Stop Writing Things On Screens

Good advice Joe.

Earthquake Weather, Joe Strummer’s 1989 album, is a bit of a mess in places. There are some of Joe’s most affecting solo songs (Sleepwalk, Island Hopping), some mostly forgettable ones and some that sound like Joe couldn’t quite get it sorted. The songs that are decent aren’t helped by the production and the mixing. Gangsterville has a rambling lyric full of Joe lyrical tropes and a bashed out musical track complete with a squealing guitar solo. For the intro Joe mutters something and then the band crash in. There are some good moments, where the song breaks down and the piano runs down and Joe sings the song’s title – and then the band come back in again, crashing about. There’s a good song lurking inside Gangsterville but the performance and the production do their best to hide it. ¬†Joe was lacking confidence at this point, well into his self proclaimed wilderness years, and worked on Earthquake Weather in Los Angeles without a musical partner. Another voice alongside him, co-writing and in the control booth, and Earthquake Weather might have been a very different record.

Gangsterville

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Clash Piano

Clash week day four. Two songs from round the old Joanna. When the Clash On Broadway box came out in 1991 one of the unreleased songs was a cover of Every Little Bit Hurts, Mick at the piano and giving it loads with a reverb drenched, soulful vocal. According to the booklet it was recorded during the Sandinista! sessions after Chrissie Hynde had dropped in. Mick and Chrissie used to sing it together and Mick gave it a go in the studio a few days later, with Norman Watt Roy on bass (which dates it to when Simonon was away filming Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains) and Topper splashing away on cymbals and percussion.

Every Little Bit Hurts

Originally sung by Brenda Holloway in 1964 it was covered by The Spencer Davis Group which is where Mick knew it from. A couple of years earlier The Clash had been the subjects of a film, Rude Boy, a semi-fictionalised account of the life a roadie called Ray Gange. The film is a brave but flawed stab at documenting life in 1978-9 in Britain. But it does also feature some of the most incendiary Clash live footage committed to tape/celluloid which still makes the hairs on the back of neck stand up and the blood pump a little faster. In this section Joe finds a piano and starts hammering away while Gange stands around drinking beer. After a minute and a half and some muttering/swearing from Gange about Sam Philips and Elvis Joe breaks into Let The Good Times Roll, a Shirley and Lee song from 1956.

Give ’em a piano and a couple of minutes and both Joe and Mick would reel out the pre-punk songs. What Year Zero?

A Long Time Ago There Were Pirates

I found this image on the web the other night so it gives me a good excuse for a gratuitous Clash post and one of the most hair raising, adrenaline infused songs they recorded. The original Capital Radio was a freebie with the NME and the second hand price of it sky-rocketed. This appalled the band whose insistence on value for money and fans not being ripped off was a founding principal. So the song was re-recorded and included on the 1979 Cost Of Living ep, pound for pound one of the best value for money 7″ records ever released (a four track ep led by I Fought The Law and supported by two of their best lesser known songs Groovy Times and Gates Of The West plus this one here).

Capital Radio starts with Mick playing a sweet acoustic finger picked riff. At twenty nine seconds Mick, off mic, shouts ‘1-2-3-4’ and hits the main riff, a massive jolt of electric guitars. Joe joins in with a line about ‘the Dr Goebbels show!’ Topper’s drumming is on the money. Joe and Mick alternate call and response style, railing against London’s number one commercial radio station and it’s refusal to play punk records and celebrating the pirate stations of the 60s- now silent ‘cos they ain’t got government license’. They make radio programming sound like the biggest injustice of modern times. At two minutes the band breaks it down and Joe comes in with ‘hey guys, come on’. ‘Yeah wot?’ Mick responds, surly as you like. Joe then explores the possibility of The Clash being radio friendly and having a hit before they end with a brief breakout into You’re The One That I Want, then at the top of the charts with Travolta and Newton John. Mick’s strings squeal. Topper doubles the beat. More exciting and more fun than you can possibly imagine (as Obi Wan never said).

Capital Radio Two

While I’m here these pictures have been sitting in a folder waiting for a post so I may as well put them here or I’ll end up doing a week of Clash posts.

Here’s Joe and Mick in the USA, 1983, hanging by the pool- everything you need in late period Clash… Joe in Docs with mohawk and a busker’s ukulele, Mick having raided the army surplus store.

Paul live in Paris, raising standards.

And lastly Topper and Paul, on tour c1979 somewhere far from the Westway.

Without People You’re Nothing

Joe Strummer died on 22nd December 2002 and I’ve got into the habit of marking it here. God only knows what he’d have made of the events of 2016 but his famous quote that gives this post its title is as relevant as ever.

I finish work today for the Christmas holiday and I cannot remember ever feeling so tired. I’ll be raising a glass to Joe’s memory tonight. This song from Global A Go Go typifies Joe’s multicultural look at the world and his joy in other cultures.

Bhindi Bhagee

His bandmate and friend Paul Simonon turned 61 on the 15th of December so happy belated birthday to him too.

Back In The Day

‘Back in the day
Even circles were squares’.

Another lost piece from the Joe Strummer jigsaw, Generations was recorded in a day in 1996 while Joe was in Los Angeles. Having spent some time driving around the surrounding areas in his Cadillac with Shaun Ryder, Bez and Richard Norris, getting hopelessly lost on occasion, Joe was beginning to get back towards a band style scenario. The Mescaleros started to come together not too long afterwards, Joe writing with Richard Norris. England’s Irie, England’s unofficial Euro 96 song led to Joe’s only Top Of The Pops appearance with Black Grape. Joe was on the move. Contacted about a project to put out an album called Generations- A Punk Rock At Human Rights Joe went away inspired to contribute a song and wrote the lyric quickly. It was then recorded in a day in LA with Rat Scabies and Seggs from The Ruts on bass and drums. The producer Jason Rothberg came up with the name Electric Dog House. Joe’s response was along the lines of ‘well we’re not going to come up with anything better today’ so Electric Dog House it was. It’s a funny song with plenty of charm- loose drumming and some organ open it up and then Joe comes in. The mix and echo on the vox make it sound quite chaotic and the instruments pile up towards the end but there’s a good tune inside it, a nice chord change in the chorus and an affecting lyric- ‘let’s go running down the road’ Joe repeats. It’s a shame the three of them didn’t go on to record anything else together.

46664

While doing my Mick Jones post the other day I remembered another lesser known recording. The last song Joe Strummer wrote was Long Walk To Freedom 46664, a tribute to Nelson Mandela (46664 was Mandela’s prison number). Never recorded by Joe it was performed at one of Mandela’s 46664 concerts which aimed to raise awareness about and funds for HIV/Aids in Africa. Joe wrote the words. The music was written by *clears throat* Bono and Dave Stewart and it was debuted live by *clears throat again* Bono. I’ll try not to mention him again. Joe’s widow Luce and daughter Eliza were guests of honour at the 46664 concert when it was performed. According to the best of my knowledge/internet chatrooms Luce asked Mick Jones to record the song too after Joe’s death and Mick agreed, re-writing the tune and playing all the instruments himself. In the months before Joe died legend has it Joe and Mick had been writing together after Joe asked Mick to come down to the Streetcore sessions. Mick felt uneasy but some writing may have taken place and one interviewer claims Joe had told him they weren’t for a new Joe Strummer/Mescaleros album but for ‘the new Clash record’. Whatever the truth, this would appear to be the last Strummer/Jones song, never officially released. Even the bootlegs are rare.

46664

And They’re Ringing The Bells All Over The City

Yesterday was Joe Strummer’s birthday. He would have been sixty four. His passing in 2002 seems a long time ago now. I’ve no doubt he would have had a lot to to say about the world as it has unfolded over the last fourteen years, more songs to write and records to release, more places to tour, constant offers to reform The Clash. So it goes. This song does a typical Strummer trick, taking the commonplace (a nitcomb), building some versus and a chorus around it with some typically Joe street-poetry touches, and turning it into something affecting and real, a song of devotion.

Nitcomb