Sunday, 14 October 2007

There's A Tower In The Heart Of London


Julien Temple's endlessly moving tribute to the late, great Joe Strummer has to be one of the most important releases in 2007.

Moving through his globe-trotting formative years - from Turkey and Cairo to boarding school in England ("A school where people hung themselves") - THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN unearths a terrible personal tragedy before moving onto the roots of Strummer's musical career.

Art School Rock with a band called The Vultures sowed the seeds for his first major band, pub rockers The 101'ers whose single 'Keys To Your Heart' still makes me want to get up and move. Soon, this not-so tiny acorn blossomed into a bigger and better league with a mighty oak called The Clash; a band who changed many lives with their music and lyrics.

Here, those monumental live gigs are recalled with meaty footage of a band on fire: 'Career Opportunities', 'London's Burning', 'What's My Name' and other choice cuts are presented here via concert and rehearsal footage, confirming their reputation as a high octane act.

Temple's film is punctuated by great live music, and input from the world of cinema and music: Scorsese, Matt Dillon, Steve Buscemi and Johnny Depp stand in line to pay tribute, but it's Bono and Courtney Love who make the most telling contributions: the former declaring "The words of Joe Strummer were like an atlas", while Love tearfully recalls the time when Joe and his wife took her in and treated her like their daughter.

There are many more emotional sights and sounds from these great campfire tales. The sight of poor old 'Topper' Headon in particular, brought a mighty lump to my throat, but perhaps one of the saddest things of all is to witness again how the band fell apart. Did they really turn into the people they tried to destroy? Why were they so hated for making it in America? Perhaps many of their critics wanted them to stay in their 'Safe European Home' and churn out multiple retreads of that amazing debut album, and couldn't or wouldn't accept the glories of 'Sandanista'.

The last time I saw The Clash in concert was at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. By that time, Strummer was flanked by two members of Bristol punk band The Cortinas, and sporting his De Niro Taxi Driver haircut. Sure, we kidded ourselves it was a good gig but, deep down, we knew The Clash were no more. They had gone. Forever.

My final live encounter with Joe was at a Pogues gig at Rock City, Nottingham where he strode onstage to deliver a blistering version of 'London Calling' and then he was gone.

Joe Strummer passed away 22nd December 2002, and the news of his passing ruined my Christmas.

He's still with us though. People like Joe never really die. They just go away for a while, re-appearing whenever their music is played.

THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN brings him back again, deepening our respect and admiration. Expect a review of the wonderful Clash film, RUDE BOY in the coming weeks.
Thanks for reading the opening post in my new blog. I'll be delving into the worlds of cinema, music and books to the best of my limited ability. I have virtually zero knowledge of computer know-how so I hope you'll forgive any failings and also hope you'll enjoy reading my posts.
I have a list of my favourite blogs and hope you will check them all out if you haven't already. They are all well worth visiting on a daily basis.


  1. Good luck Steve with your blog, and way to go on a wonderful opening post.
    I love Joe and can't wait to see this picture. I never got to see him live which is soemthing I will always regret, but some of my most special teenage memories involve listening to The Clash and obsessing over Joe's lyrics.
    I recently got a couple dozen or so live soundboard recordings of The Clash and hearing these are like having an old friend coming back in my life. I wish at 34 I still had the same consistent passion and energy I had at 18, but at least when I am hearing Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper I feel it again.
    Great opening post...good luck with your blog.

  2. Thank you Jeremy for those kind words. One of my most precious musical memories involves seeing The Clash in Derby with Richard Hell as support when that superb debut album was released. I'm not sure if the movie RUDE BOY is available in the US but it's essential viewing. Thanks again for the encouragement, and I'll be checking your own blog on a daily basis as usual. it really is an absolute joy to read.

  3. Hey I know Richard! What an awesome gig that must have been. Richard and I are from the same area and I have corresponded with him some and collected all of his literary works and of course records...seeing his with The Clash must have been incredible...RUDE BOY did recently come out here but I haven't been able to pick it up yet...phenomenal film.
    Thanks again for the support and nice words.

  4. I bought a bootleg import of RUDE BOY when I was 17 and have never looked back. Strummer's untimely passing is one the saddest in rock'n'roll, as he was such a genuine, humble spirit and had finally found his way back to the stage making relevant, exhilarating music once again. I just wonder when the hell this doc is coming to the boring ol' USA...

  5. Amazing to learn that you know Richard Hell, Jeremy. Wonder if he remembers that gig in Derby with The Clash and The Lou's?
    Thanks for your contribution, Will. Both yourself and Jeremy have posted some nice and perceptive words on Joe. Hope this doc sees light of day on R1 very soon.