideals but hanging on to them in the face of media scrutiny takes real integrity.
Tougher still is to live up to the ideals of your dedicated fans.
Joe opened the back door of the theatre and let us in, he sneaked us back to the hotel for a beer, he too believed in the righteous power of rock'n'roll.
And if he didn't change the world he changed our perception of it. He crossed the dynamism of punk with Johnny Too Bad and started that punky-reggae party.
He drew us, thousands strong, onto the streets of London in support of Rock Against Racism.
He sent us into the garage to crank up our electric guitars. He made me cut my hair.
The ideals that still motivate me as an artist come not from punk, not even from the Clash, but from Joe Strummer.
The Clash were a huge success in the US
The first wave of punk bands had a rather ambivalent attitude to the politics of late 70s Britain. The Sex Pistols, The Damned, the Stranglers, none of them, not even the Jam, came close to the radicalism that informed everything the Clash did and said.
The US punk scene was even less committed. The Ramones, Talking Heads, Heartbreakers and Blondie all were devoid of politics.
Were it not for the Clash, punk would have been just a sneer, a safety pin and a pair of bondage trousers.
Instead, the incendiary lyrics of the Clash inspired 1,000 more bands on both sides of the Atlantic to spring up and challenge their elders and the man that we all looked to was Joe Strummer.
He was the White Man in Hammersmith Palais who influenced the Two Tone Movement. He kept it real and inspired the Manic Street Preachers.
And he never lost our respect. His recent albums with the Mescaleros found him on inspiring form once again, mixing and matching styles and rhythms in celebration of multi-culturalism.
At his final gig, in November in London, Mick Jones got up with him and together they played a few old Clash tunes.
It was a benefit concert for the firefighters union.
One of the hardest things to do in rock'n'roll is walk it like you talk it.
Joe Strummer epitomised that ideal and I will miss him greatly.
JOE STRUMMER R.I.P. BY DAVID PEISNER 01/02/2003 Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendly
Joe Strummer, R.I.P. It's rarely much of a surprise when rock 'n' rollers die before their time, but the death of former Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer came as a profound shock to the music world. Strummer had certainly lived hard and fast for a few years during the Clash's late-'70s heyday, but he had slowed down a long time ago and was seemingly in good health when he succumbed to sudden heart attack on December 23 at the age of 50. In fact, over the past four years, Strummer had been increasingly active and enjoying something of a creative renaissance.
Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, and spent his early years living in Mexico City, Cypress, and Cairo before settling permanently in England. He picked up the name "Joe Strummer" busking in the London subway as a teen, and after brief and moderate success fronting a pub-rock band known as the 101`ers, Strummer teamed up with fellow guitarist/singer Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Terry Chimes to form the Clash in 1976. Chimes was soon replaced by Nicky "Topper" Headon, cementing the band's classic lineup.
Across six albums, including their riotous 1977 self-titled debut and their groundbreaking and ambitious 1979 double-album, London Calling, the Clash helped change the face of popular music. They gave punk rock a conscience, and in turn, helped transform it from a bizarre, fringe movement into global musical phenomenon, influencing everyone from No Doubt and Rage Against the Machine to Sting and the Indigo Girls, along the way. Their 1984 album, Combat Rock, produced their biggest hit, "Rock the Casbah," but their commercial success was followed by a bitter break-up. Jones and Headon were dismissed from the band and Strummer soldiered on for one more unremarkable album, before shuttering the Clash for good in 1986.
After the band's dissolution and the subsequent lukewarm reception for a pair of solo efforts in the late-'80s, Strummer all but disappeared for most of the '90s, popping up occasionally to pen the odd song for a friend, play a one-off gig for charity, or to work with influential Irish folk-punk oddballs, the Pogues. Then, in late 1999, he re-emerged with a new backing band, the Mescaleros and a new album, Rock Art & the X-Ray Style. But rather than grasp sadly at his formerly punk glories, Strummer stretched out with his new band, displaying a serious interest in offbeat pop, folk, reggae, and world music that his previous work had only hinted at. A second solo album, Global A Go-Go, followed in 2001, pushing Strummer further in these eclectic directions.
Last month, the Clash was selected for induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and there was much speculation that the group would reform briefly to play at the induction ceremony on March 10 of 2003. In point of fact, at a November 15 show with the Mescaleros in London, Mick Jones joined Strummer on stage for the first time in nearly two decades, blazing through a handful of Clash tunes.
In the days leading up to his death, Strummer had been at work on a new album with the Mescaleros and had also co-written a song called "48864" with U2 frontman Bono and former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, which honored Nelson Mandela.
In this interview, conducted late in 2001, Strummer was kind and good-humored, looking back without anger at his the long shadow that his days with the Clash had cast, not just on the rest of his career, but on his whole life.
David Peisner: It's been about 15 years since the Clash split up. Can you look back now and pinpoint where it started to fall apart?
Joe Strummer: Well, Combat Rock were very difficult sessions. There was a bit of friction. When friction builds up people stop communicating - or maybe that's the cause of friction - but whatever it is, the result is people don't tell each other what they think anymore. Then you're really in bad water. And we couldn't get out of it. I think that kind of finished us off.
DP: Ironically, Combat Rock was your most successful album in America. Was that kind of coming at an odd time in that, as you said, the band itself was starting to splinter?
JS: Yeah. Sometimes, when I look back, I think that when you're struggling to get somewhere, it holds you together. But when we kind of got a Top 5 hit with "Rock the Casbah," it kind of blew us apart because we figured we must have reached the top of the mountain. And then the struggle wasn't keeping us together anymore. The unity of the struggle. Plus, we'd done too much in too short a time. And you look back and think, "Aw, hell it wouldn't have hurt to take a few years off." I'm sure we could have afforded it. But when you're hot, you're hot. It was all sort of go, go, go. I often think that would have saved Kurt Cobain as well.
DP: Did it simply not occur to anyone at the time to take time off? Was there just too much going on?
JS: Yeah. You just couldn't think properly. You couldn't step back long enough to even think that simple thought. Everything was always in your face so you could never get any perspective on what you were doing. You were kind of being driven. I don't know who was driving, but it was too much.
DP: But you still made one more album, Cut the Crap, before calling it quits. Why?
JS: Well, Bernard Rhodes and Kosmo Vinyl, who were the management team, they started directing things behind the scenes. It was at their instigation that we fire [drummer] Topper [Headon] just because he'd become a junkie. Which, in hindsight, you think, "So fucking what?" We could have hung with the dude. But I guess, at the time, no one knew anything about heroin. And then me being burned out, I allowed Bernie and Kosmo to tilt my hand and fire [guitarist/vocalist] Mick Jones, because it wasn't any fun anymore to be around him. So we fired him and Bernard and Kosmo hired these other guys. So, really, I became a plaything in their hands. And I blame myself. I should have realized what was going on. I was burned-out though. I was absolutely exhausted. That's my only excuse.
DP: So do you think that album ended up being a reflection of all that?
JS: Yeah, and also Bernard Rhodes wanted to really take over, big-time. He wanted to be the producer even. And I let that happen. Everything was wrong. There was no vibe, it was all Bernard's ego. Everything was wrong.
DP: In retrospect, do you wish you'd just called it quits after Combat Rock?
JS: Yeah, definitely. But then again, you can't have it the way you want it really. You've got to accept the way it was. And that's what happened. But yeah, that would have been a sweeter way to end.
DP: After the Clash, you did a soundtrack and a solo album, then pretty much retired from making music for about 10 years. What pushed you out of music?
JS: I think this is when I decided to quit: just after Earthquake Weather came out, we were playing away across the States and really sweating it out every night. You know how exhausting it is on tour anyway, and we were really kind of giving it everything. Then, when we hit New York City, a guy came into the dressing room after the show - we were sitting there, gasping for breath - and he said, "Hey Joe, I'm sorry but I've got to tell you that I went to Tower Records in Greenwich Village to buy the record and they didn't have a copy."
DP: It must have felt like a far cry from the days of London Calling, when it was such an event when you guys put out albums and came to town.
JS: Yeah, absolutely. (laughs) It was the complete opposite. But you've got to look at clouds from both sides now, as Judy Collins said. But I just realized that if I couldn't even get my record into Tower Records in Greenwich Village the very night that the tour hit New York - never mind Poughkeepsie or Oswego - I thought, "Well, you better retire yourself boy!" That's what I said to myself. And also, my parents died and my wife gave birth to children. Suddenly everything had shifted from being a care-free rock 'n' roller. Suddenly you're holding a lot of things on your shoulders and you've got to ride with it.
DP: So what did it feel like to come back after taking a decade off?
JS: It was kind of like being new. It just felt - no spotlight on you, nobody wanted to know you - you're kind of free to operate. In the shade at the edge of the picture you can maneuver very well.
DP: Did you have any expectations of your return, as far as re-establishing yourself as a mainstream artist?
JS: Well, not really. Because I kept that experience of Earthquake Weather as a template of how hard it is in the world when you've not got your hit group with you or the crest of the youth wave you were riding has crashed on the shore. It's sink or swim time, so I knew that it was going to be tough. I just wanted to get to the point where the label, Hellcat, was willing to make another record. That we wouldn't be thrown on the tit straightaway. We'd get another crack at it. Which we did.
DP: There's such a wide range of musical ideas and styles on your last two albums. Were you worried that it was going to be tough to synthesize all those different ideas into something coherent?
JS: No. Because, we're too stupid to realize we have to be coherent. That's our saving grace really, because, you do what you feel and you hope it works. I couldn't talk it up more than that. I don't think it's really good approaching something with a grand design, 'cause then you can't let things happen. You've got to let things happen somehow, to get things really natural and grooving.
DP: How does recording with your band now, the Mescaleros, compare to the way you used to work with the Clash?
JS: It's very similar to Clash sessions, because the Mescaleros like to work with the vibe, like the Clash did. People chill out, relax, get in the mood. We keep it free and easy and just enjoy the music. And both the Clash and the Mescaleros were really long-distance session rats, as I call it. A session might go 18 hours and you kind of get somewhere in that time. There's time for people to try things; to give up, to start again, to experiment. It's kind of like being in a spaceship sometimes. Especially during the night. I love working during the night when no telephones ring, because everybody else is asleep. So that's the feeling you get, like you've cut the moorings and drifted off from the world. You can really intensely concentrate.
DP: Are you happy with the way Global A Go-Go came out?
JS: Yeah. I'm really happy. Y'know, once I met Paul Simon, accidentally, in England. He was staying at some guy's house that I dropped in on. And we got to talking and I was talking to him about [Simon's album] Graceland, and he looked at me and said, "One day you're going to put it all together, everything you've ever done and you're going to make a record and it's going to come out great. Just concentrate on that. Try and make that record." That was about seven years ago he said that. I've kept that in my mind and when I was listening back to what we'd done this time, I thought, "We've finally made that record in my mind that I hadn't spoken to anybody about." I'm gonna send him a copy.
Topper's heartfelt Strummer tribute
Topper Headon pays tribute to Strummer Two weeks on from the untimely death of Clash legend Joe Strummer, band mate Topper Headon has added his own very personal tribute to his departed friend.
Ex-Clash drummer Headon found out the tragic news soon after playing a gig at his local pub, The Dublin Man ‘O War, in Dover, Kent.
Clash guitarist Mick Jones, who recently reunited with Strummer for a firefighters' benefit gig in Acton, west London, contacted Headon to break the news that Strummer had died of a heart attack, aged 50.
Saying he would have been too upset to play had he heard the news before the pub gig, Headon told the Dover Mercury newspaper: “It's taken Joe's death to make me realise just how big The Clash were.
“We were a political band and Joe was the one who wrote the lyrics.
- We can at least be optimistic in (that) it forces the renegades and the underground to get it together. The worse s--t gets, the more interesting the underground becomes. So I`m always quite hopeful. I believe in human beings. Human beings won`t let this happen. We won`t all end up robots working for McGiant Corp or whatever. It can`t happen.`
(About the continuing globalization of the world:) 
I think we`re going to have to forget about the radio and just go back to word of mouth. (brainyquote.com)
When you blame yourself, you learn from it. If you blame someone else, you don`t learn nothing, cause hey, it`s not your fault, it`s his fault, over there. (brainyquote.com)
I have a weird life because I live on songwriting royalties, which are a strange income. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn`t. (brainyquote.com)
I began thinking there should be an American phrase book, `cause I`ve got an Italian phrase book, and an Arabic one... now a British one. I think it`d be pretty good to have an American phrase book. (brainyquote.com)
What I like about playing America is you can be pretty sure you`re not going to get hit with a full can of beer when you`re singing and I really enjoy that! (brainyquote.com)
Anyway, it`s good to be sent back to the underground. There`s always a good side to bad things and the good side to this is that at least everyone has to go back down. (brainyquote.com)
Yeah, all those things, responsibility, pressure. It`s a bit stressful. I try and come to terms with it by not thinking about it. (brainyquote.com)
Do not go in there; do not sign with this company, or you`ll end up like me - screwed and out on the street. And I am a living legend, you bastards! (brainyquote.com)
``I`ve got no doubt the fourth dimension exists. But is it just like the world we`re trying to escape from? I need to know if you`re allowed to smoke in there...``
``I`m strange, actually, you know? I`m kind of like one of those people that picks up small and interesting bits of wood and doesn`t want to let go of them. Or, you know, I`m fascinated with the wrapper on a sardine can. A little cuckoo.``
``If I had five million pounds I`d start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn`t make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.``
``There`s nothing but bad news in the newspapers to make us live in a constant state of paranoia. That`s what they want because it keeps people in fear.``
``Whether it`s jazz or punk or anything else, you have to fight against the purists who want to narrow the definition. That`s what kills music because it stifles it to death.``
``People have told me songs I`ve written have changed their life. That`s remarkable. That keeps your faith.``
``I hate it when I go out and I see parents going, `don't do that`, or `stop doing that` when some kid`s just hanging off a staircase or something. There`s too much of this, `don`t do that`. The whole thing baffles me.``
``Everything`s fucked! It`s down to individual people to make life enjoyable. I don`t have anything more to say than that. I think people should avoid the world fucking them up. People are becoming too uptight, treating their children bad, being negative.``
``Well, I kind of got off all that because it all seems to be such a power trip. Political people, to get elected you`ve got to be on a power trip, and you can`t trust anybody on a power trip. I can`t see a way out of this.``
``We`re all going to have to learn to live together and develop a greater tolerance and get rid off whatever our fathers gave us in the way of hatred between nations.``
``The way you get a better world is, you don`t put up with substandard anything.``
`Bands must be contributing to global warming by their buses, equipment trucks and the diesel used to power the stages. Can you imagine how much CO2 the pressing and the distribution of a CD creates? What shall we do about it?``
“Anyway, it`s good to be sent back to the underground. There`s always a good side to bad things and the good side to this is that at least everyone has to go back down.”
Do not go in there; do not sign with this company, or you`ll end up like me - screwed and out on the street. And I am a living legend, you bastards!
I have a weird life because I live on songwriting royalties, which are a strange income. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn`t.
What I like about playing America is you can be pretty sure you`re not going to get hit with a full can of beer when you`re singing and I really enjoy that!
With The Simpsons you can go back to work with a keen heart.
The Clash were one of those rare bands who were greater than the sum of their parts, any of their parts were awesome... ...they had no peers. Besides the center of the Clash's hurricane [Topper Headon] stood one of the greatest hearts and deepest souls of 20th century music. At the center of The Clash stood Joe Strummer. When Joe Strummer played, he played as if the world could be changed by a 3-minute song. And he was right! He was a brilliant lyricist with anger and wit, always stood up for the underdog, and his idealism and conviction instilled in me the courage to pick up a guitar, and the courage to try to make a difference with it. Joe Strummer was my greatest inspiration and my favourite singer of all time and my hero. I am grateful to have the tremendous legacy of music of The Clash left behind, 'cause through it Joe Strummer and The Clash will continue to inspire and educate well into the future. In fact, The Clash aren't really gone at all, because whenever a band cares more about its fans than its bank account, the spirit of The Clash is there; whenever a band plays it at every single persons soul in the room as its stake, the spirit of The Clash is there; and whenever a stadium band or a little garage band has the guts to put their beliefs on the line to make a difference, the spirit of The Clash is there. During their hayday they were known as 'the only band that matters', and 25 years later that still seems just about right to me. ~ (excerpts of) Tom Morello's introduction speech for The Clash at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame ceremony on April 10th, 2003 (Please accept my excuse for probable mistakes, this was transcribed by ear from an internet video, as over here in Germany the HOF event was not shown on TV. Corrections are appreciated and welcome!)
Friendship, brotherhood, family, strength in numbers, protecting each other, fighting the good fight together, against racism against fascism, fighting for liberation - no more than that - embodying liberation itself. Joe Strummer is gone. Long Live The Clash. ~ Steven van Zandt aka Little Steven aka Miami Steve - Jan.5th 2003, in his 'Tribute to Joe Strummer & The Clash' at the weekly radio show www.littlestevensundergroundgarage.com (check Archived Shows for 5.1.2003 - EPISODE: JOHNNY B. COOL - to listen)
I think I have known, at least a little, every major rock musician of the last thirty years. Since Joe died I keep thinking that of all of them, he was the closest off stage to what you heard on the records, what you got from the songs. If you knew his music, you knew Joe Strummer. And man, weren't we lucky? Wasn't he the greatest guy to know?I ~ Bill Flanagan, VH-1.com (whole article: Joe Strummer - Death and Glory)
The thing about Strummer was, he walked it like he talked it. He didn't cop out. He didn't show one face to the public and have a different face in himself. It was The Clash that struck the strong political stance that really inspired a lot of people, and within The Clash he was the political engine of the band. ~ Billy Bragg (Full article from Jan. 2nd, 2003 - 'The Joe I knew' at www.news.bbc.co.uk)
Numb, gutted & shocked - 3 words that sum up how I feel. Passionate, principled, genius - 3 words that sum up Joe Strummer. ~ Martin Scorcese, movie director
He played as if the world could be changed by a three-minute song, and when I saw the Clash play, my world was changed forever. ~ Tom Morello, Audioslave
For my generation, the loss of the Clash frontman is as bad as Lennon or Marley. It's enough to make you go out and get a tattoo. To meet Joe was to meet a man with a teenager's passion and an old blues singer's pain. He had to carry the knowledge that he had created truly great music at a great time and then confined it to history. 'There's no point going forward if you can't maintain your respect', he once told me. Yet the Clash songs never sounded dated, nor did anyone's enthusiasm for them. Only the band avoided revisiting days gone by. ~ James Brown, The Independent UK (Full article at www.independent.co.uk/story.jpd?story=364215)
I saw Joe Strummer and his new band, the Mescaleros, at the 9:30 club last year, and it was the best musical performance I had seen in many a moon. And I say that without any phony Clash mania clouding my thinking. Strummer unleashed a solid fury of deep-seeded humanity for almost two hours before calling it the night. Having never seen the man perform live before, I was amazed by his tenacity and his ability to make wildly different musical forms his own. They really drove the point home with Strummer's newest material (Global A-Go Go) which is some of the best music he has ever written as far as I'm concerned. It would have been easy for him to bang out all the old favorites, but he never let the past ever be more than a stepping-stone toward the future. After 10 years of virtual non-existence, he was back with a vengeance with a band worthy of him and he played, as I imagined he always did, as if his life depended on it. Strummer was my John Lennon who wore his heart on his sleeve proudly without any cheap sentimentality or corporate hype. Joe Strummer, with The Clash and The Mescaleros, played countless benefit gigs for worthy causes, charged ridiculously low prices for his recordings and shows and he never lost his wide-eyed enthusiasm for the world at large. He was not your typical rock and roll star bloated with the excesses of monetary success. He was Martin Luther King with a guitar fighting the good fight with his last gig being a benefit concert for the families of striking firefighters in England. He was one the greats. ~ Bopst, Radio host at Richmond.com (message board at Big Audio Dynamite WebSite)
He was the strongest of men, a real inspirational leader, a guy who never seemed to tire of listening to people and talking to them, learning and teaching all the time. He had true compassion for everyone he met. He was the nicest and also the most fun loving person I've known. ~ Bob Gruen, Rock'n'Roll photographer (he set up a page for Joe at www.bobgruen.com)
'When the NME interviewed him in 1989, he said that it was only right that young firebrands such as the Stone Roses should be afforded all the headlines and that he was happy to make a low-key appearance on page 28 of their paper. He was a lovely bloke, a man of the people, still angry at the world's injustices, but gentle, humble and heroic to the last. ~ Andrew Perry, Telegraph rock critic - full article at www.telegraph.co.uk (if the link does not work, go to www.telegraph.co.uk and search for 'Strummer')
He wrote intelligent lyrics, the Clash played real instruments and they had something brutally honest and exciting to say. Their records sounded brilliant. Strummer could, of course, have spent the past decade traipsing round the world's stadiums with a reformed Clash making piles of cash. Instead, he chose to perform to fresh audiences in cramped clubs with his new group, the Mescaleros. That's a testament to his devotion to his music. So this Christmas, rock the casbah. ~ The Independent, UK ('Culture Clash' article)
Joe is gone physically but spiritually he is as close as the 'play' button on your CD player, the needle on your turntable or the happy memories you have of him. ~ Roger, fan from Michigan USA
I can't believe it. Joe was as huge an inspiration to me now as he was in 1977. He combined cool with an uncompromising stance, infused reggae into punk and taught a whole generation of us more about politics than any number of teachers or politicians. I desperately wish news of his death was untrue. Joe - you were the best. ~ Iggy Pop
Joe Strummer was a man who wasn't afraid to voice his beliefs. A passionate, vocal, sincere olde punk. The Clash produced a contrast to the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, and educated an audience about the realities of the state. Music has lost one of its true rebels. ~ Ken Livingston, London Mayor
The world's greatest frontman has gone. If there was ever a man who deserved to live to be an elder statesman it was Joe. Just thank God he lived and gave us some of the greatest music ever recorded. ~ Djetson
"He was a generous, funny, intelligent and a great person who will be sorely missed. ~ Pete Shelley, The Buzzcocks
Greatness is not measured by sales, but by guts and commitment. The Clash was commited. Thanks Joe. ~ Hardgroove, Fine Arts Militia (note at www.aversation.com message board - look for topics: RIP JOE and The Clash (LIVE!!!))
God Bless him. He brought me many good times, happy moments and adrenalin rushes. London Calling will be the lasting testament to his muse and through that he and the rest of the band shall achieve immortality. One of the finest albums of the Twentieth Century and one of the most influential musicians of his generation. ~ John Peel, radio host
Strummer is gone. But the effect he and the rest of the band had on those who heard and saw them will never be forgotten. After years in the musical shadows he, Mick and Paul really did give us a riot, a riot of our own. Goodbye, Joe. ~ Chris Nelson, Calgary Sun, Canada
Yet again it's one of the good guys who's died young. ~ Glen Matlock, Sex Pistols
The Clash were a major influence on my own music, they were the best rock n roll band. Thanks Joe!! ~ Bruce Springsteen
Joe Strummer - and his partners Mick Jones and Paul Simonon - did more than entertain us. They changed lives. They certainly changed mine. Because they made me believe that, with passion and commitment and a bit of fire in your belly, you could be exactly the person you wanted to be. I think they really made some of the most exciting vital rock music ever made. And certainly made it impossible for me to ever listen to any rock music again. ~ Tony Parsons, ex-Rock Journalist (NME UK), now novellist (read the very touching article Sad to see you go, Joe in full at www.mirror.co.uk/columnists/tonyparsons. If not accessable straight away please search Parsons previous columns for Dec. 30th, 2002)
I believed we had to get inside the pop culture. He believed you should always stay outside and hurl things at it. We had endless arguments about it. As we all got older I realized what a nice person he was. He was a very important musician. The Clash will be endlessly influential. ~ Sir Bob Geldof
Strummer quit the band [101ers] to start something new with guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon: The Clash. Nothing was ever the same again in England after that. ~ Barry Egan, Irish Independent Sun. Dec.29, 2003 (full article at homepage.eircom.net/~hoops/strummer.htm)
Yet they always did it their way. For all their supposed posturing (they refused to appear on Top Of The Pops in those pre-video times), they virtually gave their music away: London Calling sold for four quid, Sandinista! for a mere six. - They could have been the biggest band in the world, but settled for being the best loved, as their always incendiary and celebratory live shows proved. ~ Steve Jelbert - The Independent, UK
He really is a man of the people, he thrives on chaos and madness, he hates organized, civilized and normality - he really is the ultimate living punk rocker. Music is his delivery van and he will be driving till he croaks. I saw every side of him during 2 years, 100 gigs, 100's of bus journeys/rehearsals/aftershows/bars/planes and quiet one on ones. I shared all that time with the same person. Always. There is no middle ground in Strummerville. Just the one man - just the one face (99% of the time) - the Ace face. It was a pleasure Sir, a pleasure and a privilage. Whatever happens now, I will always be the geezer who made a Gallager giggle. Rock the Casbah! ~ from Febr. 2002 - Smiley, "Strummer's drummer" for 2 years (fetched from www.traxmarx.com)
If they had been around 10 years earlier, they would have given the Beatles, the Kinks and the Stones a run for their money. If they had arrived 10 years later, they might have resolved their internal conflicts and stayed the course.' ~ The Edge, U2 guitarist, when saluting The Clash at their induction to the Rock'n'Roll Hall of fame (March 10th, 2003).
It was that humanity that connected The Clash to their listeners. As they always said, yes, they were a political band, but it was 'personal politics', always in small letters, always about the person. They cared. ~ James Mann, Ink 19 - December 2002 (full article at www.ink19.com/issues/december2002/streaks/joeStrummer19522002.htm)
People 'looked' at other punk bands but they 'listened' to the Clash. ~ Sara, a fan (from her condolence note at www.strummernews.com)
The Clash were unique because, here they are, breaking up at the peak of their popularity and having plenty of offers to come back, and not doing it. While other bands always come back for the money, they had a belief in what they were doing, and even though they could have used it, they never really cared about the money. ~ Johnny Ramone, The Ramones
The most profound voice of any musician I have ever heard, Joe took his message to the world and the world listened. He managed to influence more than one generation with his innovative and determined manner and I am not alone in repeatedly turning to his thoughts and lyrics when searching for inspiration. ~ Bono Vox, U2
If any rock band ever insisted on doing it their way, the Clash takes first-place honors, despite the price their nonconformity exacted. Nonetheless (or as a result), they became enormously popular, even in America, where their Top 20 chart success stands as redemptive proof of an indomitable spirit. The Clash received no small amount of criticism over the years: damned for their integrity (or lack thereof); assailed for absorbing black musical styles; attacked for injecting politics into their songs; blamed for changing; blamed for not changing; ridiculed for having ideals; branded sell-outs, hypocrites, rockists, opportunists and worse. Through it all, the Clash consistently proved equal to the task of confounding everyone that ever followed or dealt with them, offering contradictory and inconsistent statements in classic Bob Dylan obfuscatory oratory and generally failing to act in their own self-interest. The original Clash never made an album that isn't worth owning. ~ Clash bio at www.TrouserPress.com
The Clash were just about the most important band to ever walk the planet." ~ Pat Gilbert, writer, in the liner notes of 'The Essential Clash' double CD (released March 11th, 2003)
Without songs like 'Armagideon Time' and albums like 'Sandinista' many ignorant punks and skinheads would never have been exposed to dub, reggae and just 'different' music in general. If you don't own any Clash records you're a fool. ~ ChartAttack.com Staff
Joe and the Clash made music that was emotional and political and challenging and experimental and exciting and wonderful. ~ Moby
The Clash were innovative, radical and helped drive a change in music that was ground-breaking. In comparison to some of the music today they sounded like they meant it. I still listen to their music today to remind my self what music made with commitment sounds like. ~ Chrissie Hynde
The Clash were the best group in the world, and they would have been bigger than U2 without a doubt. For a long time, they were who we measured ourselves against. ~ Larry Mullen, U2
Blimey, Joe too. He really was a diamond geezer, and he always really cared. I don't think he ever really changed. We used to do a lot of gigs together back in '76 when he had the 101ers, mostly at the good old Nashville Rooms. He always used to turn up with a dog on a rope and a plentiful supply of cannibles raisins if I remember correctly, and he always played a blinder. Better make my will sharpish... God Bless ya Joe. ~ Paul Gray - Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Damned, UFO, C.I.A., Mischief,...- www.paulgraybass.co.uk (At least one of the 'punk rock circle' has put a personal note onto his website! Paul, old friend, I've known you wouldn't be silent.)
Along with everyone else, we are absolutely gutted by this news. More than just a musical icon, the world has lost a beautiful human being. Simply heartbreaking is this loss. ~ Brian Setzer - even changed the logo at his site for a while, as a tribute to Joe, plus added a wonderful photo of Joe onto the homepage at www.briansetzer.com / www.briansetzer.net
Just heard from Matt Kent that my old pal Joe Strummer has died of a heart-attack at just 50 years old. That heart of his always worked too hard........ he's been making great music lately, I will really miss him. ~ Pete Townshend - www.petetownshend.co.uk (Pete's Diary, Dec.23rd 2002 - 'Christmas Clash') .
Additional tributes I have seen at following bands/companies sites: .
Hellcat Records (Joe's Record Label) - www.hell-cat.com/news Fender - www.fender.com/misc/strummer (screenshot of the page at Fender above) .
Quotes from The Clash about The Clash (all taken from the fantastic Westway to the World DVD, 2001)
Whatever The Clash was, it was to do with Bernie Rhodes and The Clash. That's what I always maintained - for better or for worse. ~ Joe Strummer
There was a point where punk was like going narrower and narrower, you know, painting themselves into a corner. We thought we could just do any kind of music. ~ Mick Jones - about the album London Calling (A milestone in music history I'd like to add.)
We were open about stuff. Mick Jones bringing in the new sound from New York and stuff and Simo with his reggae thing and me with my rhythms and blues thing and Topper with all his soul chocks, and we could just do that. I can only say I'm proud of it... warts and all, like they say. It's a magnificent thing. And I wouldn't change it, even if I could. And that's after some soul searching. Just from the fact it was all thrown in one go. It's outrageous. And then release it like that it's doubly outrageous, it's triply outrageous. ~ Joe Strummer - about the Sandinista! album. (A truly extraordinaire/outstanding and brilliant 3-LP album, I secretly call it Let The Clash take you on a great musical journey... By the way, the band wanted to see this album in the stores for the sale price of 1LP. What a wonderful bunch of close-to-their-people guys they were!)