22nd December 2002. 6 years ago today, I listened to the news on the radio and heard that Joe Strummer had passed away. The Stranglers once declared there were 'No More Heroes' but we knew different. Lydon, Siouxsie, Weller, good old Shane, Smithy from The Fall, Howard Devoto.... all people I looked up to. Joe, however, was top branch of my tree. See, The Clash were always my favourites. Still are. Right from that raw bastard of a debut album through to Combat Shock, I loved their music. The things they said, their dress code. Everything. Trip back in time. it's 1977.
Kings Hall, Derby. I started off my gig going career at this venue. A former public baths. Eastern Promises and all that. First few gigs were Progressive Rock. Curved Air, Man, Budgie, Steve Hillage. Bit of a piss-up with my mates and sod the music. Then Punk came on the scene with both barrels blazing. Boomtown Rats was the first. Geldof trotting out his old story about being refused at a local Derby pub. Wanted us to all go round there after the gig and tear the place up. Heard he ran the same story at Leicester the night after. Showbiz. Buzz in the air the following week. Heard The Jam would be playing in November, bringing In The City to our city. Then word came through The Clash were down to come to Derby. 3rd November was the date to mark down in the old diary of events, and the night in question could not come quickly enough.
Cold November evening, and the queue snaked down Queen Street. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got in through the pearly gates and strode onto the wooden boards of the hall, making a beeline for the bar. Two pints of watered-down ale later and we greeted the first band of the evening. Welcome to The Lous; an all-girl band from France who were forced to make an early departure due to a barrage of missiles from a crowd who only wanted to see The Clash. Next up, Richard Hell And The Void-oids. Now, we all had vast amounts of love and respect for American bands who numbered highly amongst our favourite bands, and Mr. Hell was of course responsible for 'Blank Generation'; one of the finest 45 revs of delirium to batter our tender shell-likes. Sad to say, Richard H. was assaulted by showers of beer and spit, but battled manfully on to deliver a stormer of a set. Respect.
By now, the hour was getting late-ish. 10.00pm. The lights go out, 4 figures move onto the stage and.... BANG! There's a riot going on. It's the 4 rockers of the apocalypse and 3 seconds into their set, the Kings Hall is jumping from front to back. A solid mass of pogoing bodies, exploding in time to the music. Highlights? 'Janie Jones', 'White Riot', 'Career Opportunities', 'Garageland' ("Back in the garage with my bullshit detector") and the mighty 'Capital Radio' ("There's a tower at the heart of London, with a radio station right at the top"). Great songs, but the absolute peak was 'Police And Thieves'. Put this song down in my top 3 of most memorable live songs. i can still see the boys now, laying down those rhythms while the lyrics are barked out through the crowd, out the doors and into the streets where they came from. I'd go on to see The Clash on other occasions and although their gig with The Slits the following year was absolutely magnificent, this was my favourite. You never forget the first time.
Or the last. My final encounter with The Clash was at De Montfort Hall, Leicester. Jonesy and Topper had gone, Joe and Paul were joined by two members of Bristol punkers The Cortinas, and Joe sported a Travis Bickle hairstyle, flanked by a bank of TV screens. We kidded ourselves it was a great gig and, in truth, Joe played a blinder. Wasn't the same though.. Years later, I witnessed Joe join The Pogues onstage for a blistering 'London Calling'. That was the last time I saw him onstage.
His passing hit me particularly hard, so on the anniversary of his death, I raise a glass to an amazing man and wish to fuck he was still here.