Firstly is a clip familiar to all those who have watched The Future Is Unwritten. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s a great documentary.This little gem is perhaps the highlight for me. In the video, a journalist asks a perhaps probing question about Topper Headon’s reason for vomiting. What comes next is truly classic. Joe launches into a passionate defense of Topper with a few expletives thrown in for good measure. The first time I seen this I absolutely cried with laughter, his reaction is just fervent. It’s interesting to note though how quickly things change. Only a few years after this Topper would be sacked from The Clash. His sacking would be something that Joe would come to bitterly regret though.
The next video is equally awesome, but tinged with sadness. It’s a much later video, from Global a Go Go era Mescaleros. It too features in a documentary, this time Let’s Rock Again, which was made by Don Letts. It’s not as known as The Future Is Unwritten, but it’s equally as recommended. This time Joe walks around Atlantic City, handing out flyers for the evening’s performance. It’s as down to earth as a celebrity could hope to be, in fact he even hand makes the flyers himself. You have to love that. What’s sad about it though is the reaction of the general public. Bar one or two, they have no idea who is approaching them asking them would they be interested in that night’s show. The idea of that is totally alien to me. If Joe Strummer had ever approached me like that…. well I’m not quite sure what would have happened next. Tears, and hugs I think. All on my behalf of course. And lots of shaking. Most likely a loss of speech too – believe me when I say I’m rarely speechless. It’s sad to think that someone who was the front-man for an internationally successful band has to resort to these measures. Although to be honest, I get the feeling Joe would have relished having to adopt such a grass-roots approach.
Realistically, this will probably be the last post I make on the blog tonight. I hope I’ve gone some ways to explaining adequately enough why I love this man so much. I’ve tried to encompass all eras, not just The Clash. Truth be told, I don’t feel that four blog posts (and various posts on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook etc) does him justice. I guess I feel I’ll always be in debt to him, even though he’s gone. Above all though, I feel truly blessed to have this man’s wisdom in my life. I may never have been a fan whilst he was alive (I was simply too young), but I’m making up for lost time. As I said on Facebook, if I can be half the person he was, I’ll be satisfied. So Joe, I hope you’re someplace beautiful. Once again – happy birthday ❤
So… how has Joe Strummer changed my life. I think it’d be easier to ask how has he not changed it. The funny thing is, I’ve only been a fan for ten months. Though in those ten months, he’s come to mean so much to me. That’s definitely thanks to rather difficult personal circumstances. Although boy, has Joe Strummer helped me through those. It’s a very comforting thing, having this constant in a set of ever-changing circumstances. I guess I have this little vision of myself, armed with my trusty Clash records ready to charge head on and face whatever life has in store next. When I listen to interviews… there’s something very soothing about that voice. I can’t describe it, but it grounds me. Joe epitomized the spirit of never giving up. I guess I just love the idea that I can face whatever may be next, but knowing I’ve got someone to remind me to never give up little more than a press of a play button away.
Another way he’s definitely helped me is my ongoing battle to accept myself. And to be proud to be an individual. Northern Ireland has damn near destroyed itself in the past because some people can’t accept alternate view points here. I guess it’s made me wary of having my own brain at all growing up. Yet thanks to Joe and The Clash, I’m realizing that fear isn’t right. Slowly but surely, they’re teaching me that thinking for myself is going to pay dividends. Better to think for oneself than be “controlled in the body, controlled in the mind”, to paraphrase Complete Control. Or as I like to say, better be a creep than a sheep. Yes sir, I’ve got my own opinions and they matter. Fuck anyone that says otherwise. When you’re 19 and feel lost, hearing someone say that your opinions still matter is practically life affirming. At least, it is for me. Wow, maybe I’m not lacking in self confidence as much as I thought… thanks for that Joe.
Although above all – Joe has taught me to
stand out by all means, just remember to do it with a keen sense of humanitity. Yes, stand up for my rights, what I believe in. Love what I love, and don’t be ashamed. Although always do it with a sense of tolerance. Don’t just abuse others with alternate view points. Not only is that deeply hypocritical, but it also never gets anyone anywhere. I see that all the time here in Northern Ireland. That’s something I think all of us can take away from Joe. His ability to rebel, yet posses a love and faith for humanity is truly inspiring. For a young girl in Northern Ireland, such behavior teaches me more about how to be a good member of the human race than any text book has or shall ever will.
Taking chances, seeing the goodness in people, standing up for what’s right even when it goes against norms. Not doubting myself. Having the guts to question people and hold them to account. Not putting up with crap. Never conform. To sum it up, that’s what The Clash and Joe has taught me. I hope I’m not painting Joe Strummer as a saint. He was far from that. Though he was a good man, he made mistakes just like the rest of us but he never pretended otherwise. Nor did he act like a flashy rockstar. He was a humble man, who always remembered his roots, and never saw himself above others. The audience were his friends if anything. If you asked me to sum up why I admire him so much then I’d simply say two words: he cared. He cared about his music, he cared about his fans, and he cared about the world around him. I often think I’m useless, but the idea that a man of his calibre might just have seen something good in me is all the motivation I need to keep going. And above all else, until his last breath he always had something relevant to say. People like Joe are never irrelevant.
It’s true, it makes that early death all the sadder. A year ago if I wrote this I would have been far more mournful. I get days were I miss him terribly. One reason being, I’ll never see him perform in any shape. Nor will he ever know the impact he’s had on me. Sometimes, I wish that I could have the chance just to say “thank you Joe. It’d be nice to wake up one day, and hear an announcement of new music. It’ll never happen of course, but the beat must go on. I’d like to think Joe would feel the same. Rather than mourn what I can’t do, strive to do what I can do to the best ability that I can. That’s what Joe was about, wasn’t it? What Joe stood for didn’t die when he died, I must remember this. He left behind brilliant music, in all his various guises. He lives on in those records everyday.
Today, I’m actually celebrating. His heart condition could have killed him at any age – we were incredibly lucky to have him for those fifty years. Celebrate those wonderful memories The Clash and Joe have gave and shall continue to give us. Celebrate that we’ve got the lyrics of a wonderful man to guide us through the good and the bad. Yes, fifty is too young but he lived a fuller life than most. In his brief existence, he changed the lives of millions for the better. And he’ll continue to do that, lest we forget. I’m proof his message can continue to inspire, even in the wake of his death. See what I’m getting at? Joe will never die, may we celebrate!
Remember that today marks the birth of someone whose influence is pretty much incalculable. He’s changed the lives of millions. And the world is a sweeter place for his existance, even ten years on. 61 years ago today a legend was born. And I repeat, he will never die. Just by being a fan, it ensures that. His legacy will carry on, and if he inspires you to do something for the greater good of mankind, then you’re shaping his legacy right there. Really I think today should be about thinking about how the world – and we as fans – would be different if one certain little baby called John Mellor never came into being on this day in 1952. I know my life would be worse off if that little baby was never born. So thank God for Joe Strummer.
Joe – I love you. I miss you. But most importantly – I thank you. Happy birthday inspiration ❤
As next week is the great man’s birthday, I’ve decided to make the next two flashback-oriented posts dedicated to him. So – this week we’ve got the moment that made me go back to The Clash. Like many of my other favourite artists, they just sneaked in. The start of this life-changing process took place October 26th, 2012 (you can thank Facebook’s Activity Log feature for that). I briefly flirted with The Clash’s music in the summer of 2012. I had been trying to track down a greatest hits in town but to no avail – the only one I found was missing a track I loved but I honestly can’t remember what it is anymore. Anyway – one night me and my father were watched an excellent documentary presented by Jools Holland called London Calling. Its companion piece: London Songs at The BBC then came on. And suddenly, the familiar chords of London Calling chimed. I was incredibly happy – I already knew the song and I loved it. When I looked up though I was rather surprised. I wasn’t looking at The Clash, rather Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros. It was from May 2000, when he performed on Later with Jools Holland. I already knew Joe, but not The Mescaleros. What struck me the most however was that despite the inevitable physical and vocal changes that age brings, the song – and Joe himself – both retained their passion. Despite Joe being 47, he still performed like he was 27. And that legendary left leg still kept on pumping – I like to think he’s still pumping it right now, wherever he may be actually. Anyhow – there was… something, about him. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just knew there was something about this man that I had to get to know better. When the performance finished, even my Dad remarked he was impressive – and he didn’t care for The Clash at all previously. I came away feeling I hadn’t explored The Clash and Joe Strummer thoroughly enough. Time to re-investigate The Clash….
Evening folks, I watched this great little performance earlier. And White Riot is still ringing around my ears, I always find that to be the case when I listen to it actually. Anyway, it’s a TV broadcast from the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, that took place sometime in 1999. No doubt in support of the Mescaleros debut album. It’s not the full concert, rather an edited down version (and thrown in for good measure are sporadic, short interview clips with Joe himself). Out of the nine songs here, six are Clash songs, the other three being Mescaleros songs. I always love seeing older Joe perform – it’s amazing that he still attacked those Clash classics with the sort of kinetic energy usually found in men twenty years younger than him. I can only imagine what a thrill it would have been to see Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros perform in person. Anyhow, this is another excellent performance, as most of Joe’s performances typically were. I’ve got to say that so far this has been one of my absolute favourite versions of White Riot that I’ve heard, from either The Clash or the Mescalero. The performance has also given me a new found appreciation for X Ray Style too. I’ve always liked that song but it wouldn’t be one of my favourites on Rock Art & The X Ray Style but that looks set to change. And I found it very interesting to see Joe’s crowd interaction here – especially as he deals with ones causing some upset. I’ll not spoil it further but if I thought I couldn’t love the man more this video just disproves that. A man of the people he was indeed. It makes me sad he’s no longer here although quite honestly I feel grateful that there was once a man that walked the earth like Joe Strummer. Just a shame I became a fan ten years too late. I’ll spare you the rather sombre reflections though, enjoy this performance!
Now that Rock Art & The X-Ray Style and The Clash US have arrived, I can finally take a picture of all my Clash gear. At least, what I have up until now. This is absolutely everything I own of theirs. There’s also a few CDs of related bands thrown in for good measure, hence why you’ll be able to spot the three Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros albums along with a Big Audio Dynamite greatest hits. I’ve been a complete Clash nut since about November time of 2012, after beginning investigating them about a year ago. It’d be too long to list every item I have but in short: all their studio albums (including both versions of The Clash), both live albums, the two most essential compilations, The Singles boxset, all official DVDs including The Future Is Unwritten on Bluray and an unofficial DVD. Books wise I have two editions of The Clash (after a mistake in ordering), Redemption Song & Passion Is A Fashion. The black and green book to the left of the two magazines is the Q Book of Punk Legends which is from an old 90s edition of the magazine. The two magazines are the Uncut special and the Joe Strummer 60th birthday NME cover. Beside that are the postcards which are mostly from Strummerville, but the skull one was the first Clash related item I ever got. Believe it or not, this was all easy to find and none of it was dear. Even The Singles boxset was a good price but I don’t know how much longer that will continue to be the case. Most of it came from online but I did get a fair chunk of it in town also, which is quite something considering we only have two record shops.
Of course, completist that I am I’m not done by a long shot. There’s still 101ers – Elgin Avenue Breakdown on CD (I think I might order that this week), and The Future Is Unwritten soundtrack. There’s also Earthquake Weather by Joe Strummer but that’s going to be a lot harder to find. Not to mention that I have a poster due in the post as a suprise gift from a relative. There’s also a few more books, T-shirts and badges that I want but they can wait, Sound System in September being released and all that. To be honest, 101’ers and The Future Unwritten soundtrack aside I’m not looking to buy any other Clash material for the time being so I can save for Sound System. I’m nowhere near finished though!