Click here to read the Italian version.
When the streets of London were buzzing with distorted guitars, The Clash were breaking down the genre boundaries, changing punk into something new, influenced and influenceable. Joe Strummer story (at the time John Graham Mellor) is the one of an artistic personality that, taking advantage of the revolt, was revealed along with its own luggage filled with stuff to say. But it wasn’t only that: the band who made him famous with the name of the “strummer” has reinterpreted the laps in major of punk contaminating them with roots and reggae music, but also, it has demonstrated that the shout of the Britain outlaw culture could be sent to an ideal. As part of the fifteenth death anniversary of the composer, singer and guitarist of the band from London —happened, only at fifty years old, on December 22, 2002 due to a heart attack— we trace a brief profile on his person, precisely starting from what he left in his will to the world: his music.
Everything started with White Riot. Actually, Strummer was already playing some good pub rock with The 101’ers for a while, but it’s only in 1976 that an incentive to chase something new, gave life to The Clash. While punk in London was assuming the profile of a violent riot against the status quo, the punk in the band could be recognised because of an approach more conscious, full of the leftish fierce ideology of the collective. White Riot speaks, indeed, about a riot, the one that the young white people should have instigated after the racial conflicts of the Notting Hill Carnival. The song appears in the first EP of the band. Released in 1977, the record turned out to be much more wanted than any other works of bands similar to The Clash (firstly the Pistols).
But that was just the beginning: the talent of the band members and the different influences that were marking out the musical living, let their productions to follow a sensitive evolution, that in only five years brought them to release five album of absolute value. From Give ‘em Enough Rope (1978) to London Calling (1979) — masterpiece whom trial changed the original punk to what became the unique sound of the band — moving to Sandinista! (1980) until Combat Rock (1982), The Clash cut through the history of music, leaving a musical heritage destined to influence dozens of post-punk experiences through the 80s and the 90s.
Joe Strummer has been the thundering voice of this riot. The music vocation he received at the age of eleven listening to a track of The Stones, opened a carrier in front of him: after an itinerant (because of the constant relocations of the father) and troubled childhood (at the age of eighteen, he had to recognise the body of his nazi suicidal brother), Strummer saw in music a possible way out of life and limitations that school was trying to impose on him. After the first experiences as a street musician and his first band, The 101’ers, it’s with The Clash that his fame blew up: the rest is history. After the break-up, due to some tensions between the band members, Strummer attempted a carrier in movies and going solo, with no success, coming back only in 1999 with the Mescaleros.
What distinguished the five years of The Clash carrier was the determined non-stop militancy: Strummer, and every element of the band, always refused the unproductive critique supported by the punk scene of his generation, strongly fighting with a conscious realisation by the young British people, moved by the will to shake up the crowds in order change things. The aversion against the monarchy and the middle-class system, unconcerned of the wishes and necessities of the community, were the ideas of the musician, promoted through his songs. Against everything and everyone, Strummer was the voice of an angry generation: yearning for change, thirsty for justice and drunk of fiery ideals: a guitar, not angry anymore but aware, was enough to cause a real White Riot.
Riccardo Colombo – Translated by Beatrice Birolo