Archive for Joe Strummer

Lovely Joe Strummer Cover Story In September Uncut

Posted in Music with tags , , on July 28, 2012 by johnbuckley100

We’d link to it, but there is no link yet.  Available on the just-released edition that surfaces in the Uncut iPad App.  The Chris Salewicz piece covers the period between Joe’s ditching the fake Clash Mk. II, and his time with the Mescaleros, and while it goes over ground familiar to obsessives who’ve read all the books and seen all the movies, it is a reminder of Joe’s rise-fall-redemption cycle.  Lucky enough to have seen the bookend U.S. performances — from the Clash’s arrival at the Palladium during their Pearl Harbor Tour in February 1979, to the Mescalero’s performance at the 930 Club a few weeks after 9/11 — and many in between, it’s a reminder of how Strummer was both hero and human, a concocted persona as authentic as any of his fellow rock’n’roll greats.

The Clash Live: Too Late To Save Shea Stadium

Posted in Music with tags , , , on October 17, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Given how great the Clash were live, and how terrible is the only live album they ever previously released, it’s somewhat bizarre that 26 years after they opened for the Who in the rain in Flushing Meadows, the only single-show archive we have is Live At Shea Stadium.  

As a live album, it has great dynamic range, and it was clearly an inspired set.  The problem is that it was recorded past the band’s peak, without Topper Headon on drums, and in that sad twilight when Mick Jones’s songs were garnering commercial radio play.  The Who Sell Out was the famous title of an early album by the headliners.  The Clash, Conflicted, Try To Sell Out might more properly have been the title of this one.  If only they could have released it in time to beat Cheap Trick to the Buddokan bank.

How many live albums have been released by the opening act? (The only one I can think of is The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East, and clearly Johnny Winter was a more generous headliner, as he gave Duane and Dicky time to stretch on extended jams.  This following The Elvin Bishop Group’s extended jams.  Those were smoky, lazy days.)  The inherent structural problem of an album like this is the band’s set is perforce short, and the emphasis was on songs like “Train In Vain,” “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” and “Rock The Casbah.”  Each had gotten radio play, and on one of those 17  evenings in the summer of 1981 when The Clash played at Bond’s in Times Square, the pop songs were tolerable as de rigeur run throughs in what were otherwise sparkling, extended sets.  (I went to six of the shows, including the Sunday matinee.)

Here there’s a great version of “London Calling” to begin the set, and “Police On My Back” follows nicely, but if this album is true to the evening — I wasn’t there — then having Paul Simonen follow Mick Jones to the mike and sing “Guns of Brixton” brings to mind that final awful Creedence Clearwater album where John Fogerty sang “Sweet Hitchiker” and let the rest of the band carry the vocal chores from there.    The idea of Joe Strummer singing only one of the first three songs tells you just about everything you need to know about this late period in the greatest band of the ’70s’ story arc.

In late summer 1982, I’d gone to see the Clash down in Asbury Park plus or minus two weeks from the Shea Stadium set.  It was dispiriting.  Their debut in America at the Palladium in February ’79 — the one depicted in the cover of London Calling, where Paul is smashing his bass against the stage — remains the single greatest performance I’ve ever seen.  Those of us who lived in the New York clubs of the day had just a little bit of a superiority complex, believing — mostly accurately — that our bands, from the Voidoids and Ramones to Talking Heads, Heartbreakers and Fleshtones — could blow away most of those limey “punks” any time, anywhere.  We also knew the Clash were in a different league, and on that night in ’79, as they burst onto the stage with “I’m So Bored With The USA” and bounced against each other like ping pong balls in a lottery drawing, it was pretty clear that these guys were the real deal. Through their return tour later that summer, just before the release of London Calling; their extended stay in 1980 while recording Sandanista; by the time they moved into Bonds in ’81 — only to have fire marshalls force them to double the number of shows in order to honor the (oversold) number of tickets — they had effectively become a New York band.  One of us.  But by the time they returned in ’82 with Terry Chimes back on drums — Topper having been brutally dumped because of his heroin addiction — it was over. They went through the motions in Asbury Park, and they were, after all, THE CLASH, but we didn’t want to hear “Rock The Casbah.”  We wanted things to be the same as they’d been in the brief moment when the Clash replaced the Rolling Stones as the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World.

Live At Shea is a better than fair artifact.  If Joe Strummer’s widow were to have found instead tapes that could comprise Live At The Palladium, we’d have gotten something of far greater value.

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