Joe Strummer: A Guy Named Joe: Rest in Peace / Remembering Mr. Strummer, and “The Only Band That Mattered.”

January 2003

A Guy Named Joe: Rest in Peace.

Moving. The floor was moving. And when I say that, I don’t mean there was a packed dance floor and the seas of people gave the illusion the floor was moving. I mean, the floor was physically moving, bowing up and down. I feared the balcony would collapse, so I braced myself, but never took my eyes off the man on stage and his rocking band of musicians.

To my right – skinheads. Not wearing scowls like normal, but vibing. To my left – a 50 year old man who told me he hadn’t been to a show in ten years. Ten years. Scan the crowd. Punks off to the right. Rastafarians grooving up front. Mods drinking pints and dancing in place. Rudeboys having dance-offs. Normals all over as well. No, the kids will never be, as Jimmy Pursey once imagined, united. But this was damn close. As close as I’ve ever or probably ever will see. The occasion? Simple. Joe Strummer was in town (with his new band, the Mescaleros in tow) for the first time since the 80’s. Everyone who was once or presently part of any scene in the city, it seemed, was out to pay his or her respect. In these trying times, the Clash and Joe in particular always seemed to rise above it all – truly representing the credo they wore in the 80’s – “the only band that matters.”

But now, time has dictated, as it so often does, that everything must change. Now we reflect on what has come before and reassess it, reevaluate it and, goddammit – just listen. Joe is gone. Nothing’s gonna bring him back, and I don’t really give a damn about the circumstances surrounding his passing. There is no need for me to give you a tired history of the Clash or Joe’s early days in the pub rock scene. There are volumes of quality (and not-so-quality) work out there that do that more clearly and more accurately than I would ever be able to do. No need to present a discography. If you are a fan, you know what Joe has produced over the years. Nah, words, as so often is the case, wouldn’t do this passing justice.

The Clash, as you all probably know by now, are due to be inducted into the Rock-n-roll Hall of Fame in 2003. They were set to play a quick set at the induction ceremony, and maybe as a precursor, Mick Jones had been joining Joe onstage in England as of late, their well-known feud seemingly in the past, as Joe being the cool bastard he was has been putting the blame on himself for years now. So maybe, just maybe, the circle was complete – the bands two headmasters playing together for the first time in years signaling to someone somewhere that all was well in the rock-n-roll universe. So maybe Joe’s passing wasn’t all in vain. Maybe now his and his band’s greater message will be heard louder and clearer than before. Maybe.

But that unity vibe at that show, the sheer potpourri of the crowd that night – I’ll never forget it. I don’t think Joe did, either, as he said in print oft times that the Chicago show that I mentioned was one of the best he ever played – said it had a vibe, man. So Joe showed a lot of people the way, he gave them something to believe in, and although he’s gone, the vibe he talked about – the Strummer vibe – that’s forever.

So, in the end, I guess I simply know this – one of the coolest men to ever put on a pair of boots and play rock-n-roll is gone. I think I’m gonna cue up “Death or Glory”, have a drink, and vow to never fuck a nun and later join the church.

By Sean Holland
Remembering Mr. Strummer, and “The Only Band That Mattered.”

I think I was about 12 years old the first time I heard The Clash. It was on one of those MTV rip-off, “Friday Night Videos” program shows. . I’m sure it was “Rock the Casbah”. I liked the song, but that was about it way back then. A few years later, I started listening to punk quite regularly. I started with stuff like Black Flag, Minor Threat, T.S.O.L., GBH, and like many other kids, the music just exploded from that point on. Listening to punk band, after punk band, after punk band. I was hooked.

By the time I “re-discovered” The Clash, I realized I had heard these guys before. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…. These guys are a bit different, a little bit more than the standard bands I was listening to at the time. It had more than just three thrashing chords, and the galloping drums. The Clash were one of those bands who introduced me to other music out there. “London Calling” introduced me to reggae music, and to ska music. The Clash made me open my eyes to everything else that was out there. So, I expanded my horizons and had a lot of music to catch up on. I was a busy man.

A few years ago I started listening to The Clash again. It was kind of like catching up with an old friend. Most of my old cassettes were long gone, so I slowly started recollecting them on CD. Finally, I was listening to Joe Strummer’s solo work. I don’t recall how I got ” Global A Go-Go”, It might have been after watching Black Hawk Down, and hearing “Minstrel Boy”, or maybe Joe was playing on David Letterman, or the Conan O’Brien show. What I do remember was hearing “Johnny Appleseed” and thinking goddamn how good it was. Once again I was hooked. After all those years, Joe Strummer still sang about the truth, still played with that fire, and most important, he was still very down to earth. Joe may have been older, but he was also wiser. Not to mention, he was still a very cool dude! I was glad I had the album. Everything was going along fine, until that awful December morning, when I heard the news…….

I never met Joe Strummer, but I also never felt so awful about the passing of someone I had never met. I was upset, and angry. I felt like we all were cheated. Somebody like Joe Strummer wasn’t meant to die, it simply just wasn’t on the agenda. You’d figure it was meant to be someone else, somebody less important. It just goes to show that the good ones are always the first to go.

I’d like to simply say, “Joe Strummer, Rest In Peace,” but, I think it would be more fitting if I said that “I hope you give ’em hell, up there in heaven, Joe!!”

Bless that man,

Brian Gillespie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.