Wednesday 13 December 2017

Remembering the great Joe Strummer, 10 years on

I can still recall getting the phone call from a friend 10 years ago today. It was a simple and straightforward message, "Joe Strummer is dead" but it unleashed a flood of emotion.

It's always a shock when an artist who played such a crucial part at a pivotal time of one's life passes away, and Strummer being only 50 when he was struck down by a heart attack only added to the sense of loss.

For those of us who loved The Clash there was something fitting in the fact that on his last stage performance, a benefit for striking London firefighters with his band the Mescaleros, Joe was joined by his former Clash sparring partner Mick Jones, sparking speculation that they would collaborate again. Alas, that wasn't to be, but what a legacy Strummer left

Although dismissed by Johnny Rotten as "a bunch of social workers", The Clash were just as crucial to the development of punk in these islands as the Sex Pistols. Their raucous gigs in the Trinity College Exam Hall in October '77 helped kickstart God knows how many bands, most of them dreadful, but the taking part was as important as the end result back then. Strummer, wild-eyed onstage, came across almost as an avuncular, mentorish figure when one read about him interacting with fans and his love of classic American music, rockabilly and reggae helped broaden the Clash's horizons beyond punk.

The eclectic spread of 1979's London Calling was the band's peak but when the Clash fizzed out after Jones's dismissal in 1982, Joe experienced what can only be described as his wilderness years.


A string of good solo albums and a spell as Shane MacGowan's replacement in the Pogues set the stage for a return to form as the leader of the Mescaleros, whose debut Dublin gig at the Olympia 2000 was a particularly boisterous affair.

I'll never forget the look on his face as he appeared from behind the stage curtain for the final time that night, a look that'll come to mind more than once today.

A Joe Strummer 10th Anniversary bash with Clash Jam Wallop is in the Academy tonight

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