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.

February 20, 2008

This morning Joe Strummer again saved my life

This sounds so good to me right now . . .

August 21, 1999
Cologne-Bizarre Festival, Germany

Straight To Hell
Tony Adams
London Calling
X ray Style
Rock The Casbah
White Man in Hammersmith Palais
Yalla Yalla
Brand New Cadillac
I Fought The Law
Tommy Gun
Bank Robber


March 15, 2007

Mystery Train, next stop Memphis

If you have the patience to watch and enjoy as a rich noir-influenced story unfolds with diverse characters, three loosely interrelated plots, and an absolutely top-notch soundtrack, then Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train is one you should definitely dig up at the rental place.

I never saw this when it came out in 1989 because although I have always liked this kind of music, I was preoccupied with NKOTB at the time and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to see it anyways because there are boobies. I was more about the Hangin’ Tough Live Concert video than moody atmospheric musical travelogues through rock history’s footprints. But now that I have grown, man alive did I enjoy this one.

Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Coffee & Cigarettes, Year of the Horse) clearly loves music, and there is nary a city in America where music is more firmly enmeshed in the pulse of the community than Memphis, Tennessee. It’s a story that takes its sweet time unravelling, with long pauses to breathe. The cinematography is vignette driven, almost like a series of postcards with lingering shots of the city of Memphis — the dirty, gritty, ambling back alleys and monuments to Elvis and references to Graceland.

And Elvis is indeed everywhere (even if our young Japanese protagonist keeps insisting that Carl Perkins was better); inescapable and as much of a living character in the film as anyone else. The black velvet portrait over the bed of the skeevy motel even pictures the gentle doe-eyed Elvis who smiles down on the rapid-fire consummation (okay, it’s the 11th time) of young teenage love.

The film starts with that teenage Japanese couple pulling into the train station for a firsthand pilgrimage of American rock and roll history. He sports a pompadour and the ever-present cigarette behind the ear, while she rocks the combat boots, a leather jacket, and a bright enthusiasm for anything related to American rock and roll. They don’t really know where they’re going, on several levels, but that’s okay with them.

After their story is mostly told (but left unfinished), the night rewinds and we meet a young Italian widow also in town to bring home the body of her husband to Rome. Played by the lovely Nicoletta Braschi (La Vita è Bella), hers is a wide-eyed and gentle respite between the other two tales. It was during her story that I found myself unable to resist belting out a bit of Marc Cohn: “Saw the ghost of Elvis down on Union Avenue. . .” even though most days I could do without that song. Rare the film that melds American rock history with the sonorous sounds of the Italian language, and I loved that segment.

Finally the triple-action view of the evening is wrapped up with a glance into the activities of three wayward punks (one of which is, oh, Joe Strummer, another a very young Steve Buscemi) and their drunken crimes. Although concrete connections between the three parallel storylines become apparent throughout the course of the night, the tales never directly intersect. Characters who know each other find themselves down the hall from one another, hearing the same sound, but never knowing of the intersection. Ultimately, it’s just a glimpse, and the film feels unfinished — but agreeably so.

For the music nerd, the film does journey through several immortalized locations, including a fast-talking tour of Sun Studios and some of the last footage ever shot of the original legendary Stax Records (by the way, if you like that soul sound, check out the Stax 50th Anniversary box set just released this week).

The melancholy soundtrack throughout is of the finest quality and simply cannot be beat for the atmosphere it creates, reminding me of the David Lynch scoring in Blue Velvet. Most of the tunes used in the soundtrack were actually recorded at Sun Studios back in the heyday, and the film resurrects them in almost-eerie fashion.

PS — the richly honeyed voice on the radio with the 2am intro to ‘Blue Moon’ in each of the three vignettes is none other than Tom Waits. Come on.

Mystery Train – Elvis Presley
Mystery Train – Junior Parker
Blue Moon – Elvis Presley
Domino – Roy Orbison
Soul Finger – The Bar-Kays
Pain In My Heart – Otis Redding
The Memphis Train – Rufus Thomas
(I was so excited when Joe Strummer’s character selects this last tune on the bar jukebox — I just “found” it recently on the What It Is! compilation, and it has been an essential and beloved addition to my favorite new mix CD. Great song – and watch for the cameo in the Memphis train station by ole’ Rufus himself).

An absolute must-see, a very cool movie.

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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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