Latino Joe

I came across these two clips at the weekend, Joe Strummer and Latino Rockabilly war playing a benefit gig in Notting Hill in 1988. The film was recently re-discovered by the cameraman who was part of a community video group at the time. The quality isn’t perfect- the bass in the first clip sounds like a repeating fart-but they’re worth watching. First up is Joe and the band covering Big Audio Dynamite’s V Thirteen, a song Joe and Mick Jones co-wrote. Joe giving it plenty with the riffing arm. If The Clash had survived intact after Combat Rock this is a pointer as to where they might have gone.

The other one is this version of Straight To Hell, taken down a notch or two but no less intense. Zander Schloss’s guitar playing is a little over complicated but this is nicely done.

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Permanent Record

In 1988 Joe Strummer recorded five songs for the soundtrack to the film Permanent Record, a Keanu Reeves film about teenage suicide and its effect on those left behind (something which must have struck a chord with Joe whose own brother had killed himself years earlier). For the soundtrack Joe worked with Latino Rockabilly War, a group of musicians he put together while decamped in L.A. including guitarist Zander Schloss and ex-Red Hot Chillli Pepper drummer Jack Irons. These would be the players on the Earthquake Weather album a year later. The soundtrack had five Strummer songs including solo career highlight Trash City (which I just found out Keanu Reeves played some guitar on). The title track, Theme From Permanent Record, is an instrumental and you might think ‘what is the point of a Joe Strummer instrumental?’ Joe wasn’t a virtuoso guitarist, his voice and lyrics are what most people would pay their money for. Zander Schloss is a guitarist who sometimes needs reeling in a bit too. But this instrumental is worth a few minutes of your time today and shows one of Joe’s other talents- to get a bunch of people in a room, to get a feeling going, and to get them playing something heartfelt.

Theme From Permanent Record

Strummerville

This is a public service announcement…  my top ten Joe Strummer post Clash songs. After some consideration I’ve tried to get a spread from the end of The Clash through to Joe’s last Mescaleros record. Joe’s back catalogue is pretty badly served, with a lot of his solo songs, especially those from a variety of film soundtracks, out of print. A career spanning boxed set or double disc is required. Hellcat put out a three disc compilation of his final three Mescaleros albums plus some B-sides but it was download only. I don’t think Earthquake Weather is currently available either. Someone should sort it all out and put it all together in one place. Some of the rankings here a pretty arbitrary here, I could easily move them around if I did it again.

Ten
Island Hopping (from Earthquake Weather)
A gentle-ish acoustic guitar song with a story of the council chopping down the trees on Mango Street, together with some Latin instruments and percussion. the 12″ version Mango Street is worth seeking out too.

Nine
X Ray Style (off Art, Rock And The X Ray Style)
I think this may be my favourite Joe solo album, proof he was back and his fire hadn’t gone out. X Ray Style has some lovely ruminations on life, people and the universe and some very Joe references to things like rockabilly trains and be-bop guns.

Eight
The Unknown Immortal (off the soundtrack to Walker)
Joe spent much of the late 80s in and around films, with Alex Cox, various Pogues, Jim Jarmusch and others. The Unknown Immortal is Joe reflecting on the nature of fame and greatness, and losing it. From the epicentre of his wilderness years.

Seven
Tennessee Rain (from the soundtrack to Walker)
Another song hidden away on a film soundtrack Tennessee Rain is a lilting, rootsy thing. ‘I wish I was drunk in Havana, I wish I was at the Mardi Gras’.

Six
At The Border, Guy (off Global A Go Go)
An extended dub influenced song with Joe stitching together lines from an old notebook while The Mescaleros organ, guitar and bass cook away slowly. One of my favourites from his solo career that seems to pull a lot of what he did best into one song and let it go.

Five
Sleepwalk (Earthquake Weather)
Joe again full of self doubt, ruefulness and searching for something, vocals buried low in a muddy mix, acoustic guitars plucked and the Latin vibe going on. Joe almost croons on this one, asking ‘What good would it do?’ repeatedly, with no answer.

Four
Yalla Yalla (Art, Rock and The X Ray Style)
Magnificent Richard Norris co-write and production, with acid house and reggae influences lifting it up and Joe’s vocal brimming with confidence again. I saw this one done live at least twice, a great set closer and a real return to form at the end of the 90s.

Three
Johnny Appleseed (From Global A Go Go)
I’ve written about this one before, an almost definitive Joe Strummer solo single with the revving guitars, great playing from the band and Martin Luther King and a Buick ’49. Nice video too.

Two
Burning Lights (from the I Hired A Contract Killer soundtrack)
The greatest of the great lost Joe Strummer solo songs, just a man with a Telecaster and some poetry about losing it. ‘You are the last of the buffalo’ he sings, to and about himself possibly.

One
Trash City (off the soundtrack to Permanent Record)
Cracking three chord riff, clattering drums and pots and pans backing from Latino Rockabilly War and some typically Joe lyrics- ‘in Trash City on Party Avenue, I got a girl from Kalamazoo’ is the starting point and it takes in ‘fifty seven records that you think you oughta own’ and ‘a hotdog in the nightmare zone’. Sounds like the best Joe Strummer song The Clash song never recorded.

Trash City

Bubbling under the top ten were Minstrel Boy, Coma Girl, Sandpaper Blues, and especially From Willesden To Cricklewood which is gorgeous.

Only Gone Tomorrow

This will probably only be of interest to the most committed of Clash and B.A.D. fans. The clip below is an audio recording  from Liverpool Royal Court in July 1988 of Joe Strummer and Latino Rockabilly War. The quality isn’t great, it sounds like an audience member with a Walkman, but it’s Joe and band covering Big Audio Dynamite’s career highlight V13. Mick and Joe had long since made up and Joe co-produced the album and got co-writing credits on several songs so it’s a close to a Clash reunion as there was. In truth B.A.D.’s version is miles better. Nevertheless it’s interesting to hear and a shame there isn’t a soundboard recording.

Joe

Twelve years ago today Joe Strummer died, having just got in from walking his dogs. I’d been out in town doing some last minute Christmas shopping. Mrs Swiss phoned as I was on the tram home (my first mobile phone I think). I got in and it was all over BBC News 24, footage and interviews with whichever punk related people the Beeb could get hold of (including Bob Geldoff. Pfffff.). It was and still is the most I’ve been affected by the death of someone I don’t actually know. Joe died of an undiagnosed congenital heart condition- it could have gone at any time. Amazing really considering the amount of energy he poured into every performance that it was something as normal as dog walking that caused it in the end. Pete Townsend said something along the lines of ‘Joe’s heart always beat twice as fast as everyone else’s’.

I saw Joe play with The Mescaleros three times in a couple of years before his death, twice at Manchester Academy and once at the arena supporting The Who. The two gigs at the Academy were an absolute blast, a man reborn. At one they came on stage, launched into Safe European Home and the place erupted. The closing double of Yalla Yalla and Bankrobber ended with Joe prowling the stage, mic stand over his shoulder. A young boy appeared on stage and he ended up on Joe’s shoulder too. This song is from an appearance on Jools Holland’s Later in 2000, the year he died.

This song is taken from an unreleased acoustic in-store performance, which I think Davy H provided me with many years ago. I’ve got a feeling the appearance was in Portland, Oregon but I could be wrong. The four track session is made up of Trash City (from the Latino Rockabilly War days) and X Ray Style, Island Hopping and The Road To Rock ‘n’ Roll (from The Mescaleros).

Cheers Joe.

Trash City (In store acoustic performance)

I Got A Girl From Kalamazoo

Ally left a comment after Wednesday’s Joe Strummer post saying she hadn’t got any Clash after Sandinista (wot, not even Combat Rock Ally?) and Simon left a reply saying that she should get Global-A-Go-Go which I wholeheartedly agree with. Here’s another Joe song, from 1989, backed by Latino Rockabilly War who also played with Joe on the poorly produced Earthquake Weather. This song-Trash City- came from the soundtrack to Permanent Record, one of five songs Joe contributed. Joe and Latino Rockabilly War toured on Rock Against The Rich in 1988. Apparently protesters picket various gigs Joe played at, complaining about Joe’s own wealth. The protesters didn’t know what Joe looked like, allowing him to agree with them, talk to them and then slip inside and play the gig. Sounds like a good Joe story. Trash City is a typical Strummer rocker with a crunching riff and oblique lyrics.

Trash City