Tag Archives: JOE STRUMMER

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

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros: Streetcore

Damn, what can I say? When “Streetcore” was released it was an intense day, I mean of course I wanted to hear the album, but also didn’t want to accept the fact that this was it. No more Strummer studio albums. “Steetcore” was the final project from one of my BIGGEST musical influences of all time , people like Joe don’t come around everyday, if ever again.

“Streetcore” contains 10 tracks, 7 of them written by Strummer himself, “All In A Day” was co-written with Danny Sabre, there’s also a Bob Marley cover, “Redemption Song”, and a Bobby Charles tune “Silver & Gold”. It’s a good thing the Mescaleros and the Strummer family decided to release it, because it’s solid material. Makes me wonder if there will be more unreleased recordings in the future. I’m sure there will be, buti’m sure they won’t have the same impact.

The first track “Coma Girl” has first single written all over it. It’s classic Strummer, mixing together different styles of music into his own. Simply put, this track makes you smile, because you realize you’re listening to the last album from an amazing musican.

“Get Down Moses” is the most roots-rock-reggae track on the album. This is the type of stuff Joe/Mescalero fans had come to expect from album to album, lyrically, and musically.

The folk flavored song, “Long Shadow” was originally written for Johnny Cash to cover on his “When The Man Comes Around” album. Johnny decided not to use it. It’s a stripped down ballad using an acoustic guitar and vocals. I wonder how many other songs like this may be laying around on various studio tapes across the world. Lyrics like “Somewhere in my soul, there’s always rock and roll” explain exactly where Joe was coming from. One of two tracks produced by Rick Rubin.

“Arms Aloft” like “Coma Girl” is another uptempo track worthy of a second, or thrid single. “We were arms aloft in Aberdeen!” I’m guessing this song is an example of the direction the band was heading toward before that shitty day back in December 2002 when Joe left us.

In the track “Ramshackle Day Parade” the lyric “Every dog must have his day.” could almost be used as Joe’s lifelong dedication to all the underdogs of the world. About a third of the way through this song, I started to get upset,thinking, “Damn! Why couldn’t They (whomever “They” are) have taken Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, or some other worthless wanker instead of Joe!” That’s when I started thinking about how the good ones are always the first to go, and how this is another goddamned example.

Another stripped down number is Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” the second track produced by Rubin. Okay, i’ll admit, I pretty much shed a tear on this one, and i’m sure plenty of you did as well.

Speaking of “Redemption Song,” and Johnny Cash, here’s a little twist of fate: According to Rick Rubin, on an upcoming Johnny Cash Box Set, there’s a Joe Strummer/Johnny Cash duet of “Redemption Song”. “When we were recording [Cash’s 2002 album] ‘The Man Comes Around,’ Joe was coming every day, because he loved Johnny Cash, and he just happened to be in L.A. on vacation. He actually extended his trip a week longer just to come every day and be around Johnny.” Rubin said.

I don’t know about you, but to have two original artists such as Strummer, & Cash, coming together from two very different musical directions in the twilight of thier lives, to duet on a song written & recorded by a third original artist (Marley) who recorded it shortly before he passed away is almost too much to handle, way too much.

The seventh track, “All In A Day” was co-written by Danny Sabre, and returns to that rockin’ Strummer/Mescaleros sound we all love so damn much. I still can’t get over that “Redemption Song” duet.

“Burnin’ Streets” sounds like Joe is looking back at the early Clash/punk days. Yes, London is burning.

“Midnight Jam” was the last track the Mescaleros recorded before going on Christmas break last year. Strummer’s vocals were taken from Strummer’s old radio shows on BBC. I’m sure all the radio broadcasters out there feel that this track has a little bit extra special meaning.The remaining Mescaleros did a good job putting this one together.

“Silver & Gold” a Bobby Charles number originally called “Before I Grow To Old” back in 1952. It’s a bluesy folk number. The kind of stuff i’d picture Joe doing later on in his career. It’s kind of sad listening to Strummer sing about how he’s “Got to hurry up before he grows too old” but it’s also good motivation to cram as much as we can into our lives, because, none of us know when “They” are gonna take us away!

Thank-you for the music Joe. Rest In Peace.

December 2003

Review by “Barnacle” Brian Gillespie


Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros: Global A Go-Go

The coolest man on the planet is back in action.

Joe and the Pesky Meskys are back with their second release on Hellcat records. Lest there be any illusions on my feelings for Mr. Strummer, the statement above alone should shatter them. Strummer and the Clash are, in my eyes, the most important figures in the history of punk rock. Well, at least in the Top 5. So, when Joe signed with Hellcat a few years ago and released his first album, “Rock, Art and the X-Ray Style,” I was ecstatic. I bought the album and liked it quite a bit. I got pretty much what I expected – an eclectic mix of styles and experiments with world music/beats (Caribbean, African, South American) glued together by that familiar Strummer vocal style.

I was, however, somewhat surprised by the backlash by some of the ‘fans.’ Joe has always pushed the Clash beyond three-chord punk rock into reggae, rockabilly, rap and numerous other musical style, to mixed-reviews, but as always, it’s the people’s vote that matters: They say when “Sandinista” was released, you could walk around in Brooklyn and hear strains of early rap pioneers alongside “The Magnificent Seven” blasting out from the ghettos and street corners. Joe isn’t going to remain stagnant and he isn’t going to release an album like the first Clash LP, so get over it.

That said, “Global A Go-Go” is a fairly accurate title. Global is the scope and also the musical style. The album encompasses the aforementioned different music genres and a wealth of musical instruments, mixes and dubs, as did its predecessor. Starting with the almost folksy “Johnny Appleseed” you can tell Joe and the boys are in top form. “Cool ‘N’ Out’ sounds like it could’ve come off “Sandanista” with it’s dubby overtones and almost techno-ish backbeat, with Joe dropping science over a horn section in the background. The title track rocks out again with a world-ish type beat, complete with the raging bongos. “Bhindi Bhagee” is an example of an African/Caribbean-style rocker. Joe mixes balladry, like on “Mondo Bongo” and experimentation and rockers throughout, closing with a 17:00 version of the old Irish song “The Minstrel Boy” which is a masterpiece. Joe’s vocals are ethereal, far in the background, almost ghostly, fitting the subject matter perfectly, while the tune itself gets a more dubby/techno-ish mix: A song and an album with a vision and a message – many messages. Just what you would expect from ol’ Joe. So it goes with this eclectic album.

Judging by the reviews posted on Hell-cat.com, most fans get what Joe is doing, but you have the occasional mug who posts something along the ridiculous lines of: “ok I really dont like this album cuz its like fucking folk and country and shit but I wouldnt talk shit about the Clash if I had fucking gun to my head the Clash was awesome” (an actual post.) Wow. How eloquent and introspective, considering the Clash loved and utilized both folk and country. Oh well, if the Offspring t-shirt wearing mall-punks don’t like this, than it’s all the more punk in my opinion. Before the release of his first album for Hellcat, Joe said “this aint no kiddie rockabilly” and he’s right. He’s older, more mature and shouldn’t be expected to re-write albums he wrote in his twenties. Tunnel vision is the enemy of good music, he believes. To quote Joe “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.”


September 2001

Review by Sean Holland