Though he passed away seven years ago from a congenital heart defect, Joe Strummer’s death continues to resonate with me. If Streetcore was any indication, the man still had more songs to write and sing, and it drives me crazy that, one day, I’ll have heard his entire output and there won’t be any more surprises. Until then, though, I’ve been doing my best to color in the margins. The first five Clash albums are all essential listening, as is B-sides collection Super Black Market Clash. I’m waiting for the day I finally cave and buy Cut the Crap, an album so bad that most people don’t even know or acknowledge its existence. There are the three albums Strummer cut with the Mescaleros, which I think are just as good as the Clash’s output. There are Earthquake Weather and assorted singles like “Love Kills,” “The Harder They Come,” and “It’s a Rockin’ World.” My quest to stay in touch with Strummer has since led me to
Walker, the movie, is an intentionally historically inaccurate bio-pic about William Walker (played by Ed Harris), an American who declared himself President of Nicaragua pretty much because he had enough money and firepower to do so. Strummer played a supporting role in the picture, perhaps thanks to his involvement with Cox in Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell, and composed the soundtrack.
The album is an interesting listen for Strummer fans, in that it downplays most of Strummer’s strengths. There’s no reggae, and Strummer sings for only a few of the 14 tunes. Rather, he trusted his assembled studio musicians and, with the help of violinist Dick Bright, provided rough sketches for the group to draw from. Once he handed over the demos, according to Chris Salewicz’s excellent book Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, ol’ Joe would head out for breakfast in the afternoon while the band added touches to his foundation. The result is a record that, while not as immediate as, say, London Calling, is still appealing.