Tony Adams

I’m not an Arsenal fan- my allegiances are with Manchester United- but I have an admiration for Tony Adams, the Arsenal and England centre back, twenty two years with one club and club captain for much of that time. The sort of player you’d like in your team. He had well documented problems with alcohol and at times has the look of a man who has been hollowed out on the inside.

In 1999 Joe Strummer put out his first album with The Mescaleros, Rock, Art and The X Ray Style. After his self declared Wilderness Years, roughly spanning the break up of The Clash and this record, Rock, Art… was a comeback, an album that was confident and coherent, Joe back at the top of his game lyrically and vocally with a sympathetic band and top class collaborators. The opening song is named after the Arsenal man (and as far as I know Strummer was a Chelsea fan, for his sins). Tony Adams starts with a burst of static, some squally guitar and tom toms and then Joe on the mic ‘late news breaking, this just in…’ Joe goes on to describe a power cut in New York over a Clash- like groove, reggae guitars and saxophone. The chorus us a rousing ‘Hey hey the morning sun/Has anybody seen the morning sun?’

Tony Adams 

In typical Joe Strummer style the song drags in all sorts of pop culture and apocalyptic imagery, funky Broadway, a solar flare, Tony Bennett, the search for a phone, dead men, debris and party hats. No clear reference to Tony Adams. When I saw him at Manchester Academy touring this album, a raucous and heady gig with Clash songs causing mass celebrations, Joe introduced this song by asking us to put aside our tribalism and rivalries and appreciate the man of the song’s title. Which we did. Adams had published his autobiography Addicted the year before and it was this acclaimed book, the story of Tony’s life long struggle, that struck a chord with Joe.

“England is used to worship a brand new band every now and then and throw them away into the ten following minutes. England is used to get rid of these kind of people, that’s disgusting. That’s a vicious behaviour but symptomatic of one certain illness which corrupts the UK. I’ve written one song about that which is called “Tony Adams”: No one in this fucking country rose up when he was denied the England armband, whilst he was winning his own fight against alcoholism. People might imagine footy is mundane, sometimes mundane stuff are important. We need people like Tony Adams.”