Some of the items still available at the store…
Julian Cope directly referenced this little-remembered, hard-to-fathom episode in late Clash history—from the period after Mick Jones had disastrously been removed from the band—with his three-day “Joe Strummer Memorial Busking Tour” in October, 2008. (Check that tour’s impressive itinerary here — then search youtube to see video highlights — there are many).
I’d love to know more about The Clash’s tour (are there any videos? etc). For now, though, there’s this…
From Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash by Pat Gilbert (2004), p 352-3:
In May 1985, [Clash manager] Bernie Rhodes, [manager] Kosmo [Vinyl] and Joe [Strummer] devised the Clash’s last hurrah—a busking tour of Britain. The idea was that the group would assemble at [guitarist] Vince’s flat, leave their wallets on the table and hitch to Nottingham with a few acoustic guitars. They’d then see where the wind would take them. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, Britain’s provincial towns and cities were thus treated to the extraordinary sight of The Clash popping up under railway bridges and in subways to entertain them with Monkees, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Cramps songs.
The group kipped on fans’ floors and in cheap B&Bs. They survived on the money thrown into their hats. It was a genuinely exiting and unpredictable experience. Joe described it as ‘the best tour we ever did.’
Paul [Simonon] agrees. ‘It was like starting out fresh again,’ he says. ‘It was great. “We’ll meet you in Glasgow in a week’s time,” and the idea was to leave everything behind other than the guitars. You couldn’t take any money with you. We survived by our wits. It was as exciting as the Anarchy tour, you never knew where you were going next. I remember we were in Leeds, it was 2 a.m., and it was outside this black club, and people were coming out and really digging us. There were two white guys and they were shocked it was us. They said, “Where you staying?” And we said, “We’re not staying anywhere,” so they invited us to stay at their mum’s. The money we made from busking meant we could go further, we didn’t have a plan of where to go next. There was no rules. You didn’t have to be on the so-and-so plane at twelve o’clock.’
Via Peter Relic
Joe Strummer died ten years ago today at the age of 50. He is missed.
Note: At the time of this conversation, Joe Strummer was 28 and Robert Fripp was 35.
RUDE BOYS: An Interview with Joe Strummer and Robert Fripp
by Vic Garbarini
Originally published in Musician Magazine, June 1981
Musician: One of the main things you two have in common is the belief that music can actually change society. How can this happen?
Strummer: Because music goes directly to the head and heart of a human being. More directly and in more dimensions than the written word. And if that can’t change anybody, then there’s not a lot else that will. Music can hit as hard as if I hit you with a baseball bat, you know? But it’s not an overnight thing; you can’t expect everything to change quickly. I figure it’s an organic process. Insidious. Look how listening to all those hippie records has affected everybody in general: everybody feels looser about things now.
Fripp: I did a radio show in New York with Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats recently, and he said he didn’t believe rock and roll could change anything. And I said to him, I disagree. So he said, well, if you build up hope in Joe Bloggs in some slum in Northern Ireland, he’s just going to wind up disappointed. And I said, look, if there’s Joe Bloggs in his appalling social conditions in Northern Ireland with no hope, and that becomes Joe Bloggs at No. 8 in his appalling social conditions but with hope, you have two entirely different situations.
S: That’s right. Good point that.
F: Then it’s possible for the geezer at No. 10 to get some hope, too. And then it spreads up the street, and you have a community. Then you have a community. Then you’re talking about something which isn’t dramatic and exciting, but which contains the possibility of real change. It’s easy to miss because it’s essentially personal, and it’s very quiet. And like Joe says, it takes time.
M: Is it the music itself that can do this, or does it merely serve as a rallying point?
F: Both, really. It serves as a rallying point, but it can work more directly too. I think sometimes at a really good gig when there’s a certain quality in the music, a kind of liberation can take place, and you don’t go home and take quite as much crap from the news as you did before, because you’ve actually tasted a different quality of experience which changes how you think about things. So to a degree you’ve been liberated.
M: How did you both wind up choosing music as your means of expression? How were you feeling about things in general, or what made you decide it had to be a band? That there was something you needed or could accomplish through rock?Continue reading
We’ve got 50 copies left of Arthur No. 3 (cover date March 2003, pub’d February, 2003). This one’s from the original incarnation (read: best) of Arthur—the pages are gigantic (11×17) and the paper is reasonably high-quality newsprint. Some color, some b/w. We’re selling our remaining stock for $5 each over at the Arthur Store.
Notes on this issue…
Joe Strummer died on December 22, 2002. His death received some notice, of course, but since he’d left us in the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year—when glossy music and culture magazines are basically shut down—real coverage of his passing, and the life that he lived, didn’t happen in the pop culture magazines of record. Big-budget American publications like Rolling Stone, Spin and Blender had already finished their January 2003 issues, so major features couldn’t fit in there without major expense (pulled features, pulped magazines, etc.); and by the time their February 2003 issues rolled around, the news of Joe’s passing would be (to their market-minds) “stale,” and thus to be deserving of only an obligatory page or two. Which is absurd for someone of Joe’s stature, his body of work, and commitment to The Cause.
At Arthur, we decided to pull the cover feature that we had in progress. Working together, with no editorial budget, the budding Arthur gang was able to put together something of substance very quickly, and get it out to the people, for free, in mass quantities (50,000 copies), within weeks of Joe’s passing.
Our wake for Joe Strummer would not have happened without journalist/archivist Kristine McKenna. She had a recent, lengthy (3800 words), and yes, poignant conversation with Joe on tape—a really great conversation, of course (this IS Kristine McKenna, after all) that the LAWeekly had used just a bit from in a feature earlier in the year. Kristine had witnessed The Clash at the top of their game, so she could offer some real historical perspective. And, crucially, Kristine knew that her friend, the L.A. photographer Ann Summa, had a trove of gorgeous photographs of Joe, few of which had ever been published. And Kristine got us permission to reprint a Clash-related page from Slash, the crucial late-’70s underground L.A. magazine. Meanwhile, my old colleague Carter Van Pelt, a reggae enthusiast, offered a new interview about Joe that he conducted with Mikey Dread.
Soon we had reports from all over. People were picking up multiple copies of the magazine and redistributing it. The golden centerfold of Ann Summa photo of Joe (worked on with a great deal of care and attention by Arthur’s brilliant art director, W.T. Nelson) was being torn out of the magazine and posted on record store walls, in dorm rooms, in clubs. There are other strong pieces in this issue—the John Coltrane book excerpt, especially—but it’s Joe’s issue. As it should be.
Here’s how the contents page read:
JOE STRUMMER, 1952-2002
Arthur holds a wake in print for a man who mattered. In addition to stunning photographs by Ann Summa and excerpts of back-in-the-day Clash coverage from Slash magazine, we present reflections on Joe by Kristine McKenna; a lengthy, poignant interview with Joe from 2001 by McKenna; a consideration by Carter Van Pelt of the Clash’s embrace of reggae, featuring insights from Clash collaborator Mikey Dread; and a brief on Joe’s legacy: a forest in the Isle of Skye.
At the height of both his popularity and his artistic powers, JOHN COLTRANE went for something deeper. An exclusive, chapter-length excerpt from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album by Ashley Kahn.
The intrepid Gabe Soria connects with every single member of THE POLYPHONIC SPREE, the cheeriest 24-person pop symphony on the planet, in addition to chatting at length with Spree leader Tim DeLaughter about the “c” word, the Spree’s next move, and the sadness that remains. Portrait by Paul Pope.
“ASK JOHN LURIE”: He may be in self-described “hermit mode” but this longtime Lounge Lizard is eager to lend a helping hand to his fellow man. And woman too.
In the work of artist SHIRLEY TSE, plastic aspires to more than Pop. Mimi Zeiger reports.
COMICS by Sammy Harkham, Jordan Crane, Johnny Ryan, Sam Henderson, Marc Bell and Ron Rege Jr.
Byron Coley & Thurston Moore review underground music, film and texts.
And more more more
Arthur No. 3 is available from the Arthur Store.
A MAN THAT MATTERED
Joe Strummer was a spectacular, inspirational human being
Text: Kristine McKenna
Photography: Ann Summa
Design: W.T. Nelson
Originally published in Arthur No. 3 (cover dated March 2003), shortly after Joe’s untimely death on December 22, 2002.
When the Clash first burst on the scene in 1977 I dismissed them for the same reason I’ve always hated U2. Their music struck me as humorless, self-important political blather that wasn’t remotely sexy or fun. Definitely not for me. Nonetheless, being a dedicated punk I had to check them out when they made their Los Angeles debut at the Santa Monica Civic on February 9th, 1979, and what I saw that night changed my mind—just a little, though. As expected, Mick Jones came off as a typical rock fop who clearly spent far too much time thinking about neckerchiefs and trousers. Joe Strummer, however, was something else. With the exception of Jerry Lee Lewis, I’d never seen anyone that furiously alive on stage. Legs pumping, racing back and forth across the stage, singing with a frantic desperation that was simultaneously fascinating and puzzling, he was an incredibly electric presence.
At the press conference following the show that night, L.A.’s ranking punk scribe, Claude Bessy, jumped up and snarled, “This isn’t a press conference—this is a depressing conference!” (Jeez, tempers always ran so high during that first incarnation of the punk scene—who knows why the hell our panties were in such a twist!) I remember that Strummer looked genuinely hurt by the comment. Mind you, he was a working class Brit so he wasn’t about to start sniffling in his sleeve, but he didn’t cop an attitude either. I was touched by how unguarded and open he was—and I was certainly impressed by the mans vigor. I wasn’t surprised when I subsequently learned that Strummer ran three marathons without having trained at all. His preparation? “Drink ten pints of beer the night before the race and don’t run a single step for at least four weeks before the race.”
That first show at the Santa Monica Civic didn’t transform me into a Clash fan, but Strummer interested me, so when the band showed up in 1981 in Manhattan, where I was living at the time, I decided to see what he was up to. The Clash had booked a nine-show engagement at Bond’s, an old department store on Times Square in Manhattan, and this turned out to be not a good idea. The place wasn’t designed to handle the crowds the band drew, and the engagement turned into a nine-day stand-off between the band and the fire marshals. I attended three nights in a row and can’t recall them ever actually making it to the stage and performing. But then, that was business as usual during the glory days of punk, when gigs were forever being shut down, aborted, abruptly canceled. This was political theater, not just music, and nobody embodied that idea more dramatically than the Clash.
Cut to June 14 of the following year and I finally saw the Clash succeed in a completing a full set at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. By then, I’d finally begun to appreciate the breadth and fearlessly experimental nature of the Clash’s music, and Strummer was at the peak of his powers as a showman at that point. The huge hall was packed, and it was as if Strummer was a maestro conducting this undulating mass of sweaty people, with the mysterious power to raise or lower the pitch at will. Boots, beer bottles and articles of clothing flew through the air, people leapt on stage, leapt back into the arms of their friends, Strummer stood at the microphone stoking the fire, and somehow managed to keep the proceedings just a hair’s breadth short of total chaos for two hours. It was a commanding display from a man who clearly knew his job and knew his audience.
Following the break-up of the Clash in 1985, Strummer charged head-on into a busy schedule of disparate projects. He acted in several independent films and composed six film soundtracks, including one—for Alex Cox’s lousy 1988 film, Walker—that was remarkably beautiful. I wrote an admiring review of the score for Musician Magazine, and a few months after it was published Strummer was passing through L.A. and he invited me to lunch in appreciation for the supportive words. We were to meet at a Thai restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, and though I was nervous on the way there, he put me at ease the minute we met. Strummer was such a genuine person that it was impossible to feel uncomfortable around him—I know it sounds corny, but he truly was a man of the people. He was funny and generous in his assessments of people, but he didn’t sugar coat things either–he had no trouble calling an asshole an asshole when it was called for. The thing that ultimately made Strummer such a spectacular human being, however, is so simple that it barely seems worth mentioning: he was interested in people. He wanted to hear your story and know what was going on in your neighborhood, he asked how you felt about things and was an empathetic listener—he paid attention! The other thing I immediately loved about him was that he was an enthusiast and a fan.
Just how big a fan he was became clear to me a few months later when he guest hosted a radio show I had at the time on KCRW. My show was at midnight on Saturday, and KCRW’s office is hard to find, so our plan was to meet behind the Foster’s Freeze at Pico and 14th at 11:00 P.M. He roared into the parking lot exactly on time in a car with four pals, and the lot of them tore into the record library at the station looking for the records on Strummer’s play list. His plan was play all the records that shaped his musical taste as a teenager in the order that he discovered them, and the show he put together was equal parts history lesson and autobiography. Included in the far-flung set were tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson, Lee Dorsey, Captain Beefheart, Bo Diddley, Hank Williams, and loads of fabulous, rare reggae and dub. His loving introduction to the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again” brought tears to my eyes. Several fans crashed the studio when they heard him on the air and realized he was in town, and he welcomed them all. It was a wonderful night. He had fun too, and as he thanked me and said goodnight, he kissed me on the cheek and I blushed.
Strummer spent the next ten years struggling to re-start his career post-Clash and stumbling repeatedly. “The only thing that got me through was sheer bloody-mindedness—I just won’t quit!,” he told me when I interviewed him in October of 2001. We were talking on the occasion of the release of his second album with his five man line-up, the Mescaleros, Global A Go-Go, which was rightfully hailed as the best work Strummer had done in years. He was happy with the record, and when I saw him perform at the Troubadour a few weeks after we spoke, he seemed happy in general.
Above: Joe Strummer leads an impromptu dancing-on-the-tables moment at a restaurant in New York City, sometime in the late ’90s. (Photo courtesy Chris from Hellcat/Epitaph.)
“I’ve enjoyed my life because I’ve had to deal with all kinds of things, from failure to success to failure again,” Strummer told a journalist from Penthouse Magazine in 2000. “I don’t think there’s any point in being famous if you lose that thing of being a human being.”
That’s something that was never a danger for Strummer. During that last interview (printed below), I asked him what the great achievement of punk rock had been, and he replied, “it gave a lot of people something to do.” I loved the complete lack of self-importance in that answer, however, this isn’t to suggest that Strummer ever broke faith with punk. “Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of,” he told Penthouse. “Punk rock is like the Mafia, and once you’re made, you’re made. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of the attitude is ‘give us some truth.’
“And, whatever happens next is going to be bland unless you and I nause everything up,” he added. “This is our mission, to nause everything up! Get in there and nause it out, upset the apple cart, destroy the best laid plans—we have to do this! Back on the street, I say. Turn everything off in the pad and get back on the street. As long as people are still here, rock’n’roll can be great again.”
Thank you Joe for bringing us the good news.
* * * * *
The following conversation with Strummer took place in October 2001, on the eve of his final U.S. tour during the winter of 2001-2002.
Arthur: You say the great achievement of punk rock was that ‘it gave a lot of people something to do.’ What was its great failure?
Joe Strummer: That we didn’t mobilize our forces when we had them and focus our energies in a way that could’ve brought about concrete social change—trying to get a repressive law repealed, for instance. We’re stuck in a kind of horrible holding pattern now, and it seems to me that the only way to change it is if we get hipsters to stay in one place long enough to get elected. The problem is that no hipster wants to get elected.
Arthur: I saw the Clash several times during their U.S. tours of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and I remember the sense that something profoundly important was at stake at those shows, that they were about something much larger than pop trends. What was at stake?
Joe Strummer: In the rush of youth you assume too much—and so it should be—but we felt that the whole machine was teetering on the brink of collapse. Some amazing things went down in Britain during the ‘70s—the government decided they could disempower the unions by having a three day week, for instance. Can you imagine that? Monday morning you wake up, and suddenly there’s only a three day week, from Monday to Wednesday. There were garbage strikes, train strikes, power strikes, the lights were going out—everything seemed on the brink, and looking through youthful, excitable eyes it seemed the very future of England was at stake. Obviously, that’s very far from the feeling these days, when everything’s pretty much smugly buttoned down.Continue reading
JULIAN COPE / BLACK SHEEP
Joe Strummer Memorial Busking Tour
October 27th – 29th 2008 C.E.
In keeping with the theme of Julian Cope’s new album BLACK SHEEP, which advocates direct action and civil protest, the Archdrude and several of his musicians will – on Monday 27th October – embark on a 3-day-long busking tour of UK cultural centres. Accompanied by singer/guitarists Acoustika and Michael O’Sullivan, Universal Panzies leader Christophe F., and Black Sheep strategist Big Nige, Cope will commence the tour at 10 am at the site of ancient law hill Swanborough Tump in the Vale of Pewsey, and conclude on Wednesday 29th in front of the famous Carl Jung Statue in Liverpool’s Mathew Street. The entire action is dedicated to Joe Strummer, whose 1986 Clash busking tour was the inspiration. The Future is Unwritten!
Monday 27th October
Swanborough Tump (Vale of Pewsey)
Although nowadays ploughed down to barely a cropmark, this once proud law hill formerly known as Swinbeorg was a Bronze Age ancestral barrow employed for hundreds of years by local people for sorting out disputes and enforcing new legislation. It was here in 871, just two months after becoming King of Wessex, that the future King Alfred the Great met his elder brother King Aethelred I on their way to fight the invading Danes. Each swore that if the other died in battle, the dead man’s children would inherit the lands of their father King Aethelwulf.
Eddie Cochran Memorial (A4, Chippenham)
On April 16th 1960, the Ford Consul private taxi carrying Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent from South Wales to London’s Heathrow Airport crashed at the foot of Rowden Hill, on the outskirts of Chippenham in Wiltshire, badly injuring Vincent and killing 21-year-old Cochran. As the only first generation rock’n’roller to die on English soil, the site of Cochran’s death has long been a place of pilgrimage for freaks across the world. In 1994, Cope’s youngest daughter Avalon was born just 200 yards from the crash site, in a room in the westernmost wing of Chippenham’s Greenways Hospital.
Armenian Genocide Memorial (Temple of Peace, Cardiff)
Cope’s long love affair with Armenia began in the early ‘90s with his studies of George Gurdjieff, the Biblical legends of Noah’s Ark upon Mt Ararat and his fascination for the country that embraced Christianity two decades before Ancient Rome. In 2003, Cope visited Armenia’s Tsitsernagaberd Genocide Monument, in the country’s capital Yerevan; a site dedicated to the millions who were force marched then driven into caves and suffocated by Turkish soldiers in the early 20th century. Turkey’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge its misdeeds (and its subsequent annexation of the whole of W. Armenia) have left Armenia’s psychic wounds open for a century now, which is why Cope believed that this Cardiff monument – paid for and erected by Wales Armenia Solidarity – was such an essential and symbolic place of pilgrimage on the tour.
Tuesday 28th October
Thomas Carlyle Statue (Chelsea Embankment)
The feisty Scottish essayist, Thomas Carlyle, is celebrated on this Busking Tour because of his enduring classic works, Heroes and Hero Worship and Sartor Resartus, both of which have hugely informed Cope’s trip. The first mentioned contains an astonishingly erudite overview of the life and times of Oliver Cromwell and Odin, moreover Carlyle was the first white author to give a useful and open-minded account of the life and work of the prophet Mohammed.
Wat Tyler Memorial (Blackheath)
In 1381, Wat Tyler led the Peasants’ Revolt, still one of the most extreme civil insurrections in the history of these British Isles. The revolt originated in Kent, where Tyler’s troops took Canterbury then proceeded to London, via Blackheath, which has long been associated with the insurrection on account of the famous sermon made to the army by renegade Lollard priest John Ball.
Emily Pankhurst Statue (House of Lords, Victoria Tower Gardens)
In order to represent Cope’s relentless championing of Women and Women’s Rights, there could be no heftier symbol than the matriarch and leader of Women’s Suffrage, Emily Pankhurst. Lest we forget that it is only since 1918 that women in the UK have had the right to vote.
Winston Churchill Statue (Parliament Square)
Cope felt it essential to visit Churchill’s statue, in Parliament Square, on account of his belief that it was only Churchill’s singular nature and half-American upbringing that allowed him to recognise the enormity of what would be lost in British democracy had he not continuously petitioned Parliament against the evils of Hitler’s Nazism, most especially at a time when such acts were considered only as war mongering.
Karl Marx’s Grave (Highgate Cemetery)
On this tour of centres that celebrates democracy and events ingrained in popular culture, Cope considers that it was only fitting that London’s stint should conclude at the grave of Karl Marx, the revolutionary German Jew whose philosophies and political theories lie at the very heart of modern democracy. As the words engraved upon Marx’s tomb remind us: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it.”
Wednesday 29th October
King’s Standing (nr. Birmingham)
Five days before the first pitched battle of the English Civil War, King Charles I addressed his army from atop a Bronze Age barrow that had long been used as a law hill, and was located at the foot of Birmingham’s Barr Beacon, that area of the Midlands’ primary law summit. The barrow thereafter became known as King’s Standing, and the village which grew up around it is known to this day by the same name: Kingstanding. As a long-time English Republican, Cope chose this site as the place that signified the very beginning of Charles I’s decline and, ultimately, his demise.
Site of the Peterloo Massacre (Manchester)
On August 16th, 1819, the huge crowd of 80,000 people, which had gathered in Manchester’s St. Peter’s Field to protest about the price of bread due to the unfairness of the new Corn Laws, were brutally attacked by cavalry fresh from the Battle of Waterloo who’d been sent to police the situation. With over 700 injured and 15 dead, the incident became known as the Peterloo Massacre and led to the forming of the Manchester Guardian.
CG Jung Statue (Liverpool)
Carl Jung’s statue in Liverpool has long been associated with Cope, due to his continued championing of Jung’s philosophies and the peculiar coincidence of the statue’s marble having been brought to Liverpool in the car of Donato Cinicolo, who photographed Cope for the cover of his 1984 LP FRIED. Jung famously called Liverpool ‘the Pool of Life’ just before his death in 1961.