Monday, December 23, 2002

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By now I'm sure that most of you are aware that Joe Strummer, formerly of the Clash, has died. Don't know if they've established a cause yet.

Kinda got mixed feelings about this news. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a sad thing. But unlike many of my fellow bloggers and other friends, I was never a Clash fan. Again, don't get me wrong- I recognize their importance and acknowledge their place in pop music history. And to make it worse, I was the right age- 17 in 1977- that I should have totally embraced not just the Clash, but Punk in general. But I was slow to be won over by Punk, even though I was a devoted reader of Creem magazine, in which the praises of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, the Pistols, the Clash, and many others were regularly sung. But to long-haired 17 year old me, living in a small Kentucky town, Punk as a way of life was simply alien to me. Maybe it would have been different if I'd been a resident of NYC or London, but I wasn't. While I did eventually come to like (especially) the Ramones and Television, I had nothing to embrace about it-there was no class system for me to rebel against, and frankly, I liked music just the way it was. Punk was out to tear down the prevailing music scene, deeming it flaccid, bloated and pointless. Not to give the impression that I was a Journey or Foreigner or Boston or Bob Seger or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Styx or...geek. I did know better than that. But there was still a lot of worthy music being made by talented (and not necessarily mainstream) artists who suddenly became irrelevant when Punk and New Wave came along, and when those movements muddied up the pool and pressure was applied to be more aggressive and hard-edged, "punky" if you will, then a lot of artists lost what made them interesting and special in the first place. Some got better, true, but some became pathetic and many others just disappeared. And the Clash was one of those groups that was supposed to be held up as a shining example of what rock 'n roll should be. But they just didn't grab my ear. I wasn't all that receptive to reggae either-a little went a long way with me back then, and I'm still not all that crazy about it- and it seemed like every other Clash song had a reggae beat to it. And all that social consciousness stuff kinda seemed in conflict with the very existence of "Clash records" to sell to a buying public. It just seemed to me that they were no better than any other group out there hawking product, they just talked a lot of shit. Eventually, "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" kinda broke down my resistance, and my hardcore Clash fan friend Mike Cary has loaned me a couple of compilations, so I've listened with older ears to much of the stuff I rejected in my youth, and it's OK.

So while I just don't feel any real sense of loss here, I do recognize Mr. Strummer for what he has done and his (and his mates') place in music history, like I said. So here's to ye, Joe Strummer. I'll knock back a shot for you tonight.

Oh yeah- I liked him in Mystery Train, too.