- 19 Oct 18
The last time I saw Joe, in the Olympia Theatre, he was urging a band half his age to catch up with him as he tore in to ‘White Riot’, unable to slow down. Is it any wonder that lion’s heart gave out, way before it’s time?
This generous compilation covers Strummer’s solo adventures, the work he did when he wasn’t in one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of all time. Disc one stretches from early efforts with the sound of seventies squats, The 101ers – ‘Letsagetabitarockin’’ is his first great song and a motto for life, and there’s nothing wrong with ‘Keys To Your Heart’ either – through the Sid And Nancy soundtrack, his seriously underrated Latin/folk work for Alex Cox’s Walker in 1987, ‘Trash City’ with the marvellously named Latino Rockabilly War in 1988, and his first solo album proper, 1989’s Earthquake Weather. Biographies like Chris Salewicz’s excellent Redemption Song refer to this time in the eighties after The Clash fell apart as Joe’s lost years but you’d have a hard time telling that from listening to this.
The second half of the first disc is devoted to the roots, rock, reggae, raga, ragbag of The Mescaleros, his other crucial group. Their contributions here – the make-a-grown-man-cry passion of ‘Yalla Yalla’ (“Distance no object, Rastafari!”), ‘Johnny Appleseed’, X-Ray Style’, 'Coma Girl' and their lump-in-your-throat version of ‘Minstrel Boy’ – are more than fit to stand beside the best of The Clash. The three Mescaleros albums all remain essential, Joe and his gang shoe-horning musics from everywhere and anywhere into the old rock framework. It might not be an obvious connection but one of the only high-profile acts doing this kind of I-don’t-give-a-fuck genre hopping/melding on a similar level today is Robert Plant. There’s one for all the young punks.