Joe Strummer: 10 years gone
Mick Jones agrees: “I don’t think it really started happening until after he died, but I think he deserves it.”
Like Bob Marley or John Peel, Strummer’s posthumous legacy crosses borders and generations. His charity for young musicians, Strummerville, continues to this day. Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis gave the same name to a corner of the festival site in tribute.
On his UK tour in 2005, Bob Dylan played London Calling. Springsteen has covered Coma Girl and Pearl Jam often play Arms Aloft, both latterday Mescaleros songs. In August, a starry line-up including The Pogues, Mick Jones and Billy Bragg played at the Strummer Of Love festival in Somerset, a one-off celebration marking both the singer’s 60th birthday and the 10th anniversary of his death.
Whatever he did musically, Strummer was never likely to eclipse his glorious heyday in The Clash. But his midlife reinvention with The Mescaleros helped liberate him from the long shadow of his legendary past in the same way as Robert Plant and Paul Weller escaped theirs. Tragically, he was cut short, cheated out of his third-act comeback.
“I’m wondering if he was cheated,” Dick Rude muses, “because for Joe, it wasn’t about the acclaim. It was never about the end of the journey, it was about the journey itself. From my perspective, he achieved what he set out to do.”
Back in Somerset in 1999, Joe seemed to have found some kind of contentment. He had become a kind of punk King Arthur, ruling over his campfire Camelot under the widescreen skies of Rebel Wessex. The best thing about his new rural kingdom, he told me, was the sky.
“We’re always in rooms in modern life, we never really think about were on a planet circling through space. Which is really weird; we almost shouldn’t exist. And being down here, you walk outside to piss on the grass and the whole celestial thing is looking at you.”
Strummer paused, lost in thought, grinning. “It knocks your head off.”
Joe Strummer: 21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ ‘Global A Go-Go’ and ‘Streetcore’ have just been re-released on CD and heavyweight vinyl by Hellcat Records