July 1, 2008

The future is unwritten (I think he might have been our only decent teacher)

No one struggled more manfully with the gap between the myth and the reality of being a spokesman for your generation than Joe Strummer. 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.”

– Billy Bragg eulogy to Joe Strummer, Dec. 23, 2002

The 2007 documentary by English filmmaker Julien Temple on the life of Clash frontman Joe Strummer will be released to DVD on July 8th. In The Future Is Unwritten, Temple (who knew Strummer for 30+ years) follows the path from his formative years in groups like The 101ers, to “the only band that mattered,” and then into his solo career and the legacy he left at his untimely death.

Keys To Your Heart – The 101ers (early Joe Strummer band)

NEW CONTEST: Fuel/Friends has a package deal of the DVD and the CD soundtrack to give away to one of y’all. Leave me a comment telling me something you love about Joe Strummer — a lyric, a story, a song, a quote, you pick. One winner will be randomly selected in a week.


This cover isn’t on the soundtrack, but . . . I love it:

Redemption Song – Joe Strummer & Johnny Cash

Also, thanks to Cara for bringing this on my radar. Do jet over to Scatter o Light to check out the cool Bono/Strummer song she has, one of the last songs Joe worked on before his death.

WRAP-UP: Speaking of contests, we’ve got this old business: the Brushfire Record vinyl sampler winners are readers Scott Orr and frankie dartz. Please provide me your mailing addresses and I’ll get these babies in the mail with a smiley little note just for you.


  • fuck. i can’t compete with those stories. but i’m still heartbroken that he’s gone. “he might have been our only decent teacher.”

    Hoodrat — July 2, 2008 @ 7:28 am

  • Lord, there goes a Buick forty-nine

    Black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line

    We think there is a soul, we don’t know

    That soul is hard to find

    Windy City Vinnie — July 2, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  • 1984. I was a nerdy high school freshman who spent all of his free time digging around for exciting music. I was taking an art class and the teacher, Mr. Heitpas, let us bring in albums to play during class; 12″ vinyl of course…33 1/3. If you’re imagining listening to endless Eddie Van Halen guitar solos and lots of that new singer Madonna while making some terrible painting of a moldy orange, you’re probably getting the right idea.

    It wasn’t easy to haul music around 24 years ago…no iPod crammed with 500 albums, more like a backpack you couldn’t zipper up with 4 albums in it. But when I came across Black Market Clash at the public library, I knew I had to bring it to school.

    I put the record on in art class. Magic. It wasn’t like everyone gasped and realized what truly good music is, or I suddenly became the hip and cool kid (still a music obsessed dork in fact, that’s why I’m here), but when I heard someone complain about the music, I was able to say to myself, “What a dumbass.” Didn’t have to say it out loud. I just knew it and that was enough.
    I also remember someone saying, “They have this at the LIBRARY??” I’ve always loved the library and it never occurred to me that it might be a Clash-unfriendly place. It isn’t and shouldn’t be. That simple is one of the many reasons I decided to go to library school many years later and damned if I’m not a librarian now!

    JohnnyHank — July 2, 2008 @ 8:09 am

  • I was in college in Philadelphia the late 90′s and the Mescaleros were touring for one thing or another. I had a mate that worked for the venue, and he invited me to stick around after the show to clean up and possibly meet the band.

    Sitting down at the bar well after doors had closed, watching the late news on a TV they had behind there, Joe sat down next to me and muttered some comment about what was on. We had a short conversation, but I had to let the fan boy in me out:

    Me: “Joe, you’ve probably heard this 1000x before, and I don’t mean to be a fanboy, but if it weren’t for your music, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I hope my band can be a 100th of what you are one day”

    Joe: “If you play it with all you got, you already are.”

    He got up and left shortly after that. The band never stuck together, but that 10 minutes with Strummer, and that line, has staid with me until today.

    matt [d] — July 2, 2008 @ 8:24 am

  • Again, can’t compete with those stories. Never met the guy. But still one of my favorite album openers is those first few seconds of Know Your Rights. “This is a public service announcement… with guitars.”

    Jim — July 2, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  • Where to begin with Joe f’in Strummer? Is it the 45 rpm of Train in Vain with Innoculated City on the flip side? Is it hearing him rip through I Fought The Law on the radio and falling in love so hard and so fast that the time between the song ending and flipping to the first Clash album in the vinyl at the mall was wiped from my memory? Is it every damn time I spun the record on the turntable and shouted “I’m So Bored With The USA!” Or how about all the times I moved from apartment to house to house and lugged those albums with me, believe me I still have every one of my Clash albums and 45s and good luck ever getting me to give them up. Or the high school days when everybody was listening to London Calling at the same time, wearing the album cover t-shirts, singing the songs in the hallways and in the seats in front of you in the classrooms, and in your head you’re back in your room with the album sleeves in hand, studying the lyrics and the sketches and grooving to Jimmy Jazz, jumping up and down and yelling along with Joe and the Clash to Death or Glory? Is it the raw power of the guitar solo invented for the I Fought The Law cover that sent me to the store, that threw me to the floor, that bought my boots and showed me the door, made me buy a Clash t-shirt and an electric guitar, that drove me to write this to whoever you are, whoever I am I became because of the man. No myth, no legend, but a warrior and as real as it gets. Thank you Joe for Ska, Reggae and the Dropkick Murphys, just 3 of the things I love (besides the Mescalero and Clash records) because of you, because of the joy, because London called and I answered.
    Tom Miller
    Sterling, VA

    Tom Miller — July 2, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  • Joe Strummer died way too soon, and I miss what he would have to say about these desperate times in which we live. Here is my Joe story: Joe was doing an in store
    at Tower Records in Chicago for Global A Go Go.

    The manager let me hang out and watch them soundcheck-very cool! At first Joe and the band were on the floor performing (there was no stage). Joe said, “The folks in the back can’t see anything. Can we get some boxes or something to stand on?”. They brought out these display units. And then Joe’s mic kept falling so a Tower employee held it while Joe belted out the rock. I can only imagnie some of the temper fits certain artists would throw over this kind of situation. Not Mr Strummer — he went with it. He rocked the in-store being totally gracious the entire time. We miss you Joe. It’s just not the same without you…
    ***By the way…my dogs name is Strummer :O)

    Kenny — July 2, 2008 @ 9:10 am

  • You have the right to remain silent
    You are warned that anything you say
    Can and will be taken down
    And used as evidence against you

    Listen to this

    Tim — July 2, 2008 @ 9:30 am

  • “I was crawling through a festival way out west” from Coma Girl – I think any music fan can get into that one – who hasn’t stumbled around, utterly dehydrated, under a glaring sun watching band after band on stage after stage?

    And “Mega Bottle Ride”, from Global A Go-Go is another recent favorite – both albums re-establishing Strummer as a truly creative force after too many quiet years.

    James — July 2, 2008 @ 9:49 am

  • joe strummer, alongside john lennon, is my jesus christ. he’s someone i think about probably every day– if for nothing more than how the clash hoodwinked cbs records into releasing “london calling” as a double record at a single record’s price, by telling them that they wanted to add a second, “bonus” record for the song “train in vain” and then they pulled a bait and switch with all those other songs. i mean, is there anything cooler than that?

    my wife and i are trying to start a family, and if it’s a boy, we’re going to name him strummer.


    woolgathering... — July 2, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  • Here’s an example of one of the most punk things I’ve ever heard of. In the “Let’s Rock Again” DVD, Joe says he ran 3 marathons- no real training for any of them and drank heavily the night before each one.

    Joe kicks ass.

    Kouzie — July 2, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  • Mine is a really long tribute, so you can read it here. http://dynamicmeter.blogspot.com/2008/01/joe-strummer-remembered.html

    Dynamic Meter — July 2, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  • i lit joe strummers cigarette once.

    firedande — July 2, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  • One time, at band camp….I dreamt I met Joe Strummer.
    The lyric I found to be what sums up Joe Strummer for me is from the “Streetcore” album on a song “Long Shadow”. The final line delivered: Somewhere in my soul, there’s always rock and roll.

    That’s all I got.

    Snake Plissken — July 2, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

  • I think we’re going to have to forget about the radio and just go back to word of mouth. JS

    so true.

    nick33 — July 2, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  • Unfortunately, I became a huge Clash fan after Joe Strummer died. I’m glad that I finally discovered the band, but it will always be one of my biggest musical regrets that I never got the chance to see him live in concert with The Mescaleros before then (I was six when The Clash broke up, so I didn’t have any chance of seeing them in concert).

    I have a copy of the London Calling album framed on my wall. I’d always heard about albums and songs that changed people’s lives and never really believed that was possible until I heard that album.

    Thanks Joe.

    Justin Burnett — July 2, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

  • These lyrics were originally so cool because they were “naughty”. Now that I’m on the other side of the story, age-wise, they’re rather wistful and a bit painful.

    “But I believe in this–and it’s been tested by research:
    “That he who fucks nuns will later join the Church.”

    Ah, Joe, you were so ahead of your time it’s still not funny.

    ant'ny — July 2, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  • Hey Heather, even through I saw Metallica at the Tower Records parking lot and went to see Pearl Jam at Spartan Stadium, two of my favorite bands. My all-time favorite song is Straight to Hell. My older cousin who actually was old enough to see the Clash played it for me when I was about 7 and I will always remeber sitting in his room listening to this on vinyl, no less, every time I here it.

    kappa00073 — July 2, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  • I love the what Joe Strummer revealed about himself when describing Mick Jones in the Clash doc Westway to the World:

    “punctuality wasn’t one of his talents”


    “his was a talent worth waiting for.”

    And the sage advice he left for others: “If it works, don’t mess with it. Do what you have to do to bring it forward.”

    In about a minute of video, I learned more about Joe Strummer than I’d ever known, and I respected him even more afterward. He admitted his own folly in how he dealt with Mick and what that cost, and he hinted at a sort of aching regret. For a moment, Joe Strummer, leader of The Clash, became Joe Strummer, human being, and that’s how I remember him.

    kingseyeland — July 3, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  • My recently retired blog, That Truncheon Thing, was named in honor of Joe (it’s a lyric from “London Calling”), who we referred to as our patron saint. I just think he was about the coolest bloke who ever lived — unwaveringly and passionately political, he achieved a ludicrous level of fame but never stopped being a regular guy or treating his fanms with genuine affection and respect. But if all he had ever done was record The Clash’s cover of “Brand New Cadillac,” he’d still be a hero of mine. Balls to ya, daddy.

    Frank — July 3, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  • I never win these things, but no blogger has shown more Strummerlove than me. I post a Clash boot just about every two weeks.

    I don’t love one thing about Joe–I love everything about him. But here’s my favorite Joe lyric:

    “If Adolf Hitler were here today/They’d send a limousine anyway.”

    ekko — July 3, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  • I saw Joe front the Pogues at the Beacon Theater some years ago. I thought he was the perfect replacement! Fantastic show.

    Eli — July 6, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  • I came late to the party when it comes to the Clash, so much so that I had been listening to what I had considered punk for over six years before I even listened to an entire Clash record. I just knew “London Calling” and “Rock the Casbah” and the other radio songs, but at the time I didn’t care about anything that wasn’t on the Warped Tour. The real crack in the dam of my willful ignorance came in the form of the track “Global A Go-Go” which was on this Hellcat Records comp given to me in ’01. I didn’t really care for it at first – I was probably skipping it to listen to Rancid or the US Bombs. It came down to an instance of walking home after class, spinning the disc in my Discman, when it suddenly came to me: “Whoa, this guy’s actually saying something here…” I kept listening to the song over and over on the walk home, and all of the sudden I couldn’t get enough.

    The neophyte that I was, I didn’t know who Strummer was, so the next time I was at the record store I couldn’t find anything under S. The bemused store clerk got to inform me that I should be looking under C for The Clash. He also told me that I might want to consider picking up a copy of London Calling if I was not familiar with the band. That is how it started for me, and how I managed to shed the blinders of teenage rebellion and turn a corner into appreciating music on so many more levels.

    My favorite Strummer lyric isn’t exactly profound or even that memorable, but it was running through my head the day I really heard they lyrics to “Global A Go-Go”: “We send the funk into the jungle, to the last outpost of the bass player.”

    wallrock — July 7, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  • One of the best moments in rock and roll I’ve ever witnessed was seeing Joe jump off the stage at the Roseland Theater in Portland, where he was performing with the Mescaleros behind their debut album, and grab an audience member by the lapels and chewed him out for complaining about poor sound. Granted, the something was wrong with the PA for the first couple of tunes, but I love that Joe never lost that kick-ass attitude with age. He’d get up in anyone’s face if he thought that person deserved it.

    Rambling Canuck — July 7, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  • Is it my imagination or are The Clash more steeped into mainstream pop culture now than they were back in the day? The kids today — can they name another punk band?

    No matter, I guess. None of the others were as good as The Clash (although The Jam was pretty awesome too.) As the only band that ever really mattered, The Clash deserve that legacy. But for God’s sake, I heard “Rudie Can’t Fail” while noshing a foot-long coney with the kids at Sonic this week.

    Back in the day, I was psyched if I got to hear “Train in Vain” on my college radio station. Although it was their most “pop-sounding” song, God it was pure. THEY were pure.

    Now my teevee blares “Should I Stay or Should I Go” to get me psyched about buying a new car. “Rock the Casbah” is supposed to make me buy a cell phone. Hmph.

    It wasn’t supposed to go this way. I remember putting on “The Clash” as a sophomore in high school and being stunned by the wild abandon of “Clash City Rockers.” These guys could do anything!

    I was so hooked.

    And I’ve stayed hooked for 30 years. Yeah, Strummer and his boys deserve the legacy. But, but…. pivotal — absolutely pivotal music — being used to sell crap? I expect that of today’s Top 40 homogenized, corporatized, Pro Tools-ified, one-size-fits-most “music.” But not The Clash. I’m just not ready.

    Did you ever try watching the news and then listening to “The Call Up?” That’ll break your heart right there. Goddamnit. It so wasn’t supposed to go this way.

    The kids in the back complain loudly when Mom sings along (between sips of a Route 44 Diet Coke):

    How’d ya get so rude and a-reckless?
    Don’t you be so crude and a-feckless,
    You been drinking brew for breakfast….

    and remembers her punk rock days. Yes, The Clash is everywhere these days. And I can’t help but wonder, What Would Joe Think (WWJT) about that?

    Dani California — July 12, 2008 @ 12:28 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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