Joe Strummer Birthday Tribute

Today Joe Strummer would have turned 61 and in honor of his birthday Cindy Howes talks with Mike Sauter.

Joe Strummer was a founding member of the prominent UK punk band The Clash.  Joe Strummer was born in Turkey and his father was a British diplomat, so he moved around a lot in his younger days.  Strummer’s first band was an English pub rock band, The 101ers.  The music of The Sex Pistols inspired Strummer to leave the 101ers and start up The Clash.  “They [The Clash] took that manic energy that The Sex Pistols had and dropped the nihilistic world-view and instead had a much more politically aware sort of approach to their lyrics out of social commentary,” adds Sauter.

Mike Sauter was fortunate enough to sit down and interview Joe Strummer back in 2002 while he was in Manhattan, which happened to be eight months before he passed away.  After Joe ordered Mike a beer, the two discussed his role in Johnny Cash’s 1994 American Recordings album, the state of music (back from 2002), and the role of comics in his writing. 

Joe Strummer wrote Cash a song titled “The Road to Rock and Roll.”  Joe explained to Mike about how he considered Johnny Cash’s long history with music, especially the darker times, when writing “The Road to Rock and Roll.”  However the track ended up not being on the record.  Strummer also commented on the then state of punk rock music.  Strummer explained to Mike Sauter that although bands like Blink-182 aren’t overtly political, if you dig deep enough, you can always find some sort of social commentary.

In his interview with Joe Strummer, Mike Sauter pointed out something that Joe himself wasn’t ever made aware of about this music; Joe Strummer’s later writing keeps the theme “the invisible rays that permeate our lives.”  Strummer would go on to note the American superhero comics like X-Men had a large on influence on said writing.  On a more serious note, Joe Strummer commented on the importance of writing a quality record, “It is nice to get around and see interesting parts of the world. [But,] mainly you’ve got to make a superb record and worry about all that later,” explained Strummer.

When asked by Cindy to pick a quintessential song to play in honor of Joe Strummer’s birthday, Mike Sauter chose The Clash classic, “London Calling,” “It’s hard not to go back to The Clash and one of their iconic songs that Strummer co-wrote with Mick Jones and takes lead vocals on, the great song “London Calling” which is one of those songs people love…It encompasses so much that you can interpret it in may ways,” adds Sauter. 

Joe Strummer passed away in 2002 unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart defect. Happy Birthday Joe, we miss you and your music.