Let’s Rock Again
December 22, 2012 marked 10 years since Joe Strummer’s death. Strummer was a singer/songwriter/guitarist and founder of the Clash, the only band that mattered, or so it and its followers proclaimed. An outspoken individual with strong principles and revolutionary leanings, Strummer was referred to as a “roaring, laughing, snarling lion.” Singers today aspire to be like U2’s Bono. Bono aspired to be Strummer.
Fittingly, the last record label he was on was Hellcat, a name that just as easily could’ve been a moniker for a street gang in the 1950s, a gang Strummer and his haircut/black T-shirts would have melded into perfectly. Not to mention the songs he wrote for Johnny Cash at the end of the country legend’s career- two hellcats in black, as it were. Hellcat re-released in the fall of 2012 the last three albums Strummer and his band, the Mescaleros, recorded; the final being the posthumous Streetcore, a collection of stray recordings put together by Mescaleros members that could possibly be his strongest solo work.
Probably three to four times a year for about the last five years I hold what I call Strummer Day , which came about after watching for the first time a DVD documentary about Joe called Let’s Rock Again, released also after his passing and detailing the year just prior. What Strummer Day basically consists of is me watching Let’s Rock Again or listening to his music, be it solo or with the Clash, until I feel better about life and everything that goes with it.
What I want to state, and make unequivocally clear, is that I have a life for which I had always hoped and have zero regrets. I have been so fortunate to have the family, friends, and experiences that I’ve had. This doesn’t preclude me, as a human being, from being disappointed at times, when the world and my place in it disappoints me.
So, on the days when I get down I reach for Strummer. Granted, it’s not the most obvious choice for a salve. His guttural, raspy voice, punky-powered guitar, and leftist acid-poetry lyrics aren’t going to relax most people, and yet for me, it does so because it reminds me of Joe and a scene in Let’s Rock Again.
It’s brief, in the middle, and if you are not really paying attention it can slip right by. Strummer is sitting on a sidewalk with a half-dozen teenage boys and girls, talking to them and the camera. A girl asks him his motto and he says, “Never give up.”
Clichéd and simplistic as it may appear, I believe it is as genuine and true a statement as anything. It’s something our parents would say, or our teachers, our mentors, our heroes. It’s a go-to inspirational-speech line that runs the risk of sounding trite, but there are times, there are people, who when they say it, it’s all one needs to hear. It reminds me of Jim Valvano, the cancer-stricken coach of the 1983 NCAA basketball champion North Carolina State Wolfpack, who gave a famous speech in 1993 in which the most memorable line was, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Valvano died eight months later.
I suppose we all have our tonics. We all have that little something that knocks everything back into perspective. It’s probably odd to some, if not most, that mine is five seconds in a documentary about Joe Strummer. I can’t say it doesn’t seem odd to me, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant or true. Thanks, Joe.
Recommended listening- Joe Strummer and Mescaleros- All in a Day
Larson Sutton, 39,
is a writer/musician
living in Los Angeles.
Picture By Brian Gimmel
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