Ten Years Gone – Remembering Joe Strummer

As a general rule, I try to live life without regret, particularly surrounding trivial matters, like whether or not to go to a punk rock show. To me, there’s no sense spending precious time fretting over something you wish you had done (or wish you hadn’t done, I suppose). That being said, there is one thing that I’ve spent countless hours kicking myself over for more than a decade: not seeing Joe Strummer live.

I’m too young to have seen The Clash in concert. Topper Headon left the band when I was three, Mick Jones the following year. My parents weren’t big on the 70s punk sound, so it wasn’t until junior high that I was introduced to The Clash. That introduction came by way of having seen the video for “Rock The Casbah.” Admittedly, I thought it was incredibly goofy at the time (and I still believe that – see for yourself here), so The Clash still didn’t really weave their way into my consciousness.

A few years later, I finally caught wind of London Calling. The rest, as “they” say all too frequently, was history.

Fast-forward to November 1999. One of the guys at the liquor store I was working at asked if I could cover a shift for him one Monday night because he had tickets to see Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros at the Roxy in Boston. Actually, he had asked if I wanted to go with him to the show, but as I was working my way through undergrad at the time, I figured I could use the money and catch Joe the next time around. I balked at the chance to go, and picked up the extra shift instead. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Exactly three years to the day later (11/22/02), Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros would play a show at Liverpool University. Little did anybody know at the time, but that night would go down in rock history as Joe Strummer’s last show: he died exactly one month later, unexpectedly and at home, due to a congenital heart defect that realistically could have taken him at any time.

Entire volumes can be written on Strummer’s life and legacy; in fact, a good many of them have been already. The point herein is not to rehash all that has been said or add anything new to that narrative. Instead, on the tenth anniversary of Strummer’s passing, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the work that spanned his career. Joe’s music was important. While the sound may have changed over the years, it remained vital: thought-provoking, boundary-pushing, genre-fusing, in ways that most artists could only wish to match. To Joe’s credit, much of his work sounds just as relevant today as when it was first released.

What follows is a mix of ten songs from all periods of Joe’s career: the 101ers, The Mescaleros, The Pogues, The Latino Rockabilly War, and a duet with Johnny Cash. Oh, and of course The Clash. There are a obviously going to be things that I missed, but I think there’s a pretty cool mix, including a live performance of “White Man In Hammersmith Palais,” performed during the encore of that show in Liverpool that proved to be his farewell to the music world. Check it out here, and listen to it loud.

The 101ers – “Letsagetabitarockin”

The Clash – “London Calling”

The Clash – “Know Your Rights”

Joe Strummer & The Pogues – “I Fought The Law”

Joe Strummer & The Latino Rockabilly War – “Magnificent Seven” – features Jack Irons of Pearl Jam/Red Hot Chili Peppers on drums

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “Johnny Appleseed”

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “Coma Girl”

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “Long Shadow” – this was Joe’s tribute to Johnny Cash, allegedly written (with Smokey Hormel) on the back of a pizza box.

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” – from the encore of their set in Liverpool, 11/22/02. It would be Joe’s final show.

Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer – “Redemption Song”


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