I never met Joe Strummer. I’ve never met anyone that knew him. Despite that, despite the fact that I was toddling up and down a flat in West London as he and the Clash set fire to the city, I think about him every day. In particular, I think of him on this day, the anniversary of his sudden death in 2002.
I’ve already written at length about Streetcore, his final Mescaleroes project. So I’m not gonna get into that here. I don’t really know what I want to say, in fact. But in 2002, I was working in Twickenham. I remember picking up a copy of The Sun- I hadn’t figured out quite how evil that paper was yet- and taking it to the 267 bus stop on Twickenham Road. And, at some point in my reading, I came across the news of Joe’s death. Despite the fact that I had never met him, despite not really being hip to the Mescaleroes, I had a tremendous sense of loss and sadness. I guess part of it is 50 is no age to die, whoever you are. But if you are one of rock music’s immortals..?
Joe’s music will live on through generations and generations of people, I think. That’s the great thing about music, it will never die, will always be there. And people will come to it, be it The Clash or the Mescaleroes and they’ll listen and know that the guy wrote most of these songs was, well, a bit of a fucking legend. How do I know this? Easy, it’s how I feel. And I came to it all very late, too late maybe.
There are people out there with stories to tell about Joe, obviously, I’m not one of them. But I can you tell a little story about his power, even 9 years gone, to connect people. I own a replica of his famous “Brigade Rosse” t-shirt, in fact I’m wearing it now. A few weeks back, Jo and I were heading into London. I had it on. As we arrived at Grove Park station, a man crossing the street walked towards us smiling in a part of the world not known for strangers smiling at you. I looked at him, confused, did I know him? He registered my confusion and spoke, “Your t-shirt. I’m a bit of a Joe Strummer fan myself.”
Oh, brilliant. I smiled at him and we carried on our separate ways. But just for one brief moment, the power of Joe had created a connection between two members of the human race. I like to think he would have been looking down on us and smiling.
RIP Joe Strummer.