Tomorrow will mark the 5th anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer. I'm at work most of the day, but didn't want to let this sad occasion pass without saying a few words. My opening post on this blog featured a look at THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN; Julian Temple's excellent film on Joe, and I can remember I first heard the news on a radio programme. Soon, I was to receive emails and phone calls from friends who wanted to talk about his passing and remember all the great concerts we saw by one of the finest UK bands. Joe died from a congenital heart defect. He was just 50 years old. Strummer's first taste of fame came with pub rockers The 101'ers who were supported by the Sex Pistols at one of my old haunts The Nashville Rooms in London. Their "Keys To Your Heart" single was a taste of great things ahead for Joe, who went on to form The Clash after being asked to sing lead vocals with a band called London SS. When LSS folded, Mick Jones, Paul Simenon and Terry Chimes became The Clash. Following a blistering debut album, Chimes left the band (Levene had already been fired) and we had the classic line-up of Strummer, Jones, Simenon and Headon. Over the next 10 years, the band would record some classic vinyl and turn in some of the finest gigs I've witnessed. In fact, I'd have to nominate some of their shows as the very best I've attended, even surpassing the likes of The Jam and Siouxsie And The Banshees. When The Clash split, Strummer turned his back on many attempts to get them to reform, eventually forming a band titled The Mescaleros using reggae, jazz, funk and punk to create some exciting music. Joe's last gig was on November 22nd 2002 in Liverpool. A week earlier, Jonesy had joined the band live onstage. It was the first time the pair had shared a stage in almost 20 years, and would also be the last. The pair shared vocals on "Bankrobber", and the encores included "London's Burning" and " White Riot". I'm pleased they got back together again, if only briefly, as this duo had been through so much together.
I was listening to a BBC radio programme the other evening and came across "London Calling": a show where Joe had acted as DJ, talking about and playing some of his favourite tunes. The first song I heard him introduce was "Blitzkreig Bop" from The Ramones. This song reminded me of the time I saw this great American band play at a vastly overcrowded Rock City, Nottingham, and I could tell Joe also had fond memories of this group. It was so good to hear his voice again, to hear his love of music and of life. So, at some point tomorrow, no matter how busy I am, I'll think of Joe and all the good times. Of a heady night at Derby Kings Hall in 1977 when I saw the greatest British band that ever trod the boards, and caught their act on a further 10 occasions. I'll probably even shed a tear when I dig out the "Give 'em Enough Rope" album and play Jonesy's emotional "Stay Free" song which could have been written for Joe Strummer. A giant of a man, I wish he was still here.