Hello, you already know the significance of today/tomorrow and don’t need me to remind you. Later today will mark exactly ten years since Joe Strummer passed away at his home in Somerset. For someone who lived many of his years as if every moment mattered more than we could understand his life expired in a very non rock and roll way as his body was stricken with a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Today does mark an anniversary but I know that like many of you the significance isn’t really especially heightened beyond normal levels due to a calendar. We missed him 10 months ago, 10 weeks ago and we will miss him 10 days from now.I was inspired by Joe Strummer’s words and the music of The Clash from the age of 12, that inspiration didn’t diminish when he died in the slightest. although the sadness did seem to wash over it for a good amount of time. In time I think I managed to gradually use it as a motivating factor to follow my dreams a bit more urgently, to do what made me happy rather than simply what I should be doing and to continue trying my level best to understand issues and people no matter what or who they may be.
I miss Joe Strummer, painfully, for that I must thank my brother (under my breath) for leaving his door open when he was playing Tommy Gun back when I was twelve and patiently answering the questions I had about this incredibly electric music that emanated from his bedroom. Youth and circumstances prevented me from having memories of the very earliest days of The Clash but from that moment onwards The Clash led the sound along with The Jam, XTC, The Damned and The Specials that dominated my life and my limited pocket money for the next few years. Other bands came and went and my passion for many probably equaled that I held for The Clash at times but nothing impacted me as much learning just after I turned sixteen that Mick Jones had been unceremoniously removed from the band that he started. No band did more for my awareness of music and its heritage and history as The Clash, nobody’s lyrics seemed as powerful and responsive as Joe’s, no band made me decide I needed to learn much more about the things that were previously just droning headlines on the evening news as The Clash and no band made me want to keep my hair short and spiky and ideally my attitude too like The Clash had done. (although I did visit the barber clutching the first Specials album more than once requesting I look like Terry Hall if possible).
I was lucky enough to see The Clash live, I was luckier still to have the door to so much brilliant music opened up to me by them that unlike many now my/our age music remains one of the very most important things in my life. I still find great new acts and go and see them live even though I’m reluctantly aware I could technically be their Dad. All roads eventually seem to lead back to The Clash for me, losing Joe honestly impacted me more than any other death I’ve been exposed to. That might sound awful but I mean it sincerely, my family ties are very badly weathered and those key primal years where I found my way in the world my biggest teachers also happened to share songwriting credits on the labels of the singles and albums that I played to death. You can clip me round the head if you like but I thought (as a teen) that Mick was cooler and Paul simply on another level. Strummer and Jones rolled off the tongue and even though nearly twenty years had rolled by from the time The Clash essentially ended I grew older with the band still motivating me significantly. In many ways I was only beginning to understand the roar ambition and depth of London Calling and Sandinista! years and years after the fact. I’m not embarrassed to say the magnificence of much of the music that The Clash made after the second album was partially lost on my then early teenage ears. It was easy to feel your blood pressure spike when listening to Complete Control but the genius of something like Jimmy Jazz or One More Time was something I only managed to properly comprehend years after the fact. That staying power of the music they made is rarely equaled.
I don’t know that my life needed more inspiration in it than that which I received from a punk band from London, I know I only hold the same passions for a few select things that mattered to me 33 years ago. I think that probably says it all.
This band did matter, Joe Strummer was neither a Saint nor a gimmick, he tried the best he could and managed to make a living doing what he most clearly was suited to. He got a late start in a scene where his age could almost have ruled him out by default. Through determination, arrogance, passion for his fans (he never forgot what being a fan felt like) and taking a chance he helped take The Clash from dirty pubs in front of a handful of people to becoming perhaps the most important band of their generation. This wasn’t done singlehandedly but can you image anyone other than Joe fronting The Clash?
I hope that his flaws remind us of ourselves, that his passion and effort can remind us of ourselves, his commitment ought to remind us of ourselves. I don’t know how you’re feeling today but please don’t mope and feel sorry for yourself longer than is needed. Be inspired, be motivated and keep looking for a way no matter how big or small to make a fucking difference. Share an idea, recommend a book, play someone a song or suggest a different approach, show them how to play a Dm, help someone who needs a friend to listen or needs a few coins to get through a tough time, remind others that giving up or blaming others is a cop out, question your motivations and obligations and ask if you can perhaps do things better. Stop waiting for him over there to sort it out because it up to you, just as its always been.
Not for the first time I’ve rambled on long enough, so I hope you got through all of that. Later tonight I’ll try this liveblog idea throughout the following 24 hours or so – if you have 30 seconds or 15 minutes and want to share how you’re feeling please do. How Joe impacted you, or simply a favourite memory or lyric, quote or photo. I’ll do my best to add a fair amount of photos and music but I really hope to see you. I thought I’d get the above written while my head was still clear. I hope many of you are at one of the dozens of events around the globe remembering Joe on his anniversary and you bloody better enjoy yourselves. If you have comments tonight please add them below and I’ll add them to the live blog tomorrow or you can email me. You can contribute anything you like but please let me know your name plus city and country – if there are links to photos, videos etc you’d like included on the blog send those too.