Sunday, December 29, 2002
BUMMER WITHOUT STRUMMER
by Wayne Robins
I thought it remarkable that the most heartfelt and comprehensive online package I've seen about the death last week of Joe Strummer was on the BBC Web site. www.bbc.co.uk/6music/artists/joe_strummer/index.shtml. Once the condescending establishment, the BBC.com's music pages are now among the most hip and insightful on the web. While its understandable that Strummer generally declined to play Clash tunes in performances by his current world-roots band, Los Mescaleros, I find that kind of rigid refusal antithetical to the spirit that forged Strummer's music in the first place. It presumes a Lord-servant relationship between artist and audience. Why not simply revise and reassemble, like Dylan does? My Strummer moment of the last few years occurred in the weeks after September 11, riding the bus to work through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, watching the National Guard and New York State Troopers inspect every truck for dangerous cargo. I'd be listening to The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" over and over, creating my own confused meaning (part vengeance, part triumphalism) to Strummer's extremely provocative, prescient, and irresistibly rocking anticipation of the battle between modern Islam and the fundamentalists who were and are running that show. The Clash's only top ten U.S. single, "Rock the Casbah" made the charts in 1982...Listening recently to "London's Calling," "Guns of Brixton," "Complete Control," and a dozen other tunes as the world teeters on the brink of widespread war, it's clear that the Clash have lost none of their visionary impact, and much of of the credit must go to the late Mr. Strummer.
(c) 2002 Wayne Robins. All rights reserved. Comments? Try this new email address: email@example.com