The Clash’s Joe Strummer would have made a wonderful old man

You have to check out cumbia,” insisted Joe Strummer, his intense gaze burning a hole in me after one beer too many.

“Kumbia?” I wondered. “What the heck is cumbia?” I didn’t dare ask, but in those days before the internet I didn’t even know where to look or if I had even heard Strummer correctly. At some of our first meetings, almost a decade earlier, he had pointed me to everything from Charlie Parker and Woody Guthrie to dub reggae, but this music was relatively easy to find in my local record stores and library. But cumbia?

The next time I met Strummer at the East Village bar we frequented on weekday afternoons, he was pulling a tape out of his leather jacket pocket. It was covered with his own amazing song titles and artists in his unique exclamation scrawl and hand colored artwork by the man himself. When I got home later that sunny afternoon, I was listening well into the night. I tried to understand what I was hearing and why Strummer wanted me to hear it. The blend of Latin sounds, rhythmic and enchanting, featuring flutes, horns, maracas, accordions and percussion, behind vocals that blended Latin, African, Native American and European styles was unlike anything I had ever heard. It was both beautiful and messy, much like Strummer himself.

Joe Strummer at Lookout Mountain, Los Angeles. 1989

Josh Cheuse

Joe Strummer, the iconoclastic frontman of The Clash, would have turned 70 today, which is both unimaginable and sad that he is not here with us on the occasion. And while the band that made him a household name recently released an expanded edition of their best-selling album, battle skirthis birthday is marked by two releases that would no doubt have made the sometimes irascible Strummer smile, for both portray the Joe Strummer I was fortunate enough to have crossed paths with so few times over a quarter century ago.

Joe Summer 002 is the second anthology volume from his post-Clash work. not how Joe Strummer001Released in 2018 and chronicling the period from the mid-1980s shortly after the end of The Clash’s classic line-up to Strummer’s untimely death in 2002, the new box set focuses on his 1999-2002 studio work with the band , whom he loved so much, the Mescaleros.

“I think he came alive with the Mescaleros,” points out Lucinda Tait, Strummer’s widow. “It was an extraordinary time when Joe met these musicians who were not only very talented but also multi-instrumentalists. Joe’s taste in music was very eclectic and he was able to explore all the music he had listened to over the years. It was so exciting for him to work with a group who, when he had an idea, could take it and turn it into something. He was energized and revitalized and just felt alive again musically.”

So while the collection includes remastered editions of all three albums from Strummer’s late career with the Mescaleros – 1999s Rock Art and the X-Ray Style2001s Global A Go Goand the posthumous street core, out in 2003—which offers deep dives into the rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, reggae, hip hop, electronica, and EDM that Strummer loved so much, but also a healthy dose of world music that so captivated one of punk rock’s true giants from, from Celtic to, you guessed it, cumbia. It also includes fifteen rare and unreleased tracks, including the first demos Strummer wrote for the band, as well as “Ocean of Dreams” featuring Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar and outtakes of some of Strummer’s final recordings with the Mescaleros.

“I still choke when I hear his voice — especially when he’s in the studio just talking — it absolutely pisses me off,” Tait tells me of revisiting Strummer’s later career work. “But so much of it is also funny that it makes me laugh and smile. So it’s still raw. That doesn’t just go away over time. But he was very proud of his work and I think it’s important to hear it today, especially some of his more political lyrics. I don’t want to sound smug, but I think Joe’s work was important and I like to think that a younger generation of people who don’t know his music might get a chance to hear it.”

I don’t want to sound pompous, but I think Joe’s work was important and I like to think that a younger generation of people who don’t know his music might get a chance to hear it.

And while there’s probably no better way to celebrate Joe Strummer than with a huge helping of his music included in the new box set – much of it is probably unfamiliar to you and compares to his best work with The Clash – photographer and The new book from longtime Strummer collaborator Josh Cheuse Print the myth is a beautiful and intimate photo book that remarkably somehow debunks the Joe Strummer mythos to reveal more of the man than most of us were probably ever privy to.

“It was a big undertaking,” admits Cheuse. “How do you do justice to Joe Strummer? How do you find the right balance? How can this thing encapsulate a working relationship between two friends who hit it off when he’s obviously also been a mentor to me and taught me so much? These questions were paramount. But then he also taught me to just keep going. So that’s what I did.”

Cheuse’s photographs begin with the shots he took as a teenager during The Clash’s infamous 17-show stand at the Bond International Casino in New York’s Times Square in 1981, when the band brought the city to a standstill and made their way to the superstar made. through the mixed sessions for battle skirt the following year, Strummer’s work with Mick Jones’ post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite, his days in Los Angeles, where he made his first solo album earthquake weather (whose cover features Cheuse’s infamous silhouette shot of Strummer with his trusty Telecaster), through family trips to Glastonbury and his all-too-brief years globetrotting with the Mescaleros, alongside the notebooks and ephemera Cheuse has collected over two decades Strummer knew.


Joe Strummer at his last concert in Brooklyn. 2001

Josh Cheuse

Trust me when I tell you this Print the myth is full of shots of Strummer you’ve never seen before. I’ve known Cheuse off and on since the 80’s and there are hundreds of photos in the book that I’ve never seen. (“Even my wife hadn’t seen them,” Cheuse told me with a chuckle.) The best part is that these aren’t the outtakes you get all too often in these kinds of “never-before-seen” books. Both the artistry and the intimacy of each shot Print the myth feels like you’ve stepped back in time, in the room with Joe Strummer.

“I think the most important thing I wanted to show was the creative process,” explains Cheuse. “People think that most of the time you’re just hanging out or fooling around, but when you’re in the studio it’s this sacred space, and it’s actually this amazing creative space — this kind of safe space. It was important to me to give people a window on that.”

For Cheuse, Joe Strummer paid it back by hopefully paying it forward.

“I got into the circus with these guys when I was 16 when Joe walked me down the stairs at Electric Lady and said, ‘Do it!'” he explains. “That was the beginning of my career. And so I’m very grateful for everything I’ve learned around him and I wanted to honor it. If I can carry on that spark that started me on my creative journey and stimulate and inspire people to find what they love and do it until they can’t anymore, and not just in this kind of social media haze, that keeps the flame going.”


Joe Strummer and Josh Cheuse

Josh Cheuse

Print the myth more than honors this idea.

Of course, for those who knew him that well, Strummer’s 70th birthday will be bittersweet.

“It would be really great to have him here now because he would have a great attitude towards things,” says Cheuse, a little wistfully. “I always thought we were old guys sitting in the bar with a dog and having a pint and saying, ‘Remember when we were at that Prince concert and you smuggled people in and they us them thrown down stairs?’ I thought we were old geezers. I never thought he would say goodbye then. But what would Joe have thought of Trump? Maybe it was a good time to get out before things really went haywire.”

“Oh, Joe would have made a wonderful old man,” says his widow, Lucinda, as we end our conversation. “I couldn’t even begin to speak for Joe, but I think he would have had a lot to say. I think that pencil would have been outside, and those fingers would have been flying over the old typewriter, chiseling out text, pouring out his anger and frustration. But most of all, it’s sad that he’s not there to see his incredible grandchildren. And he would be so proud of his children. This makes me very sad. But that was his story, wasn’t it? go fast To go early.” The Clash’s Joe Strummer would have made a wonderful old man


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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