I was introduced to the Clash by a waitress at the country club I worked at in various capacities through high school. Unprompted, she gave me a tape that had a mix of Clash tunes on one side, and the entirety of a Bananarama album on the other. When I wasn’t listening to one of the tapes-of-inexplicable-origin, that mix had a regular place in the player. The result was that the Clash provided a soundtrack to my junior and senior years. My friends and I would cruise around back roads in Winthrop and do the Wayne’s World Bohemian Rhapsody bit with Radio Clash and Rudy Can’t Fail. Straight to Hell was playing when I pulled my best bit of driving ever, managing to regain control of my car after having hit black ice on a curve at the bottom of a hill. "See me got photo photo photograph of you and mama-mama-mama-san..." piped out of my speakers, the sheer regularity of the beat calming me. It wasn’t until I pulled over to the side of the road that I realized that I had executed a textbook recovery, and had perhaps had the lives of three friends depending on my ability to not roll over into the woods below. They cheered and slapped my shoulder. I was freaked out enough to want to cry in fear and in relief.
The funny thing was, because I never seemed to have the liner notes for any of these tapes, I didn’t learn who Joe Strummer was until very recently. Paul and I had been talking about the Clash, and he told me that he had seen Joe Strummer in concert. I was clueless. I had listened to his music for years, wrapped my mind around it and come out on the other side slightly twisted, and yet I had no idea who the men behind that experience were.
Joe Strummer, lead singer for the Clash died on Sunday at his farmhouse in Somerset, England. He was 50 years old.
Rest in peace.