John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), known professionally as Joe Strummer, was a British musician. He was the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist, and lead vocalist of punk rock band the Clash, formed in 1976. The Clash's second studio album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978), reached No. 2 on the UK charts. Soon after, they achieved success in the US, starting with London Calling (1979) and peaking with Combat Rock (1982), which reached No. 7 on the US charts and was certified 2× platinum there. The Clash's explosive political lyrics, musical experimentation, and rebellious attitude greatly influenced rock music in general, especially alternative rock.[1] Their music incorporated reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, and rockabilly.

Joe Strummer
Strummer performing live with the Clash at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania in 1980
Strummer performing live with the Clash at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania in 1980
Background information
Birth nameJohn Graham Mellor
Born(1952-08-21)21 August 1952
Ankara, Turkey
Died22 December 2002(2002-12-22) (aged 50)
Broomfield, Somerset, England
  • Singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
Years active1970–2002
Formerly of

Strummer's other career highlights included stints with the 101ers, the Latino Rockabilly War, the Mescaleros, and the Pogues, as well as solo music. His work as a musician allowed him to explore other interests such as acting, scoring television shows and films, and hosting the BBC Radio show London Calling. Strummer and the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 2003. In his remembrance, Strummer's friends and family established the Joe Strummer Foundation (initially known as Strummerville), a non-profit organisation that gives opportunities to musicians and supports projects around the world that create empowerment through music.

Early life edit

Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, on 21 August 1952, the son of a Scottish mother and English father. His mother, Anna Mackenzie (1915–1986), was the daughter of a crofter and was born and raised in Bonar Bridge; she later became a nurse. His father, Ronald Ralph Mellor MBE (1916–1984), was born in Lucknow, India, where his father worked as a railway official and became a clerical officer who later attained the rank of second secretary in the foreign service.[2] Through his father, Strummer had an Armenian great-grandfather and a German-Jewish great-grandmother.[3] At the age of nine, Strummer and his 10-year-old brother David began boarding at the City of London Freemen's School in Surrey and rarely saw their parents during the next seven years. He later said, "[A]t the age of nine I had to say good-bye to them because they went abroad to Africa or something. I went to boarding school and only saw them once a year after that – the Government paid for me to see my parents once a year. I was left on my own, and went to this school where thick rich people sent their thick rich kids. Another perk of my father's job – it was a job with a lot of perks – all the fees were paid by the Government."[4]

Strummer developed a love of rock music by listening to records by Little Richard, the Beach Boys, and Woody Guthrie.[5] Strummer would even go by the nickname "Woody" for a few years.[6] He would later refer to the Beach Boys as "the reason [he] played music".[7] By 1970, his brother had become estranged from the family. His suicide in July of that year profoundly affected Strummer, as did having to identify his body after it had lain undiscovered for three days.[8] Strummer said, "[David] was a year older than me. Funnily enough, you know, he was a Nazi. He was a member of the National Front. He was into the occult and he used to have these deaths-heads and cross-bones all over everything. He didn't like to talk to anybody, and I think suicide was the only way out for him. What else could he have done[?]"[4]

After finishing his time at the City of London Freemen's School in 1970, Strummer moved on to the Central School of Art and Design in London,[9] where he briefly considered becoming a professional cartoonist and completed a one-year foundation course.[10] During this time, he shared a flat in Palmers Green with friends Clive Timperley and Tymon Dogg. He said, "I bought a ukulele. No kidding. I saved some money, £1.99 I think, and bought it down Shaftesbury Avenue. Then the guy I was busking with taught me to play 'Johnny B. Goode'. [...] I was on my own for the first time with this ukulele and 'Johnny B. Goode'. And that's how I started."[4]

In 1973, Strummer moved to Newport, South Wales. He did not study at Newport College of Art, but met up with college musicians at the students' union in Stow Hill and became the vocalist for Flaming Youth before renaming the band the Vultures.[6] The Vultures included three former members of Rip Off Park Rock & Roll Allstars, the original college band co-founded by Terry Earl Taylor. For the next year, Strummer was the band's part-time singer and rhythm guitarist. During this time, he also worked as a gravedigger in St Woolos Cemetery.[11][12] While in Newport, he wrote and recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder "Crumby Bum Blues", which was later used in Julien Temple's 2007 film Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. In 1974, the band fell apart, and Strummer moved back to London, where he met up again with Dogg. He was a street performer for a while and then decided to form another band with his roommates called the 101ers,[1] named after the address of their squat at 101 Walterton Road in Maida Vale.[6][13] The band played many gigs in London pubs, performing covers of popular American R&B and rock and roll songs. During this period, Strummer worked several occasional temporary jobs to fund the purchase of musical equipment, including time spent as a gardener in Hyde Park "to get the money for the guitar".[14]

In 1975, he stopped calling himself Woody Mellor and adopted the stage name Joe Strummer, subsequently insisting that his friends call him by that name. The surname "Strummer" apparently referred to his role as rhythm guitarist in a self-deprecating way. Strummer was the lead singer of the 101ers and began to write original songs for the group. One song he wrote was inspired by the Slits' drummer Palmolive, who was his girlfriend at the time. The group liked the song "Keys to Your Heart", which they picked as their first single.[4]

Career edit

The Clash (1976–1986) edit

On 3 April 1976, the then-unknown Sex Pistols opened for the 101ers at a venue called the Nashville Rooms in London, and Strummer was impressed by them.[1] Sometime after the show, Strummer was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones. Jones was from the band London SS and wanted Strummer to join as lead singer. Strummer agreed to leave the 101ers and join Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, drummer Terry Chimes and guitarist Keith Levene.[13] The band was named the Clash by Simonon and made their debut on 4 July 1976 in Sheffield, opening for the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan (also known as the Mucky Duck, now known as the Boardwalk).[13] On 25 January 1977, the band signed with CBS Records as a three-piece after Levene was fired from the band and Chimes quit. Topper Headon later became the band's full-time drummer.

During his time with the Clash, Strummer, along with his bandmates, became notorious for getting into trouble with the law. On 10 June 1977, he and Headon were arrested for spray-painting the band's name on a wall in a hotel. On 20 May 1980, he was arrested for hitting a violent member of the audience with his guitar during a performance in Hamburg, Germany. This incident shocked Strummer, and had a lasting personal impact on him. Strummer said, "It was a watershed—violence had really controlled me for once". He determined never again to fight violence with violence.[8]

Before the album Combat Rock was released in 1982, Strummer went into hiding and the band's management said that he had "disappeared". Bernie Rhodes, the band's manager, pressured Strummer to do so because tickets were selling slowly for the Scottish leg of an upcoming tour.[8] It was planned for Strummer to travel, in secret, to Texas and stay with his friend, musician Joe Ely. Uneasy with his decision, Strummer instead decided to genuinely disappear and "dicked around" in France. During this time, Strummer ran the Paris Marathon in April 1982. He claimed his training regimen consisted of 10 pints of beer the night before the race. For this period of time, Strummer's whereabouts were a mystery not only to the public, but to the band's management as well. Strummer said later that this was a huge mistake and that you "have to have some regrets". This was in spite of the popular success of the single "Rock the Casbah". During this time, band members began to argue frequently, and with tensions high, the group began to fall apart.[13]

In September 1983, Strummer issued the infamous "Clash Communique", and fired Mick Jones.[13] Topper Headon had earlier been kicked out of the band because of his heroin addiction, and Terry Chimes was brought back temporarily to fill his place until the permanent replacement, Pete Howard, could be found. This left the band with only two of its original members, Strummer and Simonon. Rhodes persuaded Strummer to carry on, adding two new guitarists.[13] Under this lineup, they released the album Cut the Crap in 1985. The album was panned by fans and critics alike and Strummer disbanded the Clash.

At the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Clash was said to be "considered one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history".[15]

Their songs tackled social decay, unemployment, racism, police brutality, political and social repression, and militarism in detail. Strummer was involved with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism campaigns. He later also gave his support to the Rock Against the Rich series of concerts organised by the anarchist organisation Class War. The Clash's London Calling album was voted best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine (although it was released in late 1979 in the UK, it was not released until 1980 in the US).[16]

Solo career and soundtrack work (1986–1999) edit

Strummer, backing with the Pogues in Japan

A year later, Strummer worked on several songs for the 1986 film Sid and Nancy, including "Love Kills" and "Dum Dum Club". Strummer also later worked with Mick Jones and his band Big Audio Dynamite, contributing to the band's second studio album, No. 10, Upping St. (1986), by co-writing most of the songs as well as producing the album along with Jones.

In 1987, he played a small part in the film Walker, directed by Alex Cox, as a character named "Faucet" and wrote and performed on the film's soundtrack. He starred in another Cox film that same year called Straight to Hell, as the character Simms. Straight to Hell also featured London-Irish folk/punk band the Pogues, both as actors and contributors to the soundtrack. Strummer joined the Pogues for a tour in 1987/88, filling in for ailing guitarist Philip Chevron, who wrote (in May 2008) on the band's online forum: "When I was sick in late 1987, I taught Joe all the guitar parts in an afternoon and he was on tour in the US as deputy guitarist the next day. Joe wrote all the tabs in his meticulously neat hand on a long piece of paper which he taped to the top of the guitar so he could glance down occasionally when he was onstage." This tour would be the first of several collaborations with the band.

In 1989, Strummer appeared in Jim Jarmusch's film Mystery Train as a drunken, short-tempered drifter named Johnny (whom most characters refer to as Elvis, much to Johnny's dismay). He made a cameo appearance in Aki Kaurismäki's 1990 film I Hired a Contract Killer as a guitarist in a pub, performing two songs ("Burning Lights" and "Afro-Cuban Bebop"). These were released as a promotional 7-inch single limited to a few hundred copies, credited to "Joe Strummer & the Astro Physicians". The "Astro Physicians" were in fact the Pogues ("Afro-Cuban Bebop" got a re-release on the Pogues' 2008 box set). During this time Strummer continued to act, write and produce soundtracks for various films, most notably the soundtrack for Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

In 1989 Strummer produced a solo record with the band the Latino Rockabilly War. The album Earthquake Weather was a critical and commercial flop, and resulted in the loss of his contract with Sony Records. He also did the soundtrack to the movie Permanent Record with this band.

Strummer was asked by the Pogues, who were fracturing as a band, to help them produce their next album, released in 1990 as Hell's Ditch. In 1991, he replaced Shane MacGowan as singer of the Pogues for a tour after MacGowan's departure from the band. One night of this tour was professionally recorded, and three tracks ("I Fought the Law", "London Calling", and "Turkish Song of the Damned") have seen release as b-sides and again on the Pogues' 2008 box set.

On 16 April 1994, Strummer joined Czech-American band Dirty Pictures on stage in Prague at the Repre Club in Obecni Dum at "Rock for Refugees", a benefit concert for people left displaced by the war in Bosnia. Although the set appeared impromptu, Strummer and the band had spent the days leading up to the event rehearsing and "hanging out" in Prague. The show began with "London Calling" and without pause went into "Brand New Cadillac". In the middle of the song, the power went out. Once the power was back on, Strummer asked the audience whether or not they would mind if the band started over. They then began again with "London Calling" and continued on for another half-hour.

After these self-described "wilderness years", Strummer began working with other bands; he played piano on the 1995 UK hit of the Levellers, "Just the One" and appeared on the Black Grape single "England's Irie" in 1996. In 1997, while in New York City, he worked with noted producer and engineer Lee "Scratch" Perry on remixed Clash and 101ers reissue dub material. In collaboration with percussionist Pablo Cook, Strummer wrote and performed the soundtrack to Tunnel of Love (Robert Wallace 1997) that was featured in the Cannes Film Festival in the same year.

In 1997, Strummer played the character of "Brand New Cadillac" songwriter Vince Taylor in F. J. Ossang [fr]'s road movie Doctor Chance [fr].

In 1998, he made a guest appearance on the animated television show, South Park and appeared on the album Chef Aid: The South Park Album featuring songs from and inspired by the series.

During this time, Strummer was engaged in a legal dispute with the Clash's record label, Epic Records. The disagreement lasted nearly eight years and ended with the label agreeing to let him record solo records with another label. If the Clash were to reunite though, they would have to record for Sony. During the nineties, Strummer was a DJ on the BBC World Service with his half-hour programme London Calling. Samples from the series provide the vocals for "Midnight Jam" on Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' final album Streetcore.

The Mescaleros and other work (1999–2002) edit

Strummer performing in April 2002

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Strummer gathered top-flight musicians into a backing band he called the Mescaleros. Strummer and the band signed with Mercury Records, and released their first album in 1999, which was co-written with Antony Genn, called Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. A tour of England, Europe, and North America soon followed.

This is my Indian summer ... I learnt that fame is an illusion and everything about it is just a joke. I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all.

— Joe Strummer to Chris Salewicz – 2000[6]

In 2001, the band signed with Californian punk label Hellcat Records and released their second studio album, Global a Go-Go. The album was supported with a 21-date tour of North America, Britain, and Ireland. Once again, these concerts featured Clash material ("London's Burning", "Rudie Can't Fail", "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais"), as well as covers of reggae and ska hits ("The Harder They Come", "A Message to You, Rudy") and the band regularly closed the show by playing the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop". He covered Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" with Johnny Cash.

On 15 November 2002, Strummer and the Mescaleros played a benefit show for striking fire fighters in London, at Acton Town Hall. Mick Jones was in the audience, and joined the band on stage during the Clash's "Bankrobber". An encore followed with Jones playing guitar and singing on "White Riot" and "London's Burning". This performance marked the first time since 1983 that Strummer and Jones had performed together on stage.[15]

Strummer's final regular gig was at Liverpool Academy on 22 November 2002, yet his final performance, just two weeks before his death, was in a small club venue 'The Palace' in Bridgwater, Somerset, near his home. Shortly before his death, Strummer and U2's Bono co-wrote a song, "46664", for Nelson Mandela as part of a campaign against AIDS in Africa.

Personal life edit

Strummer became a vegetarian in 1971, and remained so until his death in 2002.[17]

In 1975, Strummer accepted £120 (equivalent to £880 in 2023 from Bank of England Inflation Calculator) to marry South African citizen Pamela Moolman so she could obtain British citizenship (before the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force) by doing so. He used the money to buy his signature Fender Telecaster. In 1978, he started a relationship with Gaby Salter shortly after her 17th birthday.[8] The couple remained together for 14 years and had two daughters, Jazz and Lola, but did not marry as Strummer had been unable to locate and divorce Moolman.[8] During his relationship with Salter, he had multiple affairs.[8] In 1993, he began an affair with Lucinda Tait, which finally ended his relationship with Salter.[8] He was married to Tait from 1995 until his death in 2002.

Strummer described himself as a socialist and explained, "I believe in socialism because it seems more humanitarian, rather than every man for himself and 'I'm alright Jack' and all those arsehole businessmen with all the loot. I made up my mind from viewing society from that angle. That's where I'm from and there's where I've made my decisions from. That's why I believe in socialism."[18][19]

Death edit

On 22 December 2002, aged 50, Strummer was found dead by his wife at his home in Broomfield, Somerset. An autopsy showed that he died from a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.[8][15][20][21][22] His estate was valued at just under £1 million, and he left all the money to Tait. Strummer was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family.[8]

Legacy edit

At the time of his death, Strummer was working on another Mescaleros album, which was released posthumously in October 2003 under the title Streetcore. The album features a tribute to Johnny Cash, "Long Shadow", which was written for Cash to sing and recorded in Rick Rubin's garage, as well as a remembrance of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 ("Ramshackle Day Parade"), and a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song", which Strummer had also recorded as a duet with Cash. The Cash/Strummer duet version appears on the 2003 box set Unearthed. Strummer and the Mescaleros were scheduled to open for Pearl Jam on the 2003 Riot Act Tour.

Memorial to Strummer on 7th Street at Avenue A, New York City

In November 2003, a video for "Redemption Song" was released, featuring graffiti artist REVOLT painting a memorial mural of Strummer on the wall of the Niagara Bar in the East Village of New York City.[23] In 2013, the mural was destroyed due to construction;[24] a new mural was unveiled that September,[25] accompanied by a large celebration with Mick Jones in attendance.[26]

Strummer was instrumental in setting up Future Forests (since rechristened the Carbon Neutral Company), dedicated to planting trees in various parts of the world to combat global warming.[27] Strummer was the first artist to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral through the planting of trees.[27][28][29] In his remembrance, Strummer's friends and family have established the Strummerville Foundation for the promotion of new music, which holds an annual festival with the same name.[30] In December 2016, a blue plaque was erected by Seymour Housing Co-operative at 33 Daventry Street near Marylebone station where he used to live when it was a squat and the Slits and Malcolm McLaren all lived nearby.[31][32]

In January 2003, the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[15] At the Grammy Awards in February 2003, "London Calling" was performed by Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Dave Grohl, Pete Thomas, and Tony Kanal in tribute to Strummer.[33] In the same month at the rock club Debaser in Stockholm some of Sweden's better known rock musicians paid their tribute to Strummer by performing songs written by the Clash (the exception was Nicke Borg and Dregen from Backyard Babies, who performed "I Fought the Law", which the Clash had covered). At the end of the concert, the Swedish punk band Ebba Grön reunited for the tribute, aided by Mick Jones on guitar.[34]

Joe Strummer nameplates on Cotswold Rail locomotive 47828 in June 2009

On 22 December 2003, a year after his death, a tribute show/benefit was held at Irving Plaza in NYC. Bands that played were: Ari Up; Clem Snide; the Detachment Kit; Dirty Mary; Hammel on Trial; Jesse Malin; New Blood Revival; the Realistics; Eugene Hütz; Radio 4; Secret Army; Ted Leo; Vic Thrill & the Saturn Missile.[35]

The Belfast punk rock group Stiff Little Fingers recorded a tribute song "Strummerville" on their 2003 album, Guitar and Drum. In 2004 Al Barr, lead singer of the Boston punk band Dropkick Murphys, named his son Strummer in honour of Strummer.[36] German band Beatsteaks paid tribute to Strummer on their 2004 album Smack Smash with the song "Hello Joe". In 2004, German punk band Die Toten Hosen released an EP called "Friss oder stirb", which included a tribute song for Strummer called "Goodbye Garageland"; it is a lyrical co-production with Matt Dangerfield from London's 77 punk band the Boys. Attila the Stockbroker's Barnstormer released "Comandante Joe" on their 2004 album Zero Tolerance.

In February 2005 Cotswold Rail locomotive 47828 was named Joe Strummer by his widow Lucinda Tait at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.[37][38] On 22 July 2005 Tait unveiled a plaque on the house in Pentonville, Newport where Strummer lived from 1973 to 1974 and where his first foray into recorded music, "Crummy Bum Blues" was recorded.[39] "That Was Clash Radio", a 2005 short story which Charles de Lint, wrote in response to Strummer's death featuring Strummer in a minor role.[40]

New Orleans-based rockers Cowboy Mouth released a song called "Joe Strummer" on their 2006 album Voodoo Shoppe. The Red Hot Chili Peppers also recorded a tribute song called "Joe" as part of the recording sessions for their album Stadium Arcadium, releasing the outtake as a B-side to their single Desecration Smile in 2007. A play by Paul Hodson called Meeting Joe Strummer premiered at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival, and toured the UK the following year.[41]

On-stage Strummer wires himself up into an inhuman dynamo of sweaty, trembling flesh, fearful enough to have one wondering when the ambulance brigade will rush to his rescue with a straitjacket. While he tilts his bullet head at acute angles, his agonising face screwed into an open wound, he wields his Telecaster like a chain saw. His magnetism is totally original – more like an Olympic strong man imploding all his energy into a final record-breaking lift than anything seen on a rock'n'roll stage before.
Off-stage, he's the Clash member with the lowest profile.

Caroline Coon[4]

In conjunction with the Strummer estate, Fender released the Joe Strummer Tribute Telecaster in 2007, combining elements of Strummer's main guitars, namely an attempt at the "road worn" finish of his 1966 Telecaster, which he used until his death. The neck profile was an exact duplicate of Strummer's '66 Telecaster, while the guitar's finish was an approximation of the wear. The first 1,500 guitars came with a Shepard Fairey designed "Customisation kit" with stickers and stencils, which resembled some of the designs Strummer used on his guitars.[42]

Boston punk rock band Street Dogs recorded a tribute song called "The General's Boombox" on their 2007 album State of Grace. New Jersey's the Gaslight Anthem recorded the song "I'da Called You Woody, Joe" on their 2008 album Sink or Swim. The Hold Steady reference Strummer's impact in the song "Constructive Summer" on their 2008 album Stay Positive, singing "Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer. I think he might have been our only decent teacher." In November 2009, Tonara, a town in Sardinia, Italy, dedicated a street to Joe Strummer.[43]

On 22 December 2010, CJAM 99.1 FM, a radio station in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, declared the anniversary of Strummer's death "Joe Strummer Day to confront poverty in Windsor-Detroit."[44] For 24-hours, the station played nothing but Strummer-related music, wrapping the sounds around reports about poverty in the Windsor-Detroit region.[45] CJAM (which is located near the banks of the Detroit River, a kilometre from downtown Detroit) has since decided to make it an annual event and hosted its 10th annual Joe Strummer Day on 22 December 2019.[46]

In January 2011 a motion was started to grant Strummer his own street in the Spanish city of Granada.[47]

On 21 August 2012, which would have been Strummer's 60th birthday, Hellcat Records released an exclusive 57-song digital download album titled Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, The Hellcat Years. The album features Strummer's three Hellcat albums along with various b-sides and live songs, including Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert with Mick Jones. In September 2012, Hellcat announced the re-release of remastered versions of Strummer's three Hellcat records on both CD and vinyl.[48] Hellcat released Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert, Live at Acton Town Hall on 23 November 2012.

In January 2013 Joe Strummer had a plaza named in his honour, Placeta Joe Strummer, in the Spanish city of Granada, about 650m south of the Alhambra.[49] [50] In June 2013 a mural of Strummer was unveiled on the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent and attended by a number of Strummer's former friends including Mick Jones and Ray Gange.[51] In an October 2013 interview, Mick Jones confirmed that Strummer had intentions of reforming the Clash and new music was even being written. In the months prior to Strummer's death, he and Jones got together to write new music. Jones said at the time he assumed the new songs would be used on albums with the Mescaleros. A few months following their work together, Jones ran into Strummer at an event and asked him what he intended to do with those songs. Strummer informed Jones that they were going to be used for the next Clash record.[52]

In 2016, actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrayed Strummer in the film London Town which tells the story of a Clash-obsessed teenager who crosses paths with Joe Strummer by happenstance in 1979 and finds his life changing as a result.[53] The film was met with mostly negative reviews.

It was discovered following Strummer's death that he was an archivist of his own work, having barns full of writings and tapes. Over 20,000 items were stored in the Joe Strummer archive and on 28 September 2018, a 32-song compilation album titled Joe Strummer 001 was released. The album, which was overseen by Strummer's widow, Lucinda, and producer Robert Gordon McHarg III, features 32 songs, 12 of which had never been released. The set spans Strummer's career from the 101ers to the Mescaleros and features some unheard demos from the Clash following the departure of Mick Jones, along with an unreleased song recorded by Jones and Strummer in 1986. The set also features two of Strummer's final recordings.[54]

In September 2018, Warner/Chappell Music signed a publishing contract with the Strummer estate. The deal includes Strummer's solo career, Cut the Crap by the Clash, the soundtracks to three films, and his compositions with the 101ers and the Mescaleros.[55]

In 2023, Rolling Stone ranked Strummer at number 125 on its list of the 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.[56]

Musical equipment edit

Strummer in 2001 with his guitar

Strummer's main guitar throughout his career was a 1966 Fender Telecaster. Strummer bought the guitar in its original sunburst finish in 1975, with the £120 he was paid to marry Afrikaaner Pamela Moolman, thereby allowing Moolman to remain in Britain.[citation needed] After joining the Clash, the guitar's body and pickguard were refinished in grey auto primer and then painted black. Over the years, the guitar would see numerous sticker configurations, with the most prominent and longest-lasting one stating "Ignore Alien Orders". Years of heavy wear and taped on set lists remain on the guitar to this day, and the only known modifications to it included the installation of an individual, six-saddle bridge, and Fender "f-style" tuning machines.[citation needed]

The Fender Custom Shop created a Joe Strummer tribute Telecaster in 2007 with a reliced flat black finish and an exact replica of the neck profile of his '66 Telecaster.[42]

Strummer was naturally left-handed, but was taught to play guitar right-handed by his friend Tymon Dogg. Strummer had reckoned his left-handedness on a right-hand guitar as a drawback and claimed it caused him to be underdeveloped as a guitarist, although his style of playing was unique.[57]

He also used three Fender Esquire models, one from 1952, a white blonde with slab fretboard from the mid-1950s[58] and another from early to mid-1960s with a white pick guard and rosewood fingerboard.[59] The Esquire is a one-pickup version of the Telecaster. Prior to using any Telecaster oriented guitar, before buying his 1966 model, he used as main guitars a Gretsch White Falcon and a 1964 Hofner Verithin.[60] For amplification Strummer was known to use amplifiers such as a Roland Jazz Chorus, a Selmer Bassman while he was in the 101ers, a Vox AC30 and various Marshall amplifiers,[61] but his main amplifier was a Music Man HD 212,150.[62] Strummer commented on his choice of amplifier with "I don't have time to search for those old Fender tube amps. The Music Man is the closest thing to that sound I've found" and that the "plastic motif on the front is repulsive."[63]

Discography edit

The Clash edit

The 101ers edit

Year Album Additional information
1981 Elgin Avenue Breakdown Compilation album with material recorded from 1974 to 1976.
2007 Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten Soundtrack to the documentary of the same name
2018 Joe Strummer 001 32 song collection featuring remastered, unreleased and alternate versions of songs from Strummer's career

Solo edit

Year Album Additional information
1986 Sid and Nancy Soundtrack for the film Sid and Nancy, featuring 2 songs by Strummer. "Love Kills" and "Dum Dum Club"
1987 Walker (soundtrack) Soundtrack for the film Walker, scored by Strummer.
1987 Straight to Hell (soundtrack) Soundtrack for the film Straight to Hell, featuring 2 songs by Strummer.
1993 When Pigs Fly (soundtrack) Unreleased soundtrack for the film When Pigs Fly, scored by Strummer.
1998 Chef Aid: The South Park Album Features "It's A Rockin' World", performed by Strummer, Flea, Nick Hexum, Tom Morello, DJ Bonebrake, and Benmont Tench.
1999 Michael Hutchence (guest appearance) Backing vocals on the first track on Michael Hutchence's solo album, "Let Me Show You"
2000 Free the West Memphis 3 Features a cover of "The Harder They Come", performed by Strummer and Long Beach Dub Allstars
2002 Jools Holland's Big Band Rhythm & Blues (guest appearance) Features "Return of the Blues Cowboy" performed by Strummer and the Jools Holland Big Band
2003 Unearthed (guest appearance) A duet of "Redemption Song" with Johnny Cash.
2004 Black Magic (guest appearance) Strummer performed the song "Over the Border" with Jimmy Cliff.
2007 Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten Soundtrack to the documentary of the same name
2018 Joe Strummer 001 32 song collection featuring remastered, unreleased and alternate versions of songs from Strummer's career
2021 Assembly 16-track compilation features three previously unreleased versions of classic Clash tracks, "Junco Partner (Acoustic)", "Rudie Can't Fail" & "I Fought The Law" (Both tracks are recorded live at Brixton Academy, London, 24 November 2001)

The Latino Rockabilly War edit

Year Album Additional information
1988 Permanent Record Original Soundtrack Features songs by Strummer and the Latino Rockabilly War.
1989 Earthquake Weather Strummer's only studio album with the Latino Rockabilly War.
2007 Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten Soundtrack to the documentary of the same name
2018 Joe Strummer 001 32 song collection featuring remastered, unreleased and alternate versions of songs from Strummer's career

The Mescaleros edit

Year Album Additional information
1999 Rock Art and the X-Ray Style Strummer's first album with the Mescaleros.
2001 Global a Go-Go Reached number 23 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart in the US.
2002 Black Hawk Down Soundtrack for the film features a much shorter version of "Minstrel Boy". The longer version appeared on Global a Go-Go
2003 Streetcore Strummer's last album, released posthumously.
2003 Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten Soundtrack of the documentary of the same name
2012 Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros: The Hellcat Years Digital download only 57 song set featuring three Hellcat albums, various b-sides and Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert
2012 Live at Acton Town Hall Record Store Day exclusive 2-LP vinyl album limited to 2200 copies featuring Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert. Re-released on vinyl & CD in 2023.
2018 Joe Strummer 001 32 song collection featuring remastered, unreleased and alternate versions of songs from Strummer's career
2021 Assembly 16-track compilation features three previously unreleased versions of classic Clash tracks, "Junco Partner (Acoustic)", "Rudie Can't Fail" & "I Fought The Law" (Both tracks are recorded live at Brixton Academy, London, 24 November 2001)
2022 Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years Box set featuring remastered editions of all three of the band's studio albums along with 15 rare and unreleased tracks

Music videos edit

List of music videos, showing year released and director
Title Year Director
"Love Kills" 1986
"Trash City" 1988
"Gangsterville" 1989
"Generations" 1996
"Yalla Yalla" 1999
"Tony Adams"
"Johnny Appleseed" 2001
"Coma Girl" 2003
"Redemption Song"
"London is Burning" 2018 Kevin Petillo
"Junco Partner (Acoustic)" 2021 Spencer Ramsey
"I Fought the Law (Live)"
"The Road to Rock 'N' Roll (Demo)" 2022

Selected filmography edit

Let's Rock Again! is a 2004 one-hour music documentary, directed by Dick Rude, which follows Strummer touring in America and Japan with the Mescaleros and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, May 2004.

Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer is a 2006 biography of Strummer by Chris Salewicz.[8]

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a 2007 documentary about Joe Strummer by Julien Temple. It comprises archive footage of him spanning his life, and interviews with friends, family, and other celebrities. It debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.[64][65][66]

Tribute Concert: Cast a Long Shadow is a recording of the October 2007 tribute and benefit concert held in honour of Joe Strummer in Los Angeles. It features Love & Rockets, Zander Schloss, Hellride and many other artists, released in DVD format in December 2010.[67]

Let Fury Have the Hour is a 2012 documentary directed by Antonino D'Ambrosio, in which the figure of Strummer "looms large in the background".[68] The movie debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.[69]

Quiero tener una ferretería en Andalucía is a 2014 documentary about Joe Strummer's relationship with Andalucia.

I Need a Dodge! Joe Strummer on the Run is a 2015 documentary by Nick Hall.

Year Title Role Other notes
1980 Rude Boy semi-documentary subject
1983 Hell W10 Writer and director silent film
1983 The King of Comedy Street Scum non-speaking cameo
1987 Walker Faucet
1987 Straight to Hell Simms
1988 Candy Mountain Mario
1989 Mystery Train Johnny aka Elvis
1990 I Hired a Contract Killer Himself by Aki Kaurismäki
1997 Doctor Chance [fr] (French: Docteur Chance) as Vince Taylor by F. J. Ossang [fr]
2000 The Clash: Westway to the World documentary subject
2003 End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones documentary subject
2004 Let's Rock Again! Documentary Subject
2007 Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten documentary subject
2008 The Clash Live: Revolution Rock documentary subject
2011 Quiero Tener Una Ferreteria En Andalucia documentary subject
2012 The Rise and Fall of the Clash Documentary Subject by Danny Garcia

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Strummer's lasting culture Clash" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 23 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  2. ^ "Strummer, Joe [real name John Graham Mellor] (1952–2002), rock musician and songwriter". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/88710. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Salewicz 2006, pp. 35, 205.
  4. ^ a b c d e Coon 1977.
  5. ^ Will Gilgrass. "Blogs – Now Playing @6Music – #Strummer6Music". BBC. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Encoule, Jean (2003). "Joe Strummer – 1952–2002". Retrieved 17 November 2007. a) Joe Strummer was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1952 & christened John Graham Mellor. His family spent time in Ankara, Cairo, Mexico City & Bonn before Mellor returned to the UK to attend the City of London Freemen's School in Surrey. Mellor left school & enrolled at Central College of Art but left "after about a week", heading straight for the underground & squat culture. Mellor lived in Wales, playing in knock-about bands and using the nickname "Woody" inspired by Woody Guthrie's name.
    b) The Vultures, in time, led to the 101ers, a group of West London-based squatters named after their squat address. The 101ers were eventually supported by a nascent Sex Pistols. Mellor adopted the stage name of "Joe Strummer". Impressed by the power of the Sex Pistols, the newly self-coined Strummer determined that the 101ers were "yesterday's papers" by comparison. It was time to strike out anew. And this led to the start of the Clash.
    c) "This is my Indian summer ... I learnt that fame is an illusion & everything about it is just a joke. I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all." – Joe Strummer to Chris Salewicz – 2000.
  7. ^ The Playlist Special – Sean Lennon, Rolling Stone
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Salewicz 2006.
  9. ^ Brian J. Bowe (2011). The Clash: punk rock band. Berkeley Heights, NJ : Enslow. ISBN 9780766032323. p. 14. Retrieved August 2013.
  10. ^ "Strummer's lasting culture Clash" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 23 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007. a) Born John Graham Mellor in 1952, Strummer was the son of a diplomat and was given a middle-class upbringing at boarding school in Surrey before going to study art in London – before deciding that it was a "lousy set up".
    b, c, d) He had immersed himself in music since childhood, and his own musical career began when he started street performing with a ukulele at Green Park tube station. He played in two bands, the Vultures and the 101ers, but when the Sex Pistols supported the 101ers in west London in 1976, Strummer saw the possibilities open up for him and was inspired to form the Clash.
  11. ^ Don J Whistance's Clash Site – "Joe the Early years" (Retrieved 7 February 2014)
  12. ^ – "Bio" (Retrieved 7 February 2014)
  13. ^ a b c d e f Westway 2001.
  14. ^ ARTE TV interview 2001 -
  15. ^ a b c d "The Clash". Induction. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. 10 March 2003. Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2007. a) Quite simply, the Clash were among the most explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history.
    b, c) If not exactly a reunion, it was a rapprochement. On 15 November 2002, Jones and Strummer shared the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years, performing three Clash songs during the encore of a London benefit show by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. This raised hopes for a Clash reunion, which were dashed when Strummer died of a heart attack on 22 December 2002.
  16. ^ "Clash star Strummer dies" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 27 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007. Rolling Stone voted London Calling, their classic 1980 album (released in 1979 in the UK) as the best album of the Eighties.
  17. ^ "Joe Strummer chicken story". 3 February 2008. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 20 May 2014 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Salewicz, Chris (13 May 2008). Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0865479821.
  19. ^ Chris Salewicz (2006). Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer. p. 303.
  20. ^ "Clash star Strummer dies". BBC News. 27 December 2002. Retrieved 11 February 2009. Joe Strummer, the leader of legendary Seventies punk band the Clash, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 50. A spokesman for Strummer, real name John Graham Mellor, said the singer died at home in Broomfield, Somerset, on Sunday.
  21. ^ "Clash star Joe Strummer dies". Entertainment. CNN. 23 December 2002. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. Strummer, who was the band's guitarist, vocalist and songwriter alongside Mick Jones, died on Sunday at his farmhouse in Somerset, southwestern England.
  22. ^ "Strummer Autopsy". NME. 25 December 2002.
  23. ^ D'Angelo, Joe (17 November 2003). "Joe Strummer Leaves Final Mark on New York With New Video" (JHTML). MTV. Retrieved 29 November 2007. Clip features cameos by Rancid, actor Matt Dillon, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.
  24. ^ "Joe Strummer". EV Grieve. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  25. ^ "East Seventh Street, 4:31 p.m., Sept. 19". EV Grieve. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  26. ^ "Joe Strummer mural unveiling on 7th Street (Niagra) East Village (Lower East Side)". 19 September 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2014 – via YouTube.
  27. ^ a b "Joe Strummer's Charity Work, Events and Causes". Look to the Stars. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  28. ^ "Forest tribute to Clash star". BBC News. 19 January 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  29. ^ "YOUR PLANET – Part 2: 'I Want to Put Back What I'Ve Taken Out'". 20 September 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2010. Joe Strummer: The world's first carbon neutral artists, Joe Strummer was involved in setting up the company and his large forest on the Isle of Skye has become a memorial to him.
  30. ^ "Strummerville: A Charity in Honour of Joe Strummer of the Clash: Whats It All About?". Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  31. ^ "Joe Strummer is getting a blue plaque in Marylebone". Time Out London. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  32. ^ Block, India (16 December 2016). "NW1 calling: blue plaque marks site of former squat where The Clash singer Joe Strummer lived". Hampstead Highgate Express. Archived from the original on 2 August 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  33. ^ Runtagh, Jordan (11 February 2016). "15 Great Grammy Tribute Performances". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  34. ^ Ström, Christian (21 June 2013). "Thåström: Det är fruktansvärt". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Fillmore NY @ Irving Plaza – Artists". Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 29 November 2007. Joe Strummer Tribute – Ari Up (of the Slits); Clem Snide; The Detachment Kit; Dirty Mary; Hammel on Trial; Jesse Malin; New Blood Revival; The Realistics; Radio 4; Secret Army; Ted Leo (solo); and special guests
  36. ^ Helmer, April (23 April 2004). "Dropkick Murphys always sing loud, proud". The Express-Times. Dropkick Murphys. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  37. ^ "Engine named after Clash singer" (STM). BBC News. 12 February 2005. Retrieved 6 July 2007. The Class 47 Diesel, which is owned by Cotswold Rail, is being named after the singer, who lived in Bridgwater, Somerset. He died aged 50 in 2002."...
    ..."The locomotive, and plaque showing Strummer's name, were unveiled at Bristol Temple Meads station by his wife, Lucinda.
  38. ^ Joe Strummer remembered with Class 47 naming Rail issue 508 2 March 2005 page 57
  39. ^ "Plaque for Clash legend Strummer" (STM). BBC News. 22 July 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2007. The friend who arranged for a tribute plaque to Joe Strummer on the house where the punk legend wrote his first song admits he would have hated it.
  40. ^ de Lint, Charles (2005). The Hour Before Dawn. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-1-59606-027-2.
  41. ^ "MEETING JOE STRUMMER". Middle Ground Theatre Company. Archived from the original on 9 November 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  42. ^ a b "Joe Strummer". Archived from the original on 17 September 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
    Related articles:
  43. ^ Buquicchio, Cesare (19 November 2009). "Sardegna punk, una via per Joe Strummer". L'Unità (in Italian). Archived from the original on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  44. ^ Smith, Brian. "Joe Strummer's back to fight Detroit-Windsor hunger! Arrrghhhgorra buh bhuh do arrrrgggghhhhnnn!!!!". Detroit Metro Times. Archived from the original on 23 January 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  45. ^ Michalski, Michael (17 December 2012). "Exposing plight of area impoverished aim of Strummer Day". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  46. ^ Schweitzer, Carly. "Joe Strummer Day 2018". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  47. ^ "A street in Granada for Joe Strummer". Typically Spanish. 13 January 2011. Archived from the original on 16 January 2011.
  48. ^ Cericola, Rachel (22 August 2012). "Hellcat Records Celebrates 60 Years of Joe Strummer With Digital Release | GeekMom". Wired. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  49. ^ "Joe Strummer has a Spanish plaza named in his honour". BBC News. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  50. ^ Richardson, Martin (2 July 2013). "Went up a hill and came down: Pico de Veleta and Placeta Joe Strummer – Granada calling". Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  51. ^ "Joe Strummer mural unveiling". 15 June 2013. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  52. ^ "The Clash – Mick Jones: 'Secret Joe Strummer Tunes Could Have Sparked The Clash's Comeback'". Contact Music. 4 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  53. ^ "See Jonathan Rhys Meyers Play Joe Strummer in 'London Town' Trailer". Rolling Stone. 14 September 2016. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  54. ^ "Joe Strummer's rare and unreleased songs to be released on new album". NME. 29 June 2018.
  55. ^ "Warner/Chappell Signs Joe Strummer Solo Catalog". Billboard. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  56. ^ "The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time". Rolling Stone. 1 January 2023. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  57. ^ "Joe Strummer, the genius songwriter behind the Clash". Rock and Roll Paradise. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  58. ^ "Maximum Energy: The Gear of the Original Punks". Premier Guitar. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  59. ^ "A tribute to Joe Strummers Fender Telecaster guitar". 10 April 1976. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  60. ^ "A tribute to Joe Strummers Fender Telecaster guitar". 10 April 1976. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  61. ^ "Unknown Forum". Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  62. ^ [1] Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  63. ^ Musician Magazine 1980
  64. ^ Orshoski, Wes (7 November 2006). "Exclusive: Strummer Documentary To Premiere At Sundance" (JSP). Billboard. Retrieved 29 November 2007. "The Future is Unwritten", Julien Temple's new film on the life and career of late Clash frontman Joe Strummer, will have its U.S. premiere in mid-January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
  65. ^ "BBC – Somerset – In Pictures – Joe Strummer" (SHTML). Where I Live – Somerset – Celebrities and Events. Retrieved 29 November 2007. Julien Temple's biopic of the Clash front man, entitled Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, receives its premiere at The Palace in Bridgwater on Saturday, 5 May 2007. This photo is of a campfire in Somerset.
  66. ^ Kelly, Kevin (26 January 2007). "Sundance Review: Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten". Retrieved 29 November 2007. If you can imagine what it would be like to try to document the life of one of your closest friends after their death, and to assemble everything into feature film length, you can probably see how difficult the process might be.
  67. ^ MVD Visual at AllMusic. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  68. ^ Defore, John (10 April 2012). "Let Fury Have the Hour". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  69. ^ Goldstein, Gary (January 2013). "Review: 'Let Fury Have the Hour' doc features artistic protest". Los Angeles Times.

Sources edit


Films and documentaries

Further reading edit

External links edit