I skived off work for half an hour last night, and another half an hour tonight – to watch the dvd of Lets Rock Again, which charts the way the late great Joe Strummer plugged that fantastic album Global A Go-go, which by the way you’ve got to listen to if you havent heard it.
The film cuts footage of Joe and the Mescaleros, with coverage of Joe chatting with people, it reminded me of the staged chats he has in the movie Rude Boy – this time its for real though.
I’ve admired Joe since I was a young teenager, he had something about him – the Clash were a group which was greater than the sum of its parts – but each of the individuals were wonderful too, and in my book Joe was particularly brilliant.
To see him in this film, I got a real impression again of what a genuine, amazingly humble, yet real ballsy guy he was.
You see him taking his cap in his hand, going to little radio stations to plug his album, talking about how he just wants to make the album break even, there’s a heartbreaking scene as he tried to talk his way into one radio station which goes something like this:
“Hi, it’s Joe Strummer, can I come in?
…. (someone speaks on the other end of the phone)
“My name is Joe Strummer, I’m a singer, could I come in to talk about the show we’re doing in town tonight?
“Well, I used to be in the Clash, so I guess its rock music…”
With each step he seemed to become smaller, eventually having to play the Clash card, which he was so obviously desperate not to. Its as if he’s saying, ‘please just recognise me for who I am now, not what band I used to be in!’
Another scene shows him writing out flyers to hand out to pedestrians in an American city. He then goes out to the street, and we see people ignoring him, refusing the flyers, and failing to recognise who he is… what a humiliating experience for one of the greatest rock and roll writers and performers of all time.
The film did nothing but strengthen my admiration for Joe, and its particularly poignant to note that he died later in the same year the film was shot, 2002.
Joe was a prophet, and a psalmist, a spiritual and spirited man, a tragic figure, a heroic figure, a fan of world music, flawed, a runner, an icon, and perhaps above all a very human man.
What lessons do we take away from this film? 1) To recognise that those you think are strong and succesful are often struggling to keep their heads above water too.
2) To persist, if even Joe Strummer, rock legend, has to work his backside off to promote a great album, then how much more do we have to put effort into raising awareness of what we do.
3) That Joe Strummer was the man people said he was – and its nothing short of a tragedy that he’s not here now.
Joe died the year before my other main musical hero, Johnny Cash, gutted – both of them were in their musical prime.