It was with great sadness today that I learned of the death of Junior Murvin just a few hours ago and unfortunately time precludes me from writing as much as I’d like to.
Junior Murvin passed away today at his home in Port Antonio, Jamaica aged just 64. He’ll always be best known for that one very special record but he recorded five other albums between 1977 and 1986, not a giant catalogue for a roots reggae artist but a voice that will never be forgotten. Another sad loss and at an age when one should be enjoying the fruits of their work, interesting to note that he was just a few years older than Joe Strummer would be if he were still with us. Condolences to his family, friends and all who enjoyed his music.
As unlikely as covering (and radically changing) the 1976 Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry produced single Murvin single ‘Police and Thieves’ may have seemed at the time, it’s equally difficult to imagine that debut album by The Clash not breaking away from the 2:20 punk rock blasts to incorporate something as special and different as that cover version. ‘Police and Thieves’ was a key musical moment from the hot summer of ’76 and the decision by the band to take it for their own ends just a short while later speaks volumes about the song. I’d steer anyone in the direction of his debut album on Island Records in 1977.
For many young ears including my own it was also an invitation that we gladly took to explore the reggae that the band were listening to at the time, especially in the case of Paul Simonon, whilst for others it further cemented the crossover between two forms of protest music. I’d be lying if I said I better explored the work of Junior Murvin along with greats like Peter Tosh until a good while later when I had the cash to expand my record collection but I don’t know how likely that exploration may have even been without The Clash opening that particular door. In fact trying to imagine The Clash without their solid efforts to blend punk with reggae is to imagine a different band entirely.
Junior Murvin ‘Police and Thieves’ – Top of the Pops (BBC)
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Good Sunday morning and I hope all is well with you. I noticed it’s sunny and warm in England it’s also Glastonbury this weekend, a sure sign that the end of the world might be approaching. It seemed the buzz last night was the appearance of a famous old English band who haven’t made a good album since the age of the 8-track, amazing what longevity will do for you. Not to be a spoilsport but I just can’t share the excitement for a band who represent a time long before mine. I also wanted to thank you for the giant outpouring of good wishes to Mick Jones earlier in the week to mark his 58th birthday, I don’t know if he read them but I’ll encourage others to get him to do so – some great messages in there too so thank you all for taking part.
Mick celebrated his birthday that evening in Acton and I’ve got some photos to share from that – just sorting out the details but expect those soon.
A busy week for Mick then as he and Topper also appeared at the Hilton Park Lane in London to collect the Silver Clef award from Nordoff Robbins which I’d previously written about here. As someone noted on the FB page it would have been lovely to have seen Joe/the entire band collecting the gong but it’s still absolutely great to see them honoured in such a fashion. For my money this award is especially great as the foundation do so much wonderful work for those who need support via music therapy. Speaking of great it’s also great to see Topper in such fine form as you can see in the photos below. A fantastic honour for the band and further evidence of the imprint they left.
Mick and Topper at the Nordoff Robbins awards (images courtesy contactmusic.com)
I’ve occassionally had conversations with some of you who remember as clearly as I do that during the period from about 1986 until the mid-late 1990′s when The Clash were hardly spoken of and even less often remembered by the press and industry as a whole, this current (and growing) increase of recognition for their work wasn’t always the case. Much like a great artist and composer many of whom died penniless it seems the ability to recognise true genius can sometimes take some time in coming. It’s almost as if the late 1980′s tried to gradually disown everything associated with punk rock and mistakenly threw everything in the skip at once. Hard to believe now but in that era if you cited The Clash as perhaps the most important band of the last 15 years people would have instead suggested U2 or The Stone Roses as the true standard bearers.
That The Clash never sold the quantity of records as others or performed to endless sold out stadiums had much to do with timing and the industry itself but also that the band were never structured to elevate things to that level, it was probably the pressured of the era of Combat Rock success that hastened the end of the band after all. Trips to see the Pope and endless jaunts of american football and baseball stadiums were never going to fit in the gameplan for The Clash. I’ve seen so many bands play small venues and years later return to play massive ones and I’ve yet to see one who truly holds that connection with the audience once they reach a certain level, I’m just not sure that it’s even possible.
The lasting legacy of The Clash is now seeming more assured and that’s as it should be, in a few decades anyone who saw the band live will be eligible for a free bus pass but I think that the legacy is now in better hands. What I find most thrilling is when I hear from those who read the blog are those who only through the lottery of date of birth were too young to have witnessed the band but fully understand the importance of the music and the message. Long may it continue.
Mick and Topper arriving at the awards and signing autographs from 3:54-4:11 (no sound)
Hello again and thanks for dropping back in. I’ve already written a few paragraphs about today being Mick Jones 58th Birthday even though he’s forever 23 in my head. So I won’t repeat myself here but I did want to share a handful of some my favourite Mick videos over the years although it’s hard to choose under pressure, hopefully one or two you’ve not seen. You might want to play loud as we toast the man.
When you look back at these the years just roll away and the scope of Mick’s work begins to really register.
Keep on playing Mick, you bring untold happiness to all of us.
London’s Burning & Complete Control – Munich 1977
Hate and War (Alright Now) – 1979
London Calling / Train in Vain (Fridays) - improved video quality 1980
Medicine Show (The Tube) late ’85 I think
With The Libertines – Time for Heroes & Should I Stay or Should I Go – 2004
The News – 2008
Stay Free at the R&R Public Library – 2009
The Other 99 – 2011
B.A.D. Soundcheck (Los Angeles 2011) Thanks to GilW
Stay Free with The Justice Tonight Band – 2012