Joe Strummer Dead at 50, but makes the front page of the NYT.
A “heart attack.” Bummer. I always preferred Stummers’ sense of song construction to his Clash-era songwriting partner’s, Mick Jones (the lead guitarist and later leader of Big Audio Dynamite).
The first three records I bought for myself were The Clash’s second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope (controversially at the time produced to a high sheen by Todd Rundgren), the 10″ compliation oddity Black Market Clash and Sandinista!, on the day of a big free concert by local bands in Dunn Meadow, sponsored by local indie label Gulcher and the “other” cable radio station, WIUS (a slightly more professional outfit than the shambolic WQAX to which I owed alleigiance and had a show on). It was 1981, and was 15.
Somehow I ended up with both the US and European releases of The Clash as well – the European version has a different, much rawer, mix and a cover printed primarily in blue, while the U. S. version featured green.
The songs on Black Market Clash – B-sides and dub mixes – grew on me over the years, and when I was rebuilding my record collection on CD I was ver pissed off to discover that the CD counterpart to Black Market Clash, Super Black Market Clash, had been entirely remixed. Since the point of half of the songs on the original had been the dub mixes, it meant that half the songs were actually different songs than the ones I was hoping to hear on CD.
Strummer’s later work, like the last Clash material, was unfocused, unfortunately, and I never dug it as much as the first two Clash records, The Clash and Give ‘Em Enough Rope. I must admit, however, that Sandinista! grew on me in later yers and now it’s a fave – the odd combination of softer tunes that I didn’t care for as a kid and do as an adult gives the album an extra layer of depth to music listened to as a child.
On Sandinista! there’s a spooky, simple little tune about the Spanish Civil War called “Rebel Waltz” (actually, maybe it’s not about the Spanish Civil War, since the “rebels” in that war were fascist Army generals) that I worked up for use by the Boxers, but which we never finished.
I have a wonderful memory of walking through the spring streets of Bloomington while some yahoo in a frat house played the song through a PA system set on the roof at top volume.
I was blocks away, and it was as though the song was just falling from the sky. It was a fantastic and beautiful experience.
See ya, Joe.
Here’s Billy Bragg’s remembrance at the Beeb.