Dale was commenting on my Friday Random Ten and pointed out that Barb also had Joe Strummer turn up on her Random Ten today. I went over to check on it, and she had pointed out that it was four years ago today that we lost Joe.
I was devastated when Joe died. He was only 50 years old. The Clash were absolutely my favorite band ever. They hit the United States when I was about 17 and bowled me over. I was awakening politically, and the Clash were singing my song.
I mentioned in a previous post Phil Ochs' quote:
"And if there's any hope for America, it lies in a revolution, and if there's any hope for a revolution in America, it lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara."
The Clash were the closest, I think, that we've ever come to that. I remember in an interview in '79 or so, Strummer saying that his intent was to sell as many records as he could. The Clash had a message, and he didn't intend for it to go unheard. He realized that popular music was a medium to pass that message on.
I have a great memory that made that point. In the summer of 1983, my parents bought me a month pass for Greyhound. I was in school in central Illinois and my folks lived in San Jose, California. I took a trip to see them and some friends along the way.
In the course of my trip, I had a stop in San Antonio. We were there for over an hour, so I went out to grab a bite to eat and to walk around downtown San Antonio for a while. I came upon a group of kids-- they had to be high school age-- hanging out in a parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. From a boombox the "Combat Rock" album blared. It really hit me-- here I was, in the middle of Texas, and the Clash were playing. They'd made it. And their message was getting to where it needed to get to.
A few years ago, my friend Viktor Zeitgeist was at a rock festival in Northern California. The line-up was incredible: among them were the Blasters and X with their original line-ups, Reverend Horton Heat-- and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleroes.
He was walking around the festival with his girlfriend Lynn (now his wife Lynn) and came upon Joe having a beer, chatting with some fans. They joined in. Joe was, he said, just a great guy.
Viktor told him about this friend of his who'd had a really rough time the last couple of years-- a custody fight, financial problems, and was now teaching in a poor neighborhood-- and was a huge Clash fan. It would mean a lot to his friend if he had Joe's autograph. Joe said he'd be delighted. Viktor went and got a poster, and Joe signed it for him.
About six months later, Joe was dead.
If you haven't figured out already, my real name is Brian. And I think you can see why Viktor Zeitgeist is my best friend.