There Is No Cat

The alternative to flowers!

Monday, December 23, 2002

i was e bloom richard hell joe strummer and john doe

Joe Strummer was the most important musician of his generation, and the world will miss him terribly. More specifically, I will miss him terribly.

Once upon a time, The Clash were The Only Band That Mattered. I loved The Clash. They spit in the eye of the record industry by insisting that their records be priced inexpensively, even when they released a double album (for only a dollar more than a single album), and then a triple album. It's hard to overstate how important they were to someone like me at a time when music seemed like a battlefield between the dinosaurs who dominated commercial radio and the young upstarts who made the only music worth listening to. Their music was the soundtrack of my college years. That double album turned out to be one of the best rock albums ever. I remember when we got a white-label acetate single of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" b/w "Rock the Casbah" at the station I worked at in college. That was one of the biggest things that happened at the station. We put it on the air right away, and proceeded to play the hell out of it. The Clash were the revolutionary vanguard of a new music. They really were The Only Band That Mattered. And I loved Joe Strummer.

Then Joe and Paul Simonon fired Mick Jones for musical heresy, and everything changed. A bunch of impostors released an album, but it wasn't The Clash. They said to Cut The Crap, then provided the crap to cut. I called the band The Joe Strummer Ego Trip. A wise man once said that it was better to burn out than to fade away. The Clash, the most important band ever, faded away. The band that was more than a band turned out to be just a band after all. Our heroes had feet of clay. I was so disillusioned. I hated Joe Strummer.

Joe Strummer disappeared from music for a while. He spent some years in the metaphoric wilderness, doing pennance. He did a little acting. He wrote some songs with Mick, whose musical heresy apparently wasn't so bad after all, which made the breakup of The Clash an even bitterer pill to swallow. I resented Joe Strummer.

We all got older. Joe publicly repented, apologizing for the way he handled the last years of The Clash. He showed up periodically on Andy Kershaw's program on the BBC to talk about some interesting records he'd been listening to. He delved further into world music, expanding The Clash's interest in reggae to cover a bunch of other things. I spent a lot more time listening to world music myself, too. The Clash had opened my ears to some interesting sounds and given me the entree into world music. My interest in the subject had started during the heyday of The Clash when I was at college and playing records on the radio, and expanded ever since. Joe played some records on the radio, too, hosting a program on the BBC World Service called "London Calling". Nice bit of blowback there, since The Clash had lifted the title of their all-time classic album from the ID used by the World Service for so many years. He played some interesting tunes from all over the world. I forgave Joe Strummer.

Joe got back into music in a serious way. He put together a band, The Mescaleros. They got some decent press. Andy Kershaw played them regularly. They incorporated a lot of the lessons Joe had learned from his extensive study of world music. They put out a couple of albums, and I heard a track on one of the compilations that come with copies of fRoots magazine a couple of times a year. It was catchy. I was intrigued. I bought the albums and found that Strummer was writing some really odd and interesting tunes that tickled my ears. He celebrated the multi-culti nature of life these days. He wrote an ode to his time on the World Service, "Global a Go-Go", celebrating the gumbo that results when you have Nina Simone over Sierra Leone and the Bhundu Boys rocking Acapulco. He wrote about the literal gumbo that results when you get all kinds of nationalities and their foods in one place in "Bhindi Bhagee". Joe had made great music with The Clash, and now he was making great music with The Mescaleros. I loved Joe Strummer again.

And now he's gone. He helped make the world a little smaller, and now he's left it a little emptier. I was sad when John Lennon died, even though I never liked The Beatles. This is worse than that. Requiescat im Pace, Joe.

Posted at 8:41 PM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

that's a beautiful tribute to joe, ralph, the best i've seen so far. my own tribute was playing my "london calling" records way too loud. we all do what we can.

by the way, the d. boon quote is too poignant for words. ironically, strummer died a day short of the 17th anniversary of boon's death.

Posted by shirley at 5:32 PM, December 24, 2002 [Link]

I thought about playing "London Calling", but it turned out that what I really wanted to hear was the last Mescaleros record, "Global a Go-Go". It's a strange and compelling record. The band was in the studio working on a followup as recently as a week ago. That's what makes it feel even worse; he was still making interesting music.

It had slipped my mind that d. boon died right around Christmas. I can't believe that it's been 17 years. It seems like yesterday. Damn damn damn damn damn.

Posted by ralph at 11:39 PM, December 24, 2002 [Link]

Joe and D. died on the same day, 17 years apart.

Posted by trice at 5:57 PM, December 22, 2007 [Link]


This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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