37 years ago today….

Thirty-seven years ago today saw the release of what I’d consider to be the best punk single of all time. When I began my initial explorations into The Clash at 18 years of age in 2012, the incomplete live footage of ‘Complete Control’ from Rude Boy was one of the first live Clash videos I saw.and it just floored me. I’d never seen anyone perform like Joe Strummer in that footage and he mesmerized me. Really, that performance coupled with ‘Know Your Rights’ from the US Festival quite simply changed my life. Joe Strummer may have ad-libbed the line “you’re my guitiar hero!” to Mick Jones but songs like this cemented The Clash as my guitar heroes.

Strong personal feelings aside, ‘Complete Control’ really is such an incredible song that’s special in a number of ways. It’s unique in that it’s sung by Strummer yet the vast majority was penned by Jones and it also has the honor of being the first song recorded with a certain Topper Headon at the drums. ‘Complete Control’ was the start of a new chapter for this band, one that would see them rise to dizzying heights only to implode all too soon. It was released in 1977 as a non-album single (in the UK at least) and it comfortably bridges the gap between The Clash and Give ‘Em Enough Rope. It’s more technically proficient than The Clash, it’s more polished, yet there’s still that unmistakeable raw edge and visceral feel that made it a classic album of the genre. This is still very much punk music, and punk music of the highest order.

11 Years Without Joe Strummer

If you’re a Clash fan, as I am, today is a rather bittersweet day. A day that really needs no introduction either. Today marks eleven years since the irreplaceable Joe Strummer died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart defect. He was just fifty years of age. Frankly, this is a post I’d really rather not have to write. I’d love to write about his new album, a concert I just attended or the like. What’s done is done though so I best get on with it though hadn’t I?

This day will mean different things to different fans. Some will reflect. I can’t really do that. I don’t have any past memories of The Clash or Joe to even reflect on. I was just eight years old when he died, and I only became a fan last year. For me, December 22nd makes me think of what could have happened, or what I could have experienced. One downside to being young (yes there are downsides) is that I completely missed out on The Clash. Not only that but I was simply too young to have any idea who Joe Strummer was in his Mescaleros years. Oh how I wish that was different but it’s the way it is.

Today I’ve often caught myself thinking “Why be sad?”. For a start – I should be thankful he existed. And that in his all too short life he made an indelible impact on the lives of millions. He shared his gift with us, and the lasting legacy of that can’t die. Yes, he can, he was just an ordinary man. His achievements and impacts though? They were extraordinary. I know it’s a borderline cliche, but he really does live on. In the records he made, and through each and every single person he inspired. And let’s never loose sight that he’ll continue to do so. Last year I listened to The Clash properly for the first time. I was eighteen years of age. They changed my life. You can rest assured that’s happened to plenty of similarly aged people since.

What I’m trying to say, simply put for brevity’s sake, is let’s try and be optimistic. It’s easy to be pessimistic today. Too easy. One thing I keep asking myself though – and it’s worth thinking about – is “Would Joe like this though?”. Instead of feeling sad today, we should make a conscious effort to remember Joe by doing something practical to instigate change. For me it seems like the perfect way to honor him. He’s dead, but we can’t let his message die. I’ll be thinking of that today, and of course his family and friends. I’ll be back later with a post but for now, I just want to conclude with this quote from the man himself as it’s all too appropriate on this day:

“ I really don’t believe that we just get born and die and that’s your one shot and that’s it. I really feel that we’re individual spirits and souls. And I know that when we die we go on.”

On this day…..

There’s a very interesting music anniversary today – November 8th 2013 – here in Northern Ireland. Today marks fifty years since The Beatles played their first date here as part of their 1963 Autumn Tour. I never actually knew that The Beatles even played any Northern Irish dates. They played a set-list comprising of ten songs at the former Ritz Cinema on Fisherwick Place. A hotel is now on the site.  It would be their first of two visits here. Almost exactly a year later they would play The Kings Hall (also in Belfast). Anyway, just thought I would share this interesting little fact!