Strummer Remembrance Day



Joe Strummer, who we take as our patron saint here at NTSIB, died 11 years ago today. The above song, “Mega Bottle Ride” by Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, ends with the line “And it’s time to be doing something good”, and it seems to me that one of the best ways that anyone can pay tribute to Joe is by doing good in his name.



A lovely example of that ethos is the Tumblr blog “What Would Joe Strummer Do?” A recent post on the blog itself beautifully sums up what’s going on there.


letsagetabita-rockin asked: Hello, Joe. Do you like the idea that there’s someone who lets people ask them rather serious questions on the internet and answers them as if they were you?

This blog was started as a fun project, a bit of punk-rock silliness we could share with others. We didn’t expect serious questions, but we got them – and now, those questions are the reason we keep doing this. If people stop asking us questions, we’ll stop answering.

In the meantime, there are people out there who have real questions and life-changing problems and no one to talk to about them. If we can give those people a hand; if we can cheer them up a little when they’re miserable; if we can encourage them to give life another chance, then we are going to do it. People feel safe talking to Joe – and everyone deserves to feel safe talking to someone.

We are obviously not Joe Strummer, nor have we ever claimed to be him or to be affiliated with him in any way. Everyone who comes to this blog to ask us questions knows this, and it’s stated clearly here in our disclaimer. But if there are people asking us questions because they have no one else to ask – because they feel alone or lost or hopeless – and we can help by running this blog, then we are going to.

This isn’t about us. This is about what we can do to help other people.

WWJSD receives questions ranging from just asking Joe’s opinion of other musicians to relationship questions to pleas for advice from people who are at the end of their tethers in very serious ways. Each question is answered with compassion, love, and encouragement, and each answer is accompanied by a charming illustration featuring cartoon Joe by artist Giles, like the ones you see above and below.



And, of course, there’s always the wonderful Strummerville – The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music. Pay them a visit – it’s worth your time.

If you know about other ways people are doing good in Joe’s name, please share it in comments.


On Joe Strummer’s Birthday: Reinvention

Time to raise a glass to NTSIB patron saint, Mr. Joe Strummer a.k.a. Woody Mellor a.k.a. John Mellor, who would have been 61 years old today.

Joe had a nervous energy that never let him settle in one place, one role, one style, one identity for too long, as outlined in a new article from The Atlantic website Joe Strummer and Punk Self-Reinvention. When Joe passed away in 2002, he was in the midst of yet another renaissance with his young group of lads, the Mescaleros. Below is an artifact from that time, a full Mescaleros show filmed at the Roseland Ballroom in New York in 1999.


Strummer Week: Joe Strummer, R.I.Punk


Here we are, on the 10th anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer. I still miss Joe so much that it’s difficult to believe it’s a decade since he died… but maybe that’s because his presence is still so strong in the world. Things that Joe said and did still inform a good deal of what I do here and now, and I know it’s the same for people all over the world. He wasn’t perfect, no, but on his good days, he inspired more people than most of us will in our entire lives.

In Chris Salewicz’s biography of Joe, Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, director Jim Jarmusch had this to say about his friend: “He talked a lot about the bad times that ended the Clash. He seemed to feel guilty. He felt really bad about Cut the Crap, said it was crap. I said, ‘You only learn from your mistakes. You can’t learn things without fucking up.’ We had a lot of discussions about mistakes and accidents, how circumstance and fate affects our lives, how if you want to find your dream lover, you’ll never find it, but as soon as you dismiss the possibility, then it arises again. I was trying to relate that philosophy to him when he was down. I was throwing back his own attitude, because he was very good when people were down – just give them a few little words. He was very good at picking you up again.”

Joe went out just when his star was ascending again, getting better and better with the Mescaleros, and its heartbreaking to think of all that he had left to give that he didn’t have the chance to share with us. But he left a lot with us already, including a huge spirit that we can carry on in our own lives and share with others.


-Joe Strummer1


Below, I’ve collected some of my favorite songs from Joe. I encourage you to share your own favorite Joe songs and memories in the comments.

“Clampdown” – The Clash


“Know Your Rights” – The Clash


“This Is Radio Clash” – The Clash


“Brooding Six” – Joe Strummer, Walker soundtrack


“Shaktar Donetsk” – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros


“Cool ‘n’ Out” – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros


“Get Down Moses” – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros


1Perfect Sound Forever, Interview by Jason Gross, January 2003

…And Wants to Be Free

People often get the name of this blog wrong, especially on Twitter where I use the handle nowthissound. It makes me sad. Not because I feel it means the blog is not well-received but because it means people don’t know the source material. One of the reasons I call Joe Strummer the patron saint of this blog is because I took the name from the Clash. “This is Radio Clash” to be exact.



Though the biggest reason Joe is the patron saint is his life-long belief in the power of music and his joy in finding new and weird music and sharing it around. From his BBC radio series to his encouragement to “Go out and buy something weird today!” Joe kept an ear out for new sounds. The results could be heard from his early days with the 101ers, through the Clash and right on into the last Mescaleros album.

It’s that musical ideal, that desire to go out and find something great, no matter where it comes from, that I hope comes through on Now This Sound Is Brave. As the man sang, the stars go in, the stars go out, and punk rock’s what it’s all about.


Joe Strummer: Love Kills

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death, and the impulse is usually to be solemn and possibly even maudlin in our remembrances and tributes on this day. Yes, Joe was a seriously thoughtful guy and inspired many people to do great things, but he also had a sense of humor and wonder and joy which shouldn’t be forgotten. It bubbled out of him until the day he died.

So, in that spirit, I post the video for one of Joe’s contributions to the Sid & Nancy soundtrack, “Love Kills”. Joe, Dick Rude and someone who looks a lot like Jane Wiedlin as a group of inept federales, Gary Oldman turning into superhero Sid Vicious and (I think) a rockin’ song – what more do you need from a music video?


Joe Strummer: It’s Time to Be Doing Something Good

It should be clear from the name of this blog that Joe Strummer is important here. A man born with fire inside, he influenced a range of people from musicians to activists. He would have been 58 years old today.


Photo credit: Bob Gruen

Ponderous Wank: Music as Identity

For better or for worse, music has become inextricably linked to identity and image. Bands in certain genres are automatically tagged with certain traits by listeners. A “sound” may be attributed to a band based on their geographical location – the Seattle sound, the Philly sound, etc. And skimming through a few band pages at MySpace, one will find it easy to determine the sound of many bands solely from the art and images displayed (tip: if you display individual, name-tagged images of each of your band members accompanied by a photo of the band in a “fun” pose together, you will probably not be mistaken for a particularly experimental or progressive act).

This image tagging trickles down to the listeners and is sometimes forcibly taken up by listeners. Kids seeking their identities will lock themselves in their rooms with music for hours and will often emerge outfitted in the trappings of the music they have found the most relatable to their life or to the life they want to have. Cliques are formed. The punk kids won’t hang out with the metal kids. The hip-hop kids taunt the country kids. The emo kids don’t even come out of their rooms. The outer trappings can become a comfort when these kids begin making forays out into the world. In a sea of unfamiliar faces, another person with green hair or a cowboy hat can be an oasis. Friendships are formed over the fact that two people love one band and can’t stand another band favored by their peers.

As they mature and enter into romantic relationships, people woo each other with mixtapes. A song that a couple has danced together to becomes “our song” and will forever bring memories of that relationship, even long after the relationship ends. Couples move in together, and their record collections meld together. I’ve often said the hardest part of my own divorce was splitting up our tapes and CDs – we sat on the floor with pen, paper and stacks of CDs for a couple of hours, often bargaining with each other to gain sole ownership of certain albums. And everyone has heard stories of a significant other stealing an entire music collection in a messy break-up.

I began thinking about all of this while in conversation with a friend about fear. While I have grown more self-confident as I’ve grown older, I’ve also found it more daunting to go out into the world. I reasoned that part of the problem for me was a drastic decrease in the displays of these outer trappings for people my age. I officially entered my late 30s earlier this month, but unlike so many others in their late 30s/early 40s, I am not looking to settle down and blend into the suburbs with 2.5 kids, a trusty canine companion, a sport utility vehicle, a mortgage and more khaki trousers than any individual should ever own. I still have more black in my wardrobe than any other color. I like platform shoes and big, silver rings. I have a bleached streak in my hair, a visible tattoo and calloused fingertips on my left hand from playing guitar. I don’t see anyone else who looks remotely like me on my semi-suburban street. I don’t see anyone who looks like me at the grocery store unless I go at a certain time of night, and even then, the people I can identify as a part of my tribe are usually a good ten years younger than me. As a result, I feel as much an outsider as I did in high school.

This, I believe, is part of the reason I love music so much and why I become fixated on certain artists. Musicians still display the trappings, the signifiers long after people in the “normal” world have cut their hair and thrown away their band T-shirts (and, of course, many of those musicians are the very reason some of those trappings ever became symbols of identity). I can look at Dan Auerbach in his railroad jacket or Greg Dulli in his all-black wardrobe and see that they are a part of my tribe. Even if we share nothing more than similar taste in music (though, as we’re all from Ohio, we likely share a little more than that), that’s still much more than I share with most people I encounter in “meatspace” on a daily basis.

Music is still one of the most important things in my life, it still drives a large part of who I am. And, for me, music is still a refuge.