Deep in the heart of Manhattan in the the East Village stands a building with a brick wall. Nothing remarkable about that of course except on that wall is painted something very significant to Clash fans and of Joe Strummer in particular. Of course it’s the Joe Strummer mural and it’s become a part of the city scene and a place of pilgrimage to fans of Strummer when they visit New York City.
I’d mentioned in an earlier post about the fact that back in February the mural was ‘updated’ and the changes are causing some debate. Incidentally if you need a map it’s located right here and is on the SE corner. Type Avenue A and East 7th Avenue in google maps if that doesn’t work.
The mural (as it was) gained added notoriety by featuring in the video for Redemption Song which shows the creation of it and a series of images of fans posing in front of it.
Anyway on to the debate, the original mural appears to the right. It featured Rastafarian colours and Joe appears in sunglasses, leather jacket over shoulder looking ready for business.
Know Your Rights, The Future is Unwritten and Joe Strummer 1952-2002 adorn the mural. It was created (in a great nod to The Clash) by graffiti artists Zephyr and Dr. Revolt in the Spring of 2003. Both artists are on the highest pantheon of the New York graffiti scene. On February 8 of this year Dr. Revolt to freshen up the mural (he had always removed any vandal tags and touched it up during the intervening 6 years) and made some wholesale changes to the mural.
The revised image is below and shows a number of changes. The background colours have been modified to include more orange than the original red. Joe looks to have lost some weight as his face is slimmer and the jacket is no longer over his shoulder. Most prominently is that the bottom of the mural now features the New York skyline. The debate has been primarily from those who preferred the original image and are calling for it to be returned to it’s former state.
Initially I was shocked to see it changed and my gut was the original was better, on reflection I think it was because that was what I was used to. It’s a bit like hearing Sandinista! for the first time. What do you think of the new one?
Where I stand is this; go ahead and revise it every few years. Keep the core elements the same. Of more importance is to ensure it’s maintained if vandalized and given a fresh coat every other spring to keep it bold in the city. Fundamentally what I hope most is that in 10,20 or 50 years time a 14 year old kid who’s just learning guitar walks past it with his Mum or Dad and asks ‘Who was Joe Strummer and what did he stand for?’ That would be perfect.
I’ve seen other Strummer/Clash images as wall painting, tributes, murals etc and I’ll collect and share them with you in a later post.
***addendum*** (7/16) The visitors to this site are simply brilliant, a clash city blogger EV Grieve from the East Village in NYC was kind enough to share this news about another piece of New York Clash art :
Last week, in another part of New York City’s East Village, the unthinkable happened. Another iconic Clash mural was painted over!