a eulogy of sorts
I did not start out today intending to write a eulogy; in fact, I was not going to post from work at all today. However, the death of Joe Strummer calls for a moment of rememberance. Not silence, not that. Today, my speakers are filled with the sounds of The Clash.
When a favorite icon of your life dies - be it an actor or writer or rock star - one takes the time to reminisce and share some memories and relive -in the rock star case - a little of your life through their music.
1977 was a watershed year for me. Punk rock arrived in the USA and it forever changed the way I listened to music. Though I didn't pick up on it until the following year when I heard the Ramones on a college station, I still recognize 1977 as the year the music changed.
A friend whose uncle owned a record store lent me an import copy of Clash (UK), which hadn't been released in the US yet. It was I'm So Bored with the USA that wrapped itself around my head and never let go. Janie Jones, Remote Control...I listened to the album on my piece of crap record player over and over. I was in 11th grade. 16 years old. My friends were listening to the new hearthrob of the music scene, Bruce Springsteen. Some of them were still doing the hustle, openly engaging in disco dancing while the rest of us wore our "Disco Sucks" pins.
At the end of 1978, a friend gave me a cassette copy of Give 'em Enough Rope. Safe European Home and Tommy Gun were staples of my days and night. Sitting in my bedroom with my newer, yet still crappy stereo, those huge, cushioned, oversized headphones on, bopping my head up and down and humming punk rock tunes all to the annoyance of my parents.
This isn't so much about the songs - I could sit here all day listing which songs played on my stereo during specific times of my life - it's about what Joe Strummer and the Clash meant to me. There were times when the only sounds coming from my room or my car were The Clash or The Jam.
So many hot, sticky summer nights, sitting in my Nova, drinking beer and listening to Joe Strummer's passioned voice.
I had my first major break-up with Clampdown playing in the background.
When I threw up that entire bottle of Boonesfarm wine, Brand New Cadillac was blasting from the speakers we had set up in the park that night, before the cops came, before we were chased through the woods by snarling dogs, smelling of puke and Miller Lite. Every time I hear that song, I can recall the taste of warm beer vomit.
And even though Sandinista disappointed me, I can still recite all the words to Magnificent Seven, and I bet my sister can, too.
By the time Rock the Casbah came around and everyone was a Clash fan, I had earned the right to call myself an old school fan and maybe, just maybe, looked down upon those who thought The Clash were a "great new band."
The most telling memory of what Joe Strummer meant to me, perhaps, lies in the bottom of a box in my bedroom closet. It's a tiny stuffed chicken that someone gave me, I have no idea why. It was just one of those things. When that person, my old friend Chris, gave me the chicken and said I had to give it a name, Radio Clash was on the air and I thus named the chicken Strummer.
I guess I'll fish little Strummer out of the box today and give him a place of honor on my dresser, right next to the tattered photo of Joey Ramone.
I think you all should leave your favorite Clash lyrics here. Just for the hell of it.