Right then, enough of that holidays lark – there’s work to be done. That’s how it is in the US sadly, no sooner do you have the kids move their toys to their bedrooms than its time to get out and go back to work again the next morning. No matter how long I live here I’ll never get used to Boxing Day being a normal work day, then again Arsenal didn’t play today (thanks tube drivers, you did what the Luftwaffe failed to do and canceled boxing day football) so it didn’t even feel like a proper Boxing Day either. Needless to say I only worked a bit today, convincing myself it was sort of a day off. With that said I hope your Christmas (*other celebrations are available) went well and you got more than a lump of coal. Any Clash related gifts I need to know about?
I thought I’d try and continue the holiday spirit at least another day or two, but rather than celebrate Bethlehem’s most famous son I thought we should continue remembering Ankara’s instead. There’s no reason our 10th anniversary of Joe Strummer should be limited to just December 22nd so tonight I’ve got enough listening to keep you glued to your computer/laptop/i-thing for at least another half a day. Happily there have been a lot of tribute broadcasts to Joe this year and having managed to get through most of them I can endorse them all as being fully worth your investment of time. So with that said in no particular order try these. Also if you know of others that are available as online archives please let me know, doesn’t matter if you’re in Malta, Milan or Manila.
Don Letts BBC6 Music Strummer Special – I think this must be the 5th year in a row that Don has put together a special broadcast for Joe. On the negative side he doesn’t mix up the playlist as much you might like, on the plus side Don does of course have a mountain of personal stories about Joe that he shares between tracks. BBC iPlayer has this archived until Monday I believe (Dec 30) and you should be able to access it globally. Running time is 2 hours.
image courtesy www.mainstagegallery.com
Phonic FM’s Trash City Joe Strummer Tribute- Every Tuesday when I’m working I notice a lot of folks on Facebook getting pretty hopped up about a weekly broadcast from Exeter’s Phonic FM. Trash City with DJ Joe Rebel is a weekly broadcast that always features a good dose of Clash related tunes and week after week I’m annoyed I miss it. Happy to say that this years Joe Strummer Tribute has been uploaded and I’m listening to it a second time as I write this. Excellent stuff. The Facebook Page for the show is lively too, like a modern day Tufty Club.
CJAM’s annual Strummer Day – I’m trying to find out if all or even some of Windsor Ontario station’s annual Joe Strummer broadcast will be archived. Last year I had it on for much of the day, this year I managed a few hours and it was once again superb. To their immense credit they dedicate the whole days broadcasting to Joe Strummer and special features that look at issues of homelessness and poverty in the Detroit/Windsor area. They do a great job and if I can get archive information I’ll be sure to let you know.
DJ Scratchy – Two part special tribute to Joe. Part I and Part II – No apologies for saving this for the last link. DJ Scratchy was the nearest thing a band ever got to having their own resident DJ and as you’d expect each of these setlists are stellar. He performed that role with The Clash for better than two years. I always wanted to spell that word the same as the beer and these broadcasts are that too. Not sure how long they’ll be online but please make sure and get listening now, just in case. Incidentally if for some reason you’ve never bookmarked Scratchy’s website here it is so you can do so.
Right then, that should keep you busy there is a mountain of great alternate versions, live tracks and good honest chatter above that I can’t endorse these sufficiently. My presents to you for the holidays, each of these are great but let me know if you have a favourite. More soon I’m sure – cheers for dropping by.
Hello everyone, hope all is well wherever you’re reading this from. Whatever you do or don’t celebrate this week I hope that you are at the very least in the company of good friends and family. Only once in a while do I feel homesick for London and Christmas plus a football match on Boxing Day is usually at the summit of that which I miss. New Years Eve was also usually good for a concert as well. Still…that was then and this is 2012.
What might turn into a long post today then and one that is my reaction to news that hopefully brought a very warm feeling yesterday to those who were paying attention. A little bit of background information if you’re not from the UK if you’ll forgive me.
From the time I can remember and especially when people bought lots (I mean huge amounts) of records, the quest for being number one/top of the charts at Christmas has been chased by many. It brings a lot of press and needless to say a lot of sales as (especially back in the 70s and 80s) a number one single at Christmas would outsell any other week of the year by huge margins. Over the years a series of obvious pop stars and divas have won the battle to be at the top December 25th and in more recent years the trend has been for very depressing X-Factor/Simon Cowell conveyor belt shit. Needless to say I think I stopped paying much attention to the charts around the last day I worked in a record shop (in another life it seems) although I’m happy to say I did often key in the catalogue numberby accident for the newest B.A.D. or Redskins single when I was there trying to bump the music I liked up the charts. There have been more Christmas number ones to cause pain than relief over the last 30 something years but in truth none stood out from the collective fog if you just look over this list.
So why am I mumbling on about hit singles in the UK at Christmas you might wonder? Cast your memory back to middle part of 2011 for the answer and even further back to April of 1989 for the reason.
15/4/89 Fans being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough, Sheffield, during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
The FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest took place on a neutral ground back in 1989 and the semis always did back in the day. The venue chosen that year was Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough in South Yorkshire. Those of my vintage will remember that more than 2/3 of those in attendance at most football matches back then were standing on concrete terraces versus those who sat in stands (I realise that last phrase makes little sense). The terraces varied depending on the stadium from vast expanses of concrete steps (terraces) that would be about 5-8 feet deep, gradually stacked down toward the pitch. At some grounds including the one in Sheffield the terraces were divided into separate pens, allowing for the crowd to be broken up and directed into smaller pockets that would hold a few thousand each. At my clubs home stadium one vast terrace had just an open expanse and you stood where you wanted, one end of the ground when full could hold in excess of 20,000 spectators. The only piece of ‘furniture’ on these terraces were steel crash barriers erected at chest height to slow the inevitable giant crowd surges during the ebb and flow of the match. At the most crowded games you often couldn’t raise your arms from your side and when exiting the stadium the mass of bodies could allow you to lift your feet from the ground and still keep moving. I remember that because that’s exactly what I’d experienced at games up and down the country throughout the 1980′s. Some stadiums such as Hillsborough also featured perimeter fencing around the pitch, designed to stop crowd trouble and pitch invasions. These also were made of steel.
If it sounds like your average football supporter were herded like cattle during those times that is because we were and it was accepted because that was the way it had always been.
You can read elsewhere in depth about what happened that day on April 15th, 1989 in Sheffield. It pains me to recall it and expand upon it but the short summary in Wikipedia is essentially what you need to know:
“The 1989 Hillsborough disaster was a human crush which occurred during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest football clubs on 15 April 1989 at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. The crush resulted in the deaths of 96 people and injuries to 766 others. The incident remains the worst stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the world’s worst football disasters.”
If that wasn’t tragic enough, what happened in the days, weeks and months that followed was even more sickening. The crush happened due to poor allocation of police/stewarding resources in the minutes directly before and after kickoff. While there was sufficient space of all of the Liverpool supporters at that end of the stadium, hundreds and hundreds were allowed/directed into the central pens that were already above capacity. The sheer volume of people caused the crush and with the fences at the front of the terrace nobody could escape to the field to lessen the crisis that rapidly escalated.
Again, you don’t need me to explain in depth how the official agencies of the police, club and emergency workers released information. Nor how the media portrayed the information that was being circulated. Within hours the blame was being firmly attached to the behaviour of the fans and within days due in no small part to the outrageous headlines published in one of the countries biggest Newspapers The Sun, the public at large were being told that this tragic event was due to drunken supporters, rowdy supporters, supporters arriving without tickets or a combination of all three.
The following year a government funded report found that the root cause for the disaster was the decisions made by the police, poor crowd management had led to the overcrowding of the central pen. The report was never as explicit as it needed to be as the emphasis was how to make grounds safer rather than truly examine the depth of incompetence, the net result was all major football stadiums had to be converted to all-seating facilities.
The families of those who died and the supporters not just of Liverpool but throughout the country then began a journey seeking a full inquiry into the actual events of that day. In 2011 the Hillsborough Justice Campaign was still fighting for this, some 22 years after the event. Peter Hooton of The Farm enlisted the support of Pete Wylie and Mick Jones to play a benefit concert in Liverpool that summer for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign, the gig that subsequently led to the Justice Tonight tours that I’ve written about in so much detail on the blog.
The momentum for new findings reached a climax in September of this year when an independent panel released it’s deep findings that Liverpool fans were in no way accountable for the incident. Worse than that the most offensive news was the depths of systemic cover ups and altering of evidence by the police and an incomprehensible approach to the response both in terms of the disaster response itself but also the medical examiners reports. The findings were sickening to read but at last the first true step towards justice. Space doesn’t allow me to go into it but the official report is worthy of your time as is this article that appeared in The Guardian.
I’m not sure that justice can ever be properly served but the next steps involve the families looking for a process in place to see an official inquiry to overturn what has been said and perpetuated over so many years. My phrasing of that is probably poor but you get the picture, the fight does continue. The new inquiry is now going to happen.
To that aim a single was planned by the ‘Justice Collective’ to raise funds for the campaign and while it features box office names such as Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams it’s Mick Jones who appears for a guitar solo on both the record and video below. Paul Heaton (The Housemartins, The Beautiful South) another bloke I hold in high esteem also features. I don’t know why the both Peters (Wylie and Hooton) aren’t on the single but we all know that it was their work along with Mick that kept the momentum and awareness high over the last 18 months.
The song was confirmed yesterday as the Christmas number one in the UK, selling over 250,000 copies and showing that a charity single for a worthwhile cause can still trump X-Factor nonsense. Seeing as it took such a special cause to get Mick on stage playing Clash songs with the Justice Tonight band it really is lovely to see him involved at this next hurdle and almost be the quiet instigator. The announcement of Mick being ‘top of the charts’ just a day after the 10th anniversary of Joe Strummer passing has a sweet sound to it – and let’s not forget that the very essence of Justice Tonight and the fight for the Hillsborough families is a protest song. It also shows that music and musicians can bring about positive awareness and yes perhaps a bit of change. Joe would have loved that.
“Ultimately, people are neither stupid nor callous, no matter how much corporate money is invested in the attempt to render them so. Mick Jones has not only kept the faith over the years but wised up; the result has been good for the cultural and spiritual health of the nation as well as a tribute to those who lost their lives and to those who not only lost loved ones but saw their memories so cynically and dishonestly besmirched.
A lot of people will get justice – if not tonight, then hopefully very soon.
Now that’s what I call a Merry Christmas”
.Justice Collective – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (the mighty Paul Heaton at 0:28 and Mick Jones appears at 3:21)
Hello once more and a definite feeling of the morning after the night before for me. Today is December 23rd and we no longer have the ’10th anniversary’ forming like a cloud on the horizon, for better or worse we’ve passed that milestone but yesterday showed me once again that dates on a calendar aren’t what cause us to appreciate Joe Strummer – it was the less than perfect but never ready to give up Joe Strummer that causes us to reflect. So many wonderful comments yesterday and thank you all for taking part in writing and reading during the course of the day. I hit a wall with a bit of a headache in the evening and suddenly remembered I never took time away from your contributions to really do some proper reflection myself. Perhaps today for that.
A quick guess shows that there were something like 45 different events commemorating Joe this weekend around the world and I’m sure impromptu singalongs to jukeboxes and pint raising took place in thousands of other places too. Wherever you were and however you remembered Joe I hope that you felt the positive energy that I saw bouncing around like lightning yesterday. To be inspired by anyone to that extent who essentially caught our attention within a music industry that rarely encourages anyone to look beyond the bottom line of profit says everything about Strummer. I can’t find the right words this morning but that all encompassing ability to inspire and guide people while simultaneously making your own mistakes in full view of everyone is a unique thing. I’ve never been one to attach saintly phrases to Joe Strummer or indeed anyone, that creates a mockery of it all, but the power of music and musicians to make a positive impact is one that so often gets overlooked, especially now it seems. Music won’t change the world but it can shine some light onto our own awareness and our own potential, there is value in a protest song and a viewpoint, questioning everything isn’t a weakness but a strength and I think that is some of what The Clash did for me.
As a very young kid the melody of The Beatles (to name just one) was always a warming thing for me, when you are five or six I think you enjoy music for its sheer melody and joy. Before being exposed to The Clash and other punk and post punk music I didn’t realise that lyrics didn’t have to simply rotate around boy meets girl/boy loses girl. When you are suddenly exposed to lyrics that talk about gangs and guns, riots and dead end jobs it opens up a whole new world. If you’re at the right age to be exposed to it the changes in your thoughts about the potential of music are truly gigantic. I don’t know if Joe Strummer wrote the best lyrics ever or if The Clash were musically the most interesting band of their era, but I tend to think they captured most profoundly just what needed to happen. The best punk band? Not really that relevant, they were a brilliant rock and roll band.
Only a handful of people yesterday seemed to reflect on the fact that while we honour Joe – we should remember it is the entire band that changed us. The right four people creating a chemistry of burning fire and ambition, the scope and depth of the output of the band is what I still find most inspiring. I turn back to these facts time and time again and they still create the benchmark for me – what other band had gone from rehearsing and writing songs like White Riot in year one to writing and recording things as ambitious as what was to appear on Sandinista! just four years later? It is a short list indeed, the tendency for bands to stick with a formula for what ‘works’ typically carries them through three albums and at least five years. By 1981 The Clash were well into the third or fourth phase in their sound and creative zeal. I think it burned out for a lot of different reasons but you can never accuse the band of sitting still. If only we could all say the same about ourselves.
The final nine minutes of Westway to the World
“If it works, do whatever you have to do to bring it forward, don’t mess with it”