Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The Bottom Line

The BBC reports that Joe Strummer of The Clash has died of old age at 50.

For those of you with memories that don’t extend back quite that far, The Clash were a bracing blast of fresh air following years of fetid musical nonsense from stagnant marketing projects like The Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire.

The Clash was the first mainstream thrash band. They saved “punk” music from self-parody and Sandinista remains a great album although its context has become all but unrecognizable.

See, Strummer thought he had a vehicle for raising political consciousness. According to Billy Bragg, a like minded left-wing bully, "Within The Clash, Joe was the political engine of the band, and without Joe there's no political Clash and without The Clash the whole political edge of punk would have been severely dulled."

Well, in fact, the political posturing was what doomed the band.

Mick Jones, the musical engine of the band, quit and formed Big Audio Dynamite, the greatest band of all time if I may say so. While Strummer droned on about socialism, Jones expressed a libertarian ethic as refreshingly different from The Clash as The Clash was from LeChic.

The Strummer/Jones relationship mirrored the decline of Michael Foot socialism and the rise of Thatcher-Blairism. Strummer was fun when you were drunk and aggressive. Jones and B.I.G. was for when you sobered up, realized you were on a dead end and decided it was more fun to turn yourself around.

Strummer, it seems, reached the dead end.

Of course, who do you think will be remembered in the media, the guy who wrote "Pick yourself up off the floor, anything you want is yours" or the one who ranted "I'm so bored with the U.S.A."?

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