Joe Strummer

"Strummer" redirects here. For those who strum stringed musical instruments, see strummers.
Joe Strummer
Background information
Birth name John Graham Mellor
Born (1952-08-21)21 August 1952
Ankara, Turkey
Died 22 December 2002(2002-12-22) (aged 50)
Broomfield, Somerset,
England, United Kingdom
Genres Punk rock, alternative rock, world music, reggae, ska, rockabilly, funk, folk
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, radio host, actor
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active 1970–2002
Labels CBS, Sony, Hellcat, Mercury
Associated acts The 101ers, The Clash, The Latino Rockabilly War, The Pogues, The Mescaleros
Notable instruments
1966 Fender Telecaster
Gretsch White Falcon
Hofner guitar
Fender Esquire

John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), known by his stage name Joe Strummer, was a British musician, singer, actor and songwriter who was the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the Clash, a punk rock band that was formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk. Their music also incorporated elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, and rockabilly. The Clash were one of the most prominent of the emerging bands in the UK punk rock scene, with their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978) reaching number 2 on the UK charts. Soon after, they began achieving success in the US, starting with London Calling (1979), and peaking with 1982's Combat Rock, reaching number 7 on the US charts and being certified 2× platinum there. The Clash's politicised lyrics, musical experimentation, and rebellious attitude had a far-reaching influence on rock, and alternative rock in particular.[1]

His musical experience included his membership of the 101ers, Latino Rockabilly War, the Mescaleros and the Pogues, in addition to his own solo music career. Strummer's work as a musician allowed him to explore other interests, which included acting, creating film scores for television and movies, songwriting, radio broadcasting, and a position as a radio host. Strummer is one of the iconic figures of the British punk movement.

Strummer and the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 2003. In his remembrance, Strummer's friends and family established the Strummerville Foundation for the promotion of new music.

Biography and career

The early years (1952–1976)

Joe Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, on 21 August 1952. His mother, Anna Mackenzie, a crofter's daughter born and raised in Bonar Bridge in the Scottish Highlands, was a nurse. His father, Ronald Mellor, was a British foreign service diplomat born in Lucknow, India. Ronald Mellor had an Armenian maternal grandfather and a German Jewish paternal grandmother.[2] The family spent much time moving from place to place, and Strummer spent parts of his early childhood in Cairo, Mexico City, and Bonn. At the age of 9, Strummer and his older brother David, 10, began boarding at the City of London Freemen's School in Surrey. Strummer rarely saw his parents during the next seven years.

[A]t the age of nine I had to say good-bye to them because they went abroad to Africa or something. I went to boarding school and only saw them once a year after that – the Government paid for me to see my parents once a year. I was left on my own, and went to this school where thick rich people sent their thick rich kids. Another perk of my father's job – it was a job with a lot of perks – all the fees were paid by the Government.
Joe Strummer[3]

He developed a love of rock music listening to records by Little Richard and the Beach Boys as well as American folk-singer Woody Guthrie.[4] (Strummer would even go by the nickname "Woody" for a few years). Strummer would later say that "the reason [he] played music was the Beach Boys".[5]

[David] was a year older than me. Funnily enough, you know, he was a Nazi. He was a member of the National Front. He was into the occult and he used to have these deaths-heads and cross-bones all over everything. He didn't like to talk to anybody, and I think suicide was the only way out for him. What else could he have done[?]

—Joe Strummer[3]

By 1970 his brother David had become estranged from his family and had joined the National Front. His suicide in July profoundly affected Strummer, as did having to identify his body after it had lain undiscovered for three days.[2] After finishing his time at City of London Freemen's School, Ashtead Park, Surrey, in 1970, Strummer moved on to the Central School of Art and Design in London,[6] where he briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a professional cartoonist and completed a one-year foundation course.[7] During this time, Mellor shared a flat in the north London suburb of Palmers Green with friends Clive Timperley and Tymon Dogg. In 1971 Strummer became a vegetarian and remained one until his death.[8]

I bought a ukulele. No kidding. I saved some money, £1.99 I think, and bought it down Shaftesbury Avenue. Then the guy I was busking with taught me to play Johnny Be Good. [...] I was on my own for the first time with this ukulele and Johnny Be Good. And that's how I started.

—Joe Strummer[3]

In 1973 Strummer moved to Newport, Wales. He did not study at Newport College of Art but met up with college musicians in the Students' Union in Stow Hill and became vocalist for Flaming Youth, renaming the band the Vultures.[9] The Vultures[1] included three former members of Rip Off Park Rock & Roll Allstars, the original college band co-founded by Terry Earl Taylor. For the next year he was the band's part-time singer and rhythm guitarist. During this time Strummer also worked as a gravedigger in St Woolos Cemetery.[10][11] In 1974, the band fell apart and he moved back to London where he met up again with Tymon Dogg. He did street performance for a while and then decided to form another band with his West London roommates. The band was called the 101ers,[1] named after the address of their squat (101 Walterton Road, in Maida Vale).[9][12]

The band played many gigs in London pubs, playing covers of popular American R&B and blues songs. In 1975 he stopped calling himself "Woody" Mellor and adopted the stage name of Joe Strummer, and insisted that his friends call him by that name. The name "Strummer" apparently referred to his role as rhythm guitarist, in a rather self-deprecating way. Though left-handed, he was taught to play right-handed by his friend Tymon Dogg. Strummer was the lead singer of the 101ers and began to write original songs for the group. One song he wrote was inspired by his girlfriend at the time, Slits drummer Palmolive. The group liked the song "Keys to Your Heart", and picked it as their first single.[3]

The Clash (1976–86)

Main article: The Clash

On 3 April 1976, the then-unknown Sex Pistols opened for The 101ers at a venue called the Nashville Rooms in London, and Strummer was impressed by them.[1] Sometime after the show, Strummer was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones. Jones was from the band London SS and wanted Strummer to join as lead singer. Strummer agreed to leave the 101ers and join Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, drummer Terry Chimes and guitarist Keith Levene.[12] The band was named the Clash by Simonon and made their debut on 4 July 1976, opening for the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan (a.k.a. the Mucky Duck, now known as the Boardwalk Sheffield, England).[12] On 25 January 1977, the band signed with CBS Records as a three-piece after Levene was fired from the band and Chimes quit. Drummer Topper Headon later became the band's full-time drummer.

At the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Clash was said to be "considered one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history".[13] Their songs tackled social decay, unemployment, racism, police brutality, political and social repression, and militarism in detail. Strummer was involved with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism campaigns. He later also gave his support to the Rock Against the Rich series of concerts organised by the anarchist organisation Class War. The Clash's London Calling album was voted best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine (although it was released in late 1979 in the UK; it was released in 1980 in the USA).[14]

During his time with the Clash, Strummer, along with his bandmates, became notorious for getting in trouble with the law. On 10 June 1977, he and Headon were arrested for spray-painting "The Clash" on a wall in a hotel. On 20 May 1980, he was arrested for hitting a violent member of the audience with his guitar during a performance in Hamburg, Germany. This incident shocked Strummer, and had a lasting personal impact on him. Strummer said, "It was a watershed—violence had really controlled me for once". He determined never again to fight violence with violence.[2]

Before the album Combat Rock was released in 1982, Strummer wilfully went into hiding and band management represented that he had "disappeared". Bernie Rhodes, the band's manager, pressured Joe to do so because tickets were selling slowly for the Scottish leg of an upcoming tour.[2] It was planned for Strummer to travel to Texas in secret and stay with his friend, musician Joe Ely. However, Strummer, uneasy with his decision, decided to genuinely disappear and "dicked around" in France. During this time, Strummer ran the Paris Marathon in April 1982. He claimed his training regime consisted of 10 pints of beer the night before the race. For this period of time, Joe's whereabouts were not only a mystery to the public, but the band's management as well. Joe later said this was a huge mistake and you "have to have some regrets". This was in spite of the popular success of the single "Rock the Casbah". During this time band members began to argue a lot, and with tensions high, the group began to fall apart.[12]

In September 1983, Strummer issued the infamous "Clash Communique", and fired Mick Jones.[12] Topper Headon had earlier been kicked out of the band because of his heroin addiction, and Terry Chimes was brought back temporarily to fill his place until the permanent replacement, Pete Howard, could be found. This left the band with only two of its original members, Strummer and Simenon. Rhodes persuaded Strummer to carry on, adding two new guitarists.[12] Under this lineup, "The Clash Mark Two", they released the album Cut the Crap in 1985. The album was panned by fans and critics alike and Strummer disbanded the Clash. The disintegration of the band and the reasons behind it are the subject of Danny Garcia's 2012/3 book and documentary, The Rise and Fall of the Clash.[15]

Solo career and soundtrack work (1986–1999)

Strummer, backing with the Pogues in Japan. Photo: Masao Nakagami

A year later, Strummer worked on several songs for the 1986 film Sid and Nancy, including "Love Kills" and "Dum Dum Club". Strummer also later worked with Mick Jones and his band Big Audio Dynamite, contributing to the band's second studio album by co-writing most of the songs as well as producing the album along with Jones.

In 1987, he played a small part in the film Walker, directed by Alex Cox, as a character named "Faucet" and wrote and performed on the film's soundtrack. He starred in another Cox film that same year called Straight to Hell, as the character Simms. Straight to Hell also featured London-Irish folk/punk band the Pogues, both as actors and contributors to the soundtrack. Strummer joined the Pogues for a tour in 1987/88, filling in for ailing guitarist Philip Chevron, who wrote (in May 2008) on the band's online forum: "When I was sick in late 1987, I taught Joe all the guitar parts in an afternoon and he was on tour in the USA as deputy guitarist the next day. Joe wrote all the tabs in his meticulously neat hand on a long piece of paper which he taped to the top of the guitar so he could glance down occasionally when he was onstage." This tour would be the first of several collaborations with the band.

In 1989, Strummer appeared in Jim Jarmusch's film Mystery Train as a drunken, short-tempered drifter named Johnny (whom most characters refer to as Elvis, much to Johnny's dismay). He made a cameo appearance in Aki Kaurismäki's 1990 film I Hired a Contract Killer as a guitarist in a pub, performing two songs ("Burning Lights" and "Afro-Cuban Bebop"). These were released as a promotional 7-inch single limited to a few hundred copies, credited to "Joe Strummer & the Astro Physicians". The "Astro Physicians" were in fact the Pogues ("Afro-Cuban Bebop" got a re-release on the Pogues' 2008 box set). During this time Strummer continued to act, write and produce soundtracks for various films, most notably the soundtrack for Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

In 1989 Strummer produced a solo record with the band the Latino Rockabilly War in 1989. The album Earthquake Weather was a critical and commercial flop, and resulted in the loss of his contract with Sony Records. He also did the soundtrack to the movie Permanent Record with this band.

Strummer was asked by the Pogues, who were fracturing as a band, to help them produce their next album, released in 1990 as Hell's Ditch. In 1991, he replaced Shane MacGowan as singer of the Pogues for a tour after MacGowan's departure from the band. One night of this tour was professionally recorded, and three tracks ("I Fought the Law", "London Calling", and "Turkish Song of the Damned") have seen release as b-sides and again on the Pogues' 2008 box set.

On 16 April 1994, Strummer joined Czech-American band Dirty Pictures on stage in Prague at the Repre Club in Obecni Dum at "Rock for Refugees", a benefit concert for people left displaced by the war in Bosnia. Although the set appeared impromptu, Strummer and the band had spent the days leading up to the event rehearsing and "hanging out" in Prague. The show began with "London Calling" and without pause went into "Brand New Cadillac". In the middle of the song, the power went out. Once the power was back on, Strummer asked the audience whether or not they would mind if the band started over. They then began again with "London Calling" and continued on for another half-hour.

After these self-described "wilderness years", Strummer began working with other bands; he played piano on the 1995 UK hit of the Levellers, "Just the One" and appeared on the Black Grape single "England's Irie" in 1996. In 1997, while in New York City, he worked with noted producer and engineer Lee Perry on remixed Clash and 101ers reissue dub material. In collaboration with percussionist Pablo Cook, Strummer wrote and performed the soundtrack to Tunnel of Love (Robert Wallace 1997) that was featured in the Cannes Film Festival in the same year.

In 1998, he made a guest appearance on the animated television show, South Park and appeared on the album Chef Aid: The South Park Album featuring songs from and inspired by the series.

During this time, Strummer was engaged in a legal dispute with the Clash's record label, Epic Records. The disagreement lasted nearly eight years and ended with the label agreeing to let him record solo records with another label. If the Clash were to reunite though, they would have to record for Sony. During the nineties, Strummer was a DJ on the BBC World Service with his half-hour programme London Calling. Samples from the series provide the vocals for "Midnight Jam" on Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' final album Streetcore.

The Mescaleros and other work (1999–2002)

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Strummer gathered top-flight musicians into a backing band he called the Mescaleros. Strummer and the band signed with Mercury Records, and released their first album in 1999, which was co-written with Antony Genn, called Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. A tour of England, Europe, and North America soon followed; sets included several Clash fan favourites.

This is my Indian summer ... I learnt that fame is an illusion and everything about it is just a joke. I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all.
Joe Strummer to Chris Salewicz – 2000[9]

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In 2001, the band signed with Californian punk label Hellcat Records and released their second studio album, Global a Go-Go. The album was supported with a 21-date tour of North America, Britain, and Ireland. Once again, these concerts featured Clash material ("London's Burning", "Rudie Can't Fail", "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais"), as well as covers of reggae and ska hits ("The Harder They Come", "A Message to You, Rudy") and the band regularly closed the show by playing the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop". He covered Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" with Johnny Cash. In the same year, Strummer and the Mescaleros performed the song "Minstrel Boy" for the film Black Hawk Down, a haunting and emotive Celtic tune that is played during the evacuation of PFC Todd Blackburn during the Battle of Mogadishu and again over the end credits.

A photograph of Joe Strummer playing his guitar while performing at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York City on 5 April 2002.
Strummer performing in Brooklyn, April 2002

On 15 November 2002, Strummer and the Mescaleros played a benefit show for striking fire fighters in London, at the Acton Town Hall. Mick Jones was in the audience, and joined the band on stage during the Clash's "Bankrobber". An encore followed with Jones playing guitar and singing on "White Riot" and "London's Burning". This performance marked the first time since 1983 that Strummer and Jones had performed together on stage.[13] Jones later remarked that it was totally unplanned and that he felt compelled to join Strummer on stage.

Strummer's final regular gig was at Liverpool Academy on 22 November 2002, yet his final performance, just two weeks before his death, was in a small club venue 'The Palace' in Bridgwater, Somerset, near his home. Shortly before his death, Strummer and U2's Bono co-wrote a song, "46664", for Nelson Mandela as part of a campaign against AIDS in Africa. Strummer had been scheduled to play at Mandela's SOS fundraising concert in February 2003 on Robben Island. Mick Jones later recorded a version of the song in studio, performing both the vocals and guitar work, that has yet to be formally released.

Death and legacy (2002–present)

On-stage Strummer wires himself up into an inhuman dynamo of sweaty, trembling flesh, fearful enough to have one wondering when the ambulance brigade will rush to his rescue with a straight-jacket. While he tilts his bullet head at acute angles, his agonising face screwed into an open wound, he wields his Telecaster like a chain saw. His magnetism is totally original – more like an Olympic strong man imploding all his energy into a final record-breaking lift than anything seen on a rock'n'roll stage before.
Off-stage, he's the Clash member with the lowest profile.

Caroline Coon[3]

Strummer died suddenly on 22 December 2002 in his home at Broomfield in Somerset, the victim of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.[13][16][17] His estate was valued at just under £1 million, and he left all the money to his wife Lucinda.[18] Strummer was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family.

Strummer was instrumental in setting up Future Forests (since rechristened the Carbon Neutral Company), dedicated to planting trees in various parts of the world to combat global warming.[19] Strummer was the first artist to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral through the planting of trees.[19][20][21] In his remembrance, Strummer's friends and family have established the Strummerville Foundation for the promotion of new music.[22] The foundation also holds an annual festival with the same name.

In January 2003, the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[13] At the Grammy Awards in February 2003, "London Calling" was performed by Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Dave Grohl, Pete Thomas, and Tony Kanal in tribute to Strummer. Another tribute to Strummer occurred in the same month at the rock club Debaser in Stockholm, when some of Sweden's most famous rock musicians paid their tribute to Strummer by performing songs written by the Clash (the exception was Nicke Borg and Dregen from Backyard Babies, who performed "I Fought the Law", which the Clash had covered). At the end of the concert, the Swedish punk band Ebba Grön reunited for the tribute, aided by Mick Jones on guitar.

At the time of his death, Strummer was working on another Mescaleros album, which was released posthumously in October 2003 under the title Streetcore. The album features a tribute to Johnny Cash, "Long Shadow", which was written for Cash to sing and recorded in Rick Rubin's garage, as well as a remembrance of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 ("Ramshackle Day Parade"), and a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song", which Strummer had also recorded as a duet with Cash. The Cash/Strummer duet version appears on the 2003 box set Unearthed.

November 2003 saw the release of a video for "Redemption Song", directed by Josh Cheuse. The video features the painting of a memorial mural, by graffiti artist REVOLT, on the wall of the Niagara Bar in the East Village of New York City.[23]

On 22 December 2003, a year after his death, a tribute show/benefit was held at Irving Plaza in NYC. Bands that played were: Ari Up; Clem Snide; the Detachment Kit; Dirty Mary; Hammel on Trial; Jesse Malin; New Blood Revival; the Realistics; Eugene Hütz; Radio 4; Secret Army; Ted Leo; Vic Thrill & the Saturn Missile.[24] The show was videotaped by but is as yet unreleased.

The Belfast punk rock group Stiff Little Fingers recorded a tribute song "Strummerville" on their album, Guitar and Drum. Al Barr, lead singer of the Boston punk band Dropkick Murphys, named his son Strummer in honour of Joe.[25] German band Beatsteaks pay tribute to Strummer on their album Smack Smash with the song "Hello Joe". In 2004, German punk band Die Toten Hosen released an EP called "Friss oder stirb", which included a tribute song for Strummer called "Goodbye Garageland", which is a lyrical co-production with Matt Dangerfield from London's 77 punk band the Boys.

Boston Punk Rock Band Street Dogs recorded a tribute song called "The General's Boombox" on their album State of Grace, and New Jersey's the Gaslight Anthem recorded the song "I'da Called You Woody, Joe" on their album Sink or Swim. Attila the Stockbroker's Barnstormer released "Comandante Joe" on their album Zero Tolerance.

On 12 February 2005, the Class 47 locomotive 47828 was named "Joe Strummer". The nameplates were unveiled by his widow Lucinda Tait in a ceremony at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.[26] On 22 July 2005 Tait unveiled a plaque on the house in Pentonville, Newport where Strummer lived from 1973 to 1974 and where his first foray into recorded music, "Crummy Bum Blues" was recorded.[27]

"That Was Clash Radio", a short story by Charles de Lint, was written in response to Strummer's death and features Strummer in a minor role.[28]

New Orleans-based rockers Cowboy Mouth released a song called "Joe Strummer" on their album Voodoo Shoppe. The song tells the story of a man who had to break up with his girlfriend because "...she didn't know who/Joe Strummer was." The popular track is a tongue-in-cheek salute to Strummer and The Clash that received significant radio play in 2006. In addition, the Joe Pernice-penned "High As a Kite", included on the Pernice Brothers' 2006 album Live a Little, was, in part a tribute to Joe Strummer. Lyrics included, "Heavy downbeat of one and the show began/London calling, strike up the contraband" and the memorable opening to the chorus, "We wore pictures of Strummer." A play by Paul Hodson called Meeting Joe Strummer premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006, and toured the UK the following year.[29]

In conjunction with the Strummer estate, Fender released the Joe Strummer Tribute Telecaster, combining elements of Joe's main guitars, namely an attempt at the "road worn" finish of his 1966 Telecaster, which he used until his death. The first 1,500 guitars come with a Shepard Fairey designed "Customisation kit" with stickers and stencils, which resemble some of the designs Strummer used on his guitars.[30] Joe Strummer's impact is referenced by the Hold Steady in the song "Constructive Summer", a song featured on their 2008 album Stay Positive. In this song the band sings "Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer. I think he might have been our only decent teacher." In November 2009, Tonara, a town in Sardinia, Italy, dedicated a street to Joe Strummer.[31]

On 22 December 2010, CJAM 99.1 FM, a radio station in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, declared the eighth anniversary of his death "Joe Strummer Day to confront poverty in Windsor-Detroit." For 24-hours, the station played nothing but Strummer-related music, wrapping the sounds around reports about poverty from North America's hardest hit economic region—Windsor-Detroit. CJAM (which is located near the banks of the Detroit River, a kilometre from downtown Detroit) and its board of directors have since officially decided to make it a yearly event, and is hosting its 6th Annual Joe Strummer Day on 22 December 2015.

In January 2011 a motion was started to grant Strummer his own street in the Spanish city of Granada.[32]

On 21 August 2012 and what would have been Strummer's 60th birthday, Hellcat Records released an exclusive 57 song digital download album titled Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, The Hellcat Years. The album features Strummer's three Hellcat albums along with various b-sides and live songs including Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert which featured Mick Jones. Hellcat also announced that on 25 September 2012 they will re-release remastered versions of Strummer's three records he recorded for Hellcat on both CD and vinyl.[33] and Strummer's 15 Nov. 2002 concert, Live at Acton Town Hall was released as well through Hellcat on 23 November 2012 as an exclusive limited to 2200 copies 2 LP vinyl for Record Store Day. In January 2013, Joe Strummer had a plaza named in his honour in the Spanish city of Granada.[34] Placeta Joe Strummer is at N37.16892 W3.58771 (722m) on a junction between three narrow roads the Calle Vistillas de Los Angeles, the Cuesta Escoriaza and the Calle Paseo Palmas. About 650m south of the Alhambra.[35]

In June 2013 a mural of Strummer was unveiled on the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. The unveiling was attended by a number of Strummer's former friends including Mick Jones and Ray Gange.[36]

In an October 2013 interview, Mick Jones confirmed that Strummer indeed had intentions of reforming the Clash and new music was even being written. In the months prior to Strummer's death, he and Jones got together to write new music. Jones said at the time he assumed the new songs would be used on albums with the Mescaleros. A few months following their work together, Jones ran into Strummer at an event and asked him what he intended to do with those songs. Strummer informed Jones that they were going to be used for the next Clash record.[37]

Marriages and relationships

In 1975, after being offered £120, Strummer married Pamela Moolman, a South African citizen, so she could obtain British citizenship. He bought his signature Fender Telecaster, later painted black, with the money. In 1978, Strummer started a relationship with Gaby Salter shortly after her 17th birthday.[2] The couple remained together for 14 years and had two daughters, Jazz and Lola, but did not marry as Strummer had been unable to locate and divorce Moolman.[2] During his relationship with Salter, he had multiple affairs spanning the 1980s.[2]

In 1993, Strummer began an affair with Lucinda Tait, which finally ended his relationship with Gaby Salter.[2] Strummer and Tait married in 1995 and remained so until his death in 2002 from cardiac arrest.[38]


Let's Rock Again! is a one-hour music documentary, directed by Dick Rude, that follows Strummer as he tours in America and Japan with the Mescaleros. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, May 2004.

Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer is a 2006 biography of Strummer by Chris Salewicz.[2]

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a documentary about Joe Strummer by Julien Temple. It comprises archive footage of him spanning his life, and interviews with friends, family, and other celebrities. It debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.[39][40][41]

Tribute Concert: Cast a Long Shadow is a recording of the October 2007 tribute and benefit concert held in honour of Joe Strummer in Los Angeles. It features Love & Rockets, Zander Schloss, Hellride and many other artists. It was released in DVD format as by MVD Videos in December 2010.[42]

Let Fury Have the Hour is a documentary directed by Antonino D'Ambrosio, in which the figure of Strummer "looms large in the background".[43] The movie debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.[44]

Quiero tener una ferretería en Andalucía is a 2014 documentary about Joe Strummer's relationship with Andalucia, and especially with Almeria, where he lived in the 1980s and '90s.

I Need a Dodge! Joe Strummer on the Run is a 2015 documentary by Nick Hall. It revolves around Strummer's life in Spain and tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of his beloved Dodge convertible.

Musical equipment

Strummer in 2001 with his guitar

Strummer's main guitar throughout his career was a 1966 Fender Telecaster that originally came in a three-colour sunburst with a white pickguard. Strummer acquired the guitar in middle of 1975 while playing with the 101ers. After joining the Clash, the guitar's body and pickguard were refinished in grey auto primer and then painted black. By 1979, the word NOISE was stenciled on the upper part of the body, a rasta flag sticker was placed at the horn of the pickguard, and an "Ignore Alien Orders" sticker was placed above the bridge. By the release of Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the guitar was fitted with a bridge with individual saddles and the original Kluson tuners were replaced with later model tuners and a large question mark was spraypainted on its back.

The guitar would remain in this configuration throughout his career with the addition of stickers on its body. The guitar's black paint became worn down due to Strummer's playing and on many places the original sunburst finish and bare wood shines through, except for the square where Strummer taped his setlists. In 2012 modern artist Karl Haglund paid tribute to this guitar in one of his iconic guitar paintings.[45][46] The Fender Custom Shop has created a Joe Strummer tribute Telecaster with a reliced flat black finish.[30]

Strummer was naturally left-handed, but was taught to play guitar right-handed by his close friend Tymon Dogg. Strummer had reckoned his left-handedness on a right-hand guitar as a drawback and claimed it caused him to be underdeveloped as a guitarist, although his style of playing was unique.

He also used three Fender Esquire models, one from 1952, a white blonde with slab fretboard from the mid-1950s[47] and another from early to mid-1960s with a white pick guard and rosewood fingerboard.[48] The Esquire is a one-pickup version of the Telecaster. Prior to using any Telecaster oriented guitar, before buying his 1966 model, he used as main guitars a Gretsch White Falcon and a Hofner.[49] For amplification Strummer was known to use amplifiers such as a Roland Jazz Chorus, a Selmer Bassman while he was in the 101ers, a Vox AC30 and various Marshall amplifiers,[50] but his main amplifier was a Music Man HD 212,150.[51] Strummer commented on his choice of amplifier with "I don't have time to search for those old Fender tube amps. The Music Man is the closest thing to that sound I've found" and that the "plastic motif on the front is repulsive."[52]

Mural in New York City

A photograph of the painting of the memorial mural of Joe Strummer on the wall of the Niagara Bar in the East Village in New York City. The mural depicts Strummer (centre) surrounded by the words "THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN" (on the left), "JOE STRUMMER 1952–2002" (on the right), and "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!" (bottom) on a horizontal tricolour of red, yellow, and green background
Memorial to Strummer on 7th Street at Avenue A, New York City.

In 2013 the mural of Joe Strummer outside Niagara bar on the East Village of Manhattan, New York City was destroyed due to construction.[53] On 19 September 2013, a new mural was unveiled.[54] The unveiling was accompanied by a large celebration, attended by Mick Jones.[55]


The Clash

For more details on this topic, see The Clash discography.

The 101ers

Year Album Additional information
1981 Elgin Avenue Breakdown Compilation album with material recorded from 1974 to 1976.


Year Album Additional information
1986 Sid and Nancy Soundtrack Soundtrack for the film Sid and Nancy, featuring 2 songs by Strummer. "Love Kills" and "Dum Dum Club"
1987 Walker Soundtrack for the film Walker, scored by Strummer.
1987 Straight to Hell Original Soundtrack Soundtrack for the film Straight to Hell, featuring 2 songs by Strummer.
1993 When Pigs Fly Soundtrack Unreleased soundtrack for the film When Pigs Fly, scored by Strummer.
1998 Chef Aid: The South Park Album Features "It's A Rockin' World", performed by Strummer, Flea, Nick Hexum, Tom Morello, DJ Bonebrake, and Benmont Tench.
1999 Michael Hutchence (album) Backing vocals on the first track on Michael Hutchence's solo album, "Let Me Show You"
2000 Free the West Memphis 3 Features a cover of "The Harder They Come", performed by Strummer and Long Beach Dub Allstars
2002 Jools Holland's Big Band Rhythm & Blues (guest appearance) Features "Return of the Blues Cowboy" performed by Strummer and the Jools Holland Big Band
2003 Unearthed (guest appearance) A duet of "Redemption Song" with Johnny Cash.
2004 Black Magic (guest appearance) Strummer performed the song "Over the Border" with Jimmy Cliff.

The Latino Rockabilly War

Year Album Additional information
1988 Permanent Record Original Soundtrack Features songs by Strummer and The Latino Rockabilly War.
1989 Earthquake Weather Strummer's only studio album with The Latino Rockabilly War.

The Mescaleros

Year Album Additional information
1999 Rock Art and the X-Ray Style Strummer's first album with the Mescaleros.
2001 Global a Go-Go Reached number 23 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart in the US.
2002 Black Hawk Down Soundtrack for the film features a much shorter version of "Minstrel Boy". The longer version appeared on Global a Go-Go
2003 Streetcore Strummer's last album, released posthumously.
2012 Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros: The Hellcat Years Digital download only 57 song set featuring three Hellcat albums, various b-sides and Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert
2012 Live at Acton Town Hall Record Store Day exclusive 2-LP vinyl album limited to 2200 copies featuring Strummer's 15 November 2002 concert

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Other notes
1980 Rude Boy Semi-Documentary Subject
1983 Hell W10 Writer and director Silent film
1983 The King of Comedy Street Scum non-speaking cameo
1987 Walker Faucet
1987 Straight to Hell Simms
1988 Candy Mountain Mario
1989 Mystery Train Johnny aka Elvis
1990 I Hired a Contract Killer Himself by Aki Kaurismaki
1997 Docteur Chance Vince Taylor
2000 The Clash: Westway to the World Documentary Subject
2003 End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones Documentary Subject
2004 Let's Rock Again! Documentary Subject
2007 Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten Documentary Subject Dir: Julien Temple
2008 The Clash Live: Revolution Rock Documentary Subject
2011 Quiero Tener Una Ferreteria En Andalucia Documentary Subject
2012 The Rise and Fall of the Clash Documentary Subject by Danny Garcia

In other media


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Strummer's lasting culture Clash" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 23 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Salewicz 2006.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Coon 1977.
  4. Will Gilgrass. "Blogs - Now Playing @6Music - #Strummer6Music". BBC. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  5. The Playlist Special – Sean Lennon, Rolling Stone
  6. Brian J. Bowe (2011). The Clash: punk rock band. Berkeley Heights, NJ : Enslow. ISBN 9780766032323. p. 14. Accessed August 2013.
  7. "Strummer's lasting culture Clash" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 23 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007. a) Born John Graham Mellor in 1952, Strummer was the son of a diplomat and was given a middle-class upbringing at boarding school in Surrey before going to study art in London – before deciding that it was a "lousy set up".
    b, c, d) He had immersed himself in music since childhood, and his own musical career began when he started street performing with a ukulele at Green Park tube station. He played in two bands, the Vultures and the 101ers, but when The Sex Pistols supported the 101ers in west London in 1976, Strummer saw the possibilities open up for him and was inspired to form The Clash.
  8. "Joe Strummer chicken story". YouTube. 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  9. 1 2 3 Encoule, Jean (2003). "Joe Strummer – 1952–2002". Retrieved 17 November 2007. a) Joe Strummer was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1952 & christened John Graham Mellor. His family spent time in Ankara, Cairo, Mexico City & Bonn, before Mellor returned to the UK to attend the City of London Freemen's School in Surrey. Mellor left school & enrolled at Central College of Art but left "after about a week", heading straight for the underground & squat culture. Mellor spent time living in Wales, playing in knock-about bands and using the nickname "Woody" inspired by Woody Guthrie's name.
    b) The Vultures in time led to The 101ers, a group of West London-based squatters named after their squat address. The 101ers were eventually supported by a nascent Sex Pistols. Mellor adopted the stage name of "Joe Strummer". Impressed by the power of the Sex Pistols, the newly self-coined Strummer determined that the 101ers were "yesterday's papers" by comparison. It was time to strike out anew. And this led to the start of The Clash.
    c) "This is my Indian summer...I learnt that fame is an illusion & everything about it is just a joke. I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all." – Joe Strummer to Chris Salewicz – 2000.
  10. Don J Whistance's Clash Site - "Joe the Early years" (Retrieved 7 February 2014)
  11. - "Bio" (Retrieved 7 February 2014)
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Westway 2001.
  13. 1 2 3 4 "The Clash". Induction. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. 10 March 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2007. a) Quite simply, the Clash were among the most explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history.
    b, c) If not exactly a reunion, it was a rapprochement. On 15 November 2002, Jones and Strummer shared the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years, performing three Clash songs during the encore of a London benefit show by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. This raised hopes for a Clash reunion, which were dashed when Strummer died of a heart attack on 22 December 2002.
  14. "Clash star Strummer dies" (STM). Entertainment. BBC News World Edition. 27 December 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007. Rolling Stone voted London Calling, their classic 1980 album (released in 1979 in the UK) as the best album of the Eighties.
  15. Garcia, Danny. The Rise and Fall of the Clash. Thin Man Press, London. ASIN B00ANX0V6M.
  16. "Clash star Strummer dies". BBC News. 27 December 2002. Retrieved 11 February 2009. Joe Strummer, the leader of legendary Seventies punk band The Clash, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 50. A spokesman for Strummer, real name John Graham Mellor, said the singer died at home in Broomfield, Somerset, on Sunday.
  17. "Clash star Joe Strummer dies". Entertainment. CNN. 23 December 2002. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. Strummer, who was the band's guitarist, vocalist and songwriter alongside Mick Jones, died on Sunday at his farmhouse in Somerset, southwestern England.
  18. "Clash frontman Joe Strummer leaves £1m will". Daily Mail. 7 January 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2007. Joe Strummer, the former frontman of punk band The Clash, left an estate worth nearly £1 million, it was revealed yesterday.
  19. 1 2 "Joe Strummer's Charity Work, Events and Causes". Look to the Stars. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  20. "Forest tribute to Clash star". BBC News world edition. 19 January 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  21. "YOUR PLANET – Part 2: 'I Want to Put Back What I'Ve Taken Out'". 20 September 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2010. Joe Strummer: The world's first carbon neutral artists, Joe Strummer was involved in setting up the company and his large forest on the Isle of Skye has become a memorial to him.
  22. "Strummerville: A Charity in Honour of Joe Strummer of The Clash: Whats It All About?". Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  23. D'Angelo, Joe (17 November 2003). "Joe Strummer Leaves Final Mark on New York With New Video" (JHTML). mtv. Retrieved 29 November 2007. Clip features cameos by Rancid, actor Matt Dillon, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.
  24. "Fillmore NY @ Irving Plaza – Artists". Retrieved 29 November 2007. Joe Strummer Tribute – Ari Up (of The Slits); Clem Snide; The Detachment Kit; Dirty Mary; Hammel on Trial; Jesse Malin; New Blood Revival; The Realistics; Radio 4; Secret Army; Ted Leo (solo); and special guests
  25. Helmer, April (23 April 2004). "Dropkick Murphys always sing loud, proud". The Express-Times. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  26. "Engine named after Clash singer" (STM). BBC NEWS. 12 February 2005. Retrieved 6 July 2007. The Class 47 Diesel, which is owned by Cotswold Rail, is being named after the singer, who lived in Bridgwater, Somerset. He died aged 50 in 2002."...
    ..."The locomotive, and plaque showing Strummer's name, were unveiled at Bristol Temple Meads station by his wife, Lucinda.
  27. "Plaque for Clash legend Strummer" (STM). BBC NEWS. 22 July 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2007. The friend who arranged for a tribute plaque to Joe Strummer on the house where the punk legend wrote his first song admits he would have hated it.
  28. de Lint, Charles (2005). The Hour Before Dawn. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 1-59606-027-1.
  29. "MEETING JOE STRUMMER". Middle Ground Theatre Company. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  30. 1 2 "Joe Strummer". Retrieved 29 March 2010.
    Related articles:
  31. Buquicchio, Cesare (19 November 2009). "Sardegna punk, una via per Joe Strummer" (in Italian). L'Unità. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  32. Archived 16 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. Cericola, Rachel. "Hellcat Records Celebrates 60 Years of Joe Strummer With Digital Release | GeekMom". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  34. "BBC News - Joe Strummer has a Spanish plaza named in his honour". 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  35. Richardson, Martin (2013-07-02). "Went up a hill and came down: Pico de Veleta and Placeta Joe Strummer - Granada calling". Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  36. "Joe Strummer mural unveiling". 15 June 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  37. "The Clash - Mick Jones: 'Secret Joe Strummer Tunes Could Have Sparked The Clash's Comeback'". Contact Music. Retrieved 2013-10-04.
  38. Retrieved 2015-11-16. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. Orshoski, Wes (7 November 2006). "Exclusive: Strummer Documentary To Premiere At Sundance" (JSP). Billboard. Retrieved 29 November 2007. "The Future is Unwritten", Julien Temple's new film on the life and career of late Clash frontman Joe Strummer, will have its U.S. premiere in mid-January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
  40. "BBC – Somerset – In Pictures – Joe Strummer" (SHTML). Where I Live – Somerset – Celebrities and Events. BBC News. Retrieved 29 November 2007. Julien Temple's biopic of The Clash front man, entitled Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, receives its premiere at The Palace in Bridgwater on Saturday, 5 May 2007. This photo is of a campfire in Somerset.
  41. Kelly, Kevin (26 January 2007). "Sundance Review: Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten". Retrieved 29 November 2007. If you can imagine what it would be like to try to document the life of one of your closest friends after their death, and to assemble everything into feature film length, you can probably see how difficult the process might be.
  42. MVD Visual at AllMusic. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  43. Defore, John (10 April 2012). "Let Fury Have the Hour". Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  44. Goldstein, Gary (January 2013). "Review: 'Let Fury Have the Hour' doc features artistic protest". LA Times.
  45. Archived 13 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  46. "A tribute to Joe Strummers Fender Telecaster guitar". 1976-04-10. Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  47. "Maximum Energy: The Gear of the Original Punks". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  48. "A tribute to Joe Strummers Fender Telecaster guitar". 10 April 1976. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  49. "A tribute to Joe Strummers Fender Telecaster guitar". 1976-04-10. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  50. "Unknown Forum". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  51. Archived 17 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  52. Musician Magazine 1980
  53. "Joe Strummer". EV Grieve. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  54. "East Seventh Street, 4:31 p.m., Sept. 19". EV Grieve. 2013-09-19. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  55. "Joe Strummer mural unveiling on 7th Street (Niagra) East Village (Lower East Side)". YouTube. 2013-09-19. Retrieved 2014-05-20.



Films and documentaries

Further reading

  • Clash, The (1 October 2008). The Clash: Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Headon. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 1-84354-788-0. OCLC 236120343. 
  • D'Ambrosio, Antonino (13 October 2004). Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer. New York: Nation Books. ISBN 1-56025-625-7. OCLC 56988650. Edited with an Introduction by Antonino D'Ambrosio. 
  • Davie, Anthony (2004). Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros: New and Previously Unpublished Photographs. Northampton: Effective. ISBN 0-9548568-1-3. OCLC 64898380. 
  • Davie, Anthony (2004). Vision of a Homeland: The History of Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros. Northampton: Effective. ISBN 0-9548568-0-5. OCLC 123775358. 
  • DeCurtis, Anthony (2003). "1952–2002 Joe Strummer – A tribute to the late Clash singer and songwriter, plus his final remarks on the rise and fall of the legendary punk band". Rolling stone. San Francisco, CA: Straight Arrow. 914 (27). ISSN 0035-791X. OCLC 96002520. 
  • Ferraz, Rob (August 2001). "Joe Strummer & The Clash – Revolution Rock". Exclaim!. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  • Gilbert, Pat (2005) [2004]. Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash (4th ed.). London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-84513-113-4. OCLC 61177239. 
  • Gray, Marcus (2005) [1995]. The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town (5th rev. ed.). London: Helter Skelter. ISBN 1-905139-10-1. OCLC 60668626. 
  • Matula, Theodore (December 2003). "Joe Strummer, 1952–2002". Popular Music and Society. Bowling Green, Ohio: Taylor & Francis. 26 (4): 523–525. doi:10.1080/0300776032000144968. ISSN 0300-7766. OCLC 89586252. 
  • Needs, Kris (25 January 2005). Joe Strummer and the Legend of the Clash. London: Plexus. ISBN 0-85965-348-X. OCLC 53155325. 
  • Yewdall, Julian Leonard; Nick Jones (1992). Joe Strummer with the 101ers and the Clash, 1974–1976. London: Image Direct. ISBN 0-9519216-0-6. OCLC 28502630. Photographs by Julian Leonard Yewdall; introductory text by Nick Jones. 
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