Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clashdown: 26 Addendums

Accompanied With is a completist’s boot of all of Joe’s collaborations with artists like Jimmy Cliff, Black Grape, The Levellers, Brian Setzer, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Flea, the Violent Femmes and, of course, a shwackload more.

"Bankrobber" as an a capella folksong by Chumbawamba is a great idea even if the band members once dumped a bucket of red paint on Joe Strummer.

"Charlie Don’t Surf" as covered by Vancouver’s Sarcastic Mannequins (here) must be heard.

Disinformation | where's the clash when we need them? (Good article but damn those very dated, very broken links.)

Ever wonder if Billy Bragg played an entire Joe Strummer tribute concert?

For all your Clash Lyrics needs.

Generations bootlegs Strummer’s so-called wilderness years – almost an alternative Best-Of compilation (minus the hideous “Baby O Boogie ” – a real career low).

Here's the Streetdogs, "The General’s Boombox" wherein a street-punk band growls it’s approval of Joe.

I saw Attila the Stockbroker at The Norwood (a grubby little bar in the French area of town) where he railed against the Coors banner he played under – just the kind of self-foot-shooting-principle Strummer (whom he pays tribute to here on "Commandante Joe") would’ve stood up for.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros Live at the Bridgewater Palace was posted at Control Total.

Killer Clash boots from Punk Not Profit.

"Last of the Mohicans" by the loony John Otway is always a delight.

Misheard lyrics (for "Complete Control") is the funniest thing ever made for Youtube.

The National do "Clampdown" and it’s not like they sucked the energy out of it (like the Strokes) or made it earnest (like the Indigo Girls) or made it even even throatier (like Hot Water Music) they just added a brooding menace.

Orpheum Theatre in Boston bootleg available from Red Note Beats.

Pogues bootlegs with Strummer are great. (And Berkeley Place does list posts bloody well.)

Quotes from the Clash.

Rancid really love the Clash and their Joe-supporting helped him end on a high note.

Sandanista Project – This remake of Sandanista, an idea familiar to most Clash fans (I remember a caffeine-fueled night of sleep lost planning such a work in the early 90’s), is quixotic attempt to rehabilitate a white elephant and it may just succeed in a Terry Gilliam kinda way.

On this track the Coal Porters country up "Something About England

"Two Guitars Clash" is another tribute to the boys by Stiff Little Fingers.

Upload of Permanent Record Outtakes – a fine boot for all who dare journey through that Strummer Wilderness.

Video of "Clampdown" live in 1979 and more!

Wild Billy Chidlish’s album, Thatcher’s Children from which “Joe Strummer’s Grave” originated was posted at Cosmozebra.

X Moore from the Redskins had a great quote about their mission, "To walk like the Clash and sing like the Supremes".

Dwight Yoakm returned "Train in Vain" to the country song it was obviously meant to be.

The MenZigers cover of “Straight To Hell" acquits itself well, especially the break-it-down section near the end.

Finally, two titans overcome the ill-fitting lyrics of a Rasta classic to record a stunning duet on their own death song.

(Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer - "Redemption Song")

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Anger and Power

"If you can't understand the lyrics -
don't worry you're not alone."

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer died six years ago. I'm still angry.

Joe promised not to repeat the old mistakes. He promised rock n’ roll swagger and principal. But things went wrong. When that error occurred is a subject for Deep Clash Theoreticians but that he fell hard is incontestable.

The Clash got the Six Years of Greatness like Dylan had in ’62 to’68. Yet, after that, unlike the brilliant peaks and wretched valleys of Dylan’s innumerable second acts Joe produced only that Crap album, a handful of humble solo outings and some marginal soundtrack work.

“Joe Strummer put more into a couplet
than most guys put into an album.” Don Letts

The strength of the Clash’s work is that Strummer-Jones dynamic – their voices shoring up each other’s weaknesses, their contradictory public images and the way they embodied the split between music and lyrics.

In The Future is Unwritten Joe says that, unlike Mick who understood the music, he just wanted to get out some great words. He did. And in the end , no matter what, he left behind a fearsome body of work.

“Joe Strummer would choke on your verbosity and bellicose verbiage.”
Catch22Rye (in my comments)

Those words, Strummer’s densely packed lyrics, meant everything to me. During one of those particularly miserable years of junior high school, I, rather sadly, befriended a cassette tape of London Calling. That tape remained stuck in my Walkman while I tried decrypting Strummer’s garbled argot all on my lonesome. As I translated snippets, I wrote out page after page of them in my Social Studies binder. Joe Strummer did not save my life but he gave me focus when it turned to shit.

“Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer.
I think he might've been our only decent teacher."The Hold Steady

Joe taught me that anger could be power. That knowledge helped me break break old patterns of passivity. It helps me still, after all my anger with Joe's untimely demise spawned these words. However, I've come to learn that anger can also become a weakness and that there are times when truces and forgiveness bypass power altogether.

“So you think we lost the battle? Then go home and weep about it. Sometimes you’ve got wake up in the morning and think, Fuck it, you’re going to win the battle.”
Joe Strummer

Strummer not only inspired thousands to re-think anger and power he also got them to plug in their guitars and pen lyrics about him. I can’t find any songs about Mick, Paul or Topper (and definitely none about Terry) but lots on Mr. Strummer. So here they are collected in one place.

Songs about Strumming: Twenty Songs about Joe

(All songs , in order, are in the DivShare player below - click and enjoy)

  1. The Headlines With No One To Follow (A thrilling chorus drives home a song that celebrates Yoe Strummer in the best Swedish pop-punk style.)
  1. The Hold Steady Constructive Summer (While the sing-speak vocals can grate the Hold Steady are never boring musically or lyrically, as this song ably demonstrates.)

  1. Azra The Strummer (“Sell everything except your strummer.” Amen)

  1. The Radiators From Space Joe Strummer. (A rocking little narrative from this pre- and post-Pogues punk band.)

  1. Perry Keyes Joe Strummer (Keyes is an excellent Australian songwriter mining that seam between Strummer and Springsteen, which turned out to be richer than anyone imagined.)

  1. The Nu Niles Strummer’s Swing (Joe would’ve loved these spaghetti instrumentalists from Barcelona.)

  1. The Sting-Rays Joe Strummer’s Wallet (This 80’s British Psychobilly band name-checks Joe and quotes Eve of Destruction.)

  1. Stiff Little Fingers Strumerville (A newer track from this late 70’s Irish punk band – a bit earnest but such is the curse of Strummer fandom.)

  1. Suciedad Discriminada En el nombre del punk rock (Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone) (Strummer was a citizen of the world - “An atlas” in Bono’s words - so it’s no surprise to hear this band from Mexico, where Joe lived as a child, salute him.)

  1. The Alarm Three Sevens Clash (Mike Peters and co. took a lot of undeserved guff in the 80's for being a sloppy mixture of the Clash and Bob Dylan with worse hair but damn, as he proves here, Mike is still kicking.)

  1. The Beatsteaks Hello Joe (German punk band quotes London Calling riff to say hello and goodbye to Joe.)

  1. Billy Childish Joe Strummer’s Grave (Thirty years on and Childish, still all full of piss, vinegar and the early Kinks, gives us a screed against modern Britain that is venomous and fun.)

  1. The Gaslight Anthem I’da Called You Woody Joe (The very definition of the aforementioned Strum-Steen amalgamation and fucking good at it.)

  1. Die Toten Hosen Goodbye Garageland (The Dead Pants, Germany’s most legendary punk band, say sayonara to Joe with yet another fist-pumping lager-swaying sing-a-long.)

  1. Billy Bragg Old Clash Fan Fight Song (Let Billy, often called a “one-man Clash” in his better days, tell you all about Joe Strummer - good luck stopping him once he starts yammering.)

  1. Cowboy Mouth Joe Strummer (Overall, this New Orleans band seem like real Rock the Casbah fans but this track has some wit and a few fine (likely pro-tooled) vocal parts.

  1. Cock Sparrer Where Are They Now? (Early 80’s English oi band wrote some of the best songs in that genre including this call-out to Joe - and Tony Parsons and Julie Burchil - as they warn us “I believed in them – don’t you believe in us.”

  1. The Vacancies Strummer Hair-raising screams in the verses and a mournful, biting hook combine to “tell you a story about Joe Strummer.”

  1. The Pernice Brothers High as a Kite (Wikipedia says the lyrics include the line "We wore pictures of Strummer" but you'll need to listen closely as this is even quieter than usual for Joe (Pernice, that is). Give his solo album, Big Tobacco a listen, if you're ready for a nasty downer.
20. The Department of Correction A Message From Joe Strummer We end as we begun, in Sweden, this time with an instrumental track provided for some of Joe's final words.

If you'd like to have this collection of songs all together you may (for evaluation purposes only - to be wiped from your computer in 48 hours etc. etc.) here , for a limited time, is the entire folder.

“One of the reasons that (the Clash) still
rings true is that Joe spoke the truth.” Mick Jones

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Dreamed I Saw The Clash Last Night…

In Dreams

It began mid-set. The re-united Clash were playing at the Walker, a turn-of-the century theatre restored to a trace of its old glory. There, in the orange-red glow, beneath ornate arches stood what remained of the old heroes. Their bruising volume threatened to bring down the third balcony (“the Gods”) and my plush seat with it.

Somehow, the hulking, throbbing stacks completely obscured Mick Jones but his guitar roared. Joe Strummer was resurrected as a shaky CGI projection of his barking ’77 incarnation. Paul, I squint to reconstruct it all, was dressed in his modern retro gangster mode, complete with fedora. Let’s assume Topper was on drums because an illusory Clash reunion needs a good drummer.

Even unconscious, the whole spectacle felt disconcerting.

After a few songs, the curtain, a giant fireproofed creation that crossed a Persian rug with a Group of Seven landscape, drew shut. Paul Simonon, his bass slung low, came out and posed in front of a single microphone stand. It seemed inevitable that a The Good, The Bad and The Queen song was coming. Instead, Paul played “This is England” to a now almost empty room. I wondered if Mick Jones insisted that this song, created after his firing, be performed in isolation.

Paul tore though the song, hammering his bass and spitting out those words - “I got my motorcycle jacket/But I'm walking all the time – and it seemed alive and raw enough to bleed. Up in the rafter, the few of us left yelled backing vocals – “This is Ennng-land!” in camaraderie with this genuine moment.

As the song ended, I descended from the Gods. I tried to get closer to the mirage but as the ancient curtain pulled back and the digital Joe Strummer et al broke into “White Riot” the place filled back up like a hole in the sand. The crowd surged. Instantaneously, I was squeezed out the door and left, bewildered, in the cold night air.

This is England (Dub Mix)

In Reality

In Reality I never actually saw the Clash but in Vancouver in 1991 I did witness the Joe Strummer led Pogues (whom a co-worker seethingly dismissed as the ‘Gues for being Shane McGowan-less). I arrived in time to hear them break into a gut-belting “Straight to Hell”- a defiant Strummer pinnacle. My fists clenched, a wave of andrenalin rolled over my insides- it was the closest I’ll come, awake, to seeing the Clash. That performance confirmed a stubborn faith in Strummer as some kind of modern minstrel spreading songs from far away places and times.

In Defence of Folly

The dream itself is attributable to my second reading of Pat Gilbert’s “Passion is the Fashion”. That book captures the ego, the pettiness, the thievery and the resulting brilliance that was The Clash. However, the appearance of “This is England” cannot merely be attributed to its recent canonization as “the last great Clash song”. No, I bought Cut the Crap on vinyl from Records on Wheels the day it came out. As a good obsessive (who savours the hardscrabble rewards uncovered in awkward and ill-conceived albums) I listened to it compulsively.

Cut the Crap was lambasted upon arrival and remains an easy mark for critics of all stripes, “it’s the After M*A*S*H of rock n' roll,” in the words of 2000 Man from whammoblammo.

Kosmo Vinyl claimed this last version of the Clash was going to be done “without any of the excess or the bullshit.” Bollocks! Excess and Bullshit were the Clash’s stock-in-trade, with Jones being in charge of excess (he loved the pageantry of rock n’ roll) and Strummer bringing the b.s. (an inspiration as a fighter but as a political thinker he was no Orwell). However, on this album manager and commissar Bernie Rhodes loaded up on bullshit and excess. That he he failed to disembowel the whole work is a mighty testament to the guts of Joe Strummer The knocks on Rhodes’ gimmicky, synthetic production are well-founded; the biggest knock being its burial of some taut Strummer song-writing. You can hear him pounding on the wall-of-synths, as he bellows near-incomprehensibly on “Life is Wild”. While the lyrics he shouts can descend into weak sloganeering (“Yes I am the dictator I satisfy the US team”) when Strummer returns to recklessly slamming words together the results glow: “Patriots of the wasteland torching two hundred years Dragging my spirit back to the dungeon again Bring back crucifixion cry the moral death’s head legion Using steel nails manufactured by the slaves in Asia” Critics dismissed anthemic tracks such as “Three Card Trick” and “North and South”, as bad oi! songs due to the hooligan chants added into the mix. Strummer, (no fan of oi - “No, not Sham ‘69”) had, I propose, merely dug back into one of oi’s own antecedents. You see, secretly, oi!, at its best, is folk music. By which, I mean that oi! is uncomplicated music with direct messages designed for full-blooded audience participation – like a thuggish Pete Seeger. There is, similarly, a steady folk undercurrent (as in “Something about England” from Sandanista) on Cut the Crap, fitting for a version of the Clash that, in extremis, toured as acoustic buskers. It’s the raw palpable humanity beneath the mechanical sheen – just as so many of us live and breath here underneath all this digital chicanery.

In Conclusion

Closing statement, your honour? I submit that Cut the Crap, faults inclusive, is better written than any post-Clash project. The grit beneath the fluff trumps the discographies of B.A.D., Carbon/Silicon, Strummer solo and Havana 3.a.m. (each with a valid claim to the contrary, unlike Topper’s solo album or the Cherry Bombz).

Is all this revisionist? Hell, yeah. We are all revisionists; forever fiddling with the narratives that steer our lives. As technology imbues eternal life on antiques it ends up rendering history ever more contestable. The old Walker Theatre was re-named the Burton Cummings Theatre and Cut the Crap got touched up with a bonus track. Even history isn’t forever.

In the future maybe some blistering folk-punk band like the 241’ers or the Filthy Thieving Bastards will remake the whole damn album! Or, perhaps, Clash man Bill Price will strip the tracks naked and show us the skeletal remains of that music from another time.But that’s another dream all together.

In celebration of yet another Clash Post I’ve scoured for some boots – thanks to the always-inspiring If Music Could Talk for help. Most bootlegs are for obsessive (and if you’re here, you likely are as such) and these are no exception. Incidentally, Berkley Place is a good place for Clash-talk and boots and check out this boot idea

First is Give ‘Em Enough Dope a set of late-era live tracks from the Jones’ Clash through the Crap Clash.


And here's Out of Control, which are the demos (but more like rehearsals) for Cut the Crap. It’s a fascinating excavation – happy digging.


Here's the very live Clash of '77.

Here's more live Clash with Pearl Harbour and then with a scorched earth version of "Police on my Back".

Monday, August 11, 2008

Entertainment Can Be War

“Morning in America?

It’s Fucking Midnight!”

Vic Bondi

After surrendering Jones Very, Vic Bondi soldiered on by enlisting Colin Sears (drums) and Roger Marbury (bass) from Dag Nasty to form Alloy.

Vic calls Eliminate “…arguably the best thing I ever did.” AOF fans might differ but listen carefully. Hear the harshness that suffuses this entire record even in the ballads. Hear how abrasive fury bleeds into sadness between opening track “Alloy” and the second, “Unafraid”. Hear how razor-thin the line is between personal regret (“More Alone With You”) and political regret (“An Advertisement”). It’s enough to make you scream; and Vic does. Continuously.


Alloy carried on through a scorching self-titled album and then a final e.p. - all present and accounted for.


Paper Thin Front

Then, barring the Weathermen demos with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, it seemed to be all over.

But seventeen years later Vic re-appeared (with the mighty J. Robbins from Government Issue, Jawbox and Burning Airlines in tow) as Report Suspicious Activity because, as he put it, …the next impeachment needs a soundtrack” Also, Vic kicked ass in American Hardcore (he states the thesis at the start plus he gets two quotes and a song into the preview).

Vic’s vindication may be at hand.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bastards Win

“I'd rather lose a train of thought than keep it on one track.”

Vic Bondi

Vic Bondi never followed the easy way but unlike Bob Mould and Ian Mckaye he got scant credit for ground broken. In 1991, Jones Very (they were named after an American clergyman and poet and contemporary of Emerson) released a lean, raw and primal e.p. called Trains of Thought. The clash of noise and melody would get driven into the ground in the ninties but listen to how, long before all that, the sudden folk-rock flourishes on “Ideas New Tomorrow” and
“Fugitive Time” create a roaring contrast with the Vic’s sandpaper vocals and roughshod guitar.

A beautiful noise – dig in.

Trains of Thought

JV ended here and the and 1994's New Life For Lies features some fleshed-out studio versions of songs from Radio Waves.

New Life for Lies

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Racket

Jones Very followed up the blistering Words and Days with 1991’s Radio Wave a “ disc, pulled from two radio broadcasts at college stations in Boston. JV used to dump songs we heard on the radio into the set. There are two here: “Thankufalettinmebemiceelfagin” by Sly and the Family Stone, and Immigrant Song by Zep” says Vic Bondi on his website. The covers are not the highlight, that honour belongs to the full-throttle freak-out that is “Becket” – listen to Bondi scorch the earth as he shrieks “This is not my racket/ No, it’s Becket’s”. Like a Peel Session this album captures the band in that fiery point between studio and live performance and hence shows Jones Very at full strength.

Download Pt. 1

Download Pt. 2

Bitzcore has a few copies left of this album so if you like - go to support a label who actually paid Vic. (When I ordered this CD as well as AOF 's Core from them over the phone in 1991 they gave me a discount for being, in their own German-accented words, “a really big Vic Bondi fan.”