Given the tension of the past week, I thought I’d launch the weekend with an extracurricular open thread regarding other, thought related interests.
A friend sent me a link to an interesting letter one of my heroes wrote about another (keep reading, it’s below the fold). Way back when the 70s turned into the 80s, narrow-minded and dogmatic punks (a perverse contradiction if there ever was one) often snickered that Joe Strummer of The Clash was basically the English Bruce Springsteen. They meant this as a smear of course, because Bruce wasn’t anti-establishment enough for them. Indeed, there were clear resemblances. They did look a bit alike at that point. Both loved to belt and snarl their vocals. Both played telecasters. Both displayed a working-class perspective and a commitment or claim to a certain kind of authenticity. Both had a great ear and love for an uplifting hook (hell, Joe admitted to being a fan). Both shared some of the same heroes, like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash. Both loved the history of Rock ‘n Roll.
A little later, we found out that Joe had attended one of Bruce’s 1975 landmark gigs in London, supporting Born to Run, when Bruce was mortified that the promoters were billing him as The Future of Rock and Roll. Turns out that it was a formative experience for Joe. Their mutual admiration, which makes so much sense, gradually became public knowledge.
In 1997, Mark Hagen was in the middle of producing a documentary entitled “Bruce Springsteen: A Secret History” and he asked Joe for a quote. Here’s Joe’s fax:
If you can’t read Joe’s maniacal scrawl (which I’ve been deciphering for 30 years or so now) here’s a transcript:
ATTN: MARK HAGEN
Dear Mark – here’s my contribution
BRUCE IS GREAT… IF YOU DONT AGREE WITH THAT YOU’RE A PRETENTIOUS MARTIAN FROM VENUS. BRUCE LOOKS GREAT… LIKE HE’S ABOUT TO CRAWL UNDERNEATH THE CHORDS WITH A SPANNER & SOCK THE STARTER MOTOR ONE TIME SO THAT A ENGINE STARTS UP – HUMMING & READY TO TAKE US ON A GOLDEN RIDE WAY OUT SOMEWHERE IN THE YONDER… BRUCE IS GREAT… BECAUSE HE’LL NEVER LAY DOWN & BE CONQUERED BY HIS PROBLEMS HE’S ALLWAYS READY TO BUST OUT the SHACK & HIT THE TRACK… HIS MUSIC IS GREAT ON A DARK & RAINY MORNING IN ENGLAND, JUST WHEN YOU NEED SOME SPIRIT & SOME PROOF THAT THE BIG WIDE WORLD EXISTS, THE D.J. PUTS ON “RACING IN THE STREETS” & LIFE SEEMS WORTH LIVING AGAIN… LIFE SEEMS TO BE IN CINEMASCOPE AGAIN. BRUCE IS NOT ON AN EGO TRIP… BRUCE IS ACTUALLY INTO THE MUSIC… WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE THIS… A LOT OF RECORDS TODAY ARE MADE BY PEOPLE JUST TO FEED THEIR FAME. BRUCE IS GREAT… THERE AINT NO WHINGING WHINING OR COMPLAINING.. THERE’S ONLY GREAT MUSIC, LYRICS & AN OCEAN OF TALENT. ME? I LOVE SPRINGSTEEN!!!
(Signed, ‘Joe Strummer’)
The piece my friend sent me can be found here: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2…
In the film, Bruce on stage calls Joe “one of the greatest rockers of all time” and launches into Sonny Curtis’s ‘I Fought the Law,’ which The Clash famously covered. When Joe passed away of a sudden heart attack on Christmas Eve 2002, Bruce flexed his industry muscle and put together a tribute at the Grammys with Little Steven, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, and Tony Kanal. They brought a crowd filled with the cheesiest figures in the music industry to its feet with a roaring rendition of London Calling. If you haven’t seen it:
When Bruce headlined Glastonbury in 2009, he opened with a cover of “Coma Girl,” the song that opens Joe’s last (and posthumous) record with The Mescaleroes, entitled “Streetcore.” Joe wrote it about his daughter at Glastonbury, where he had established himself as fixture, both on stage in front of a new generation and around a campfire he held throughout the festival every year, a place for anyone to gather and chat with him.
Here’s a youtube of Bruce doing “Coma Girl,” the footage ain’t great, but it sounds awesome.