Friday, January 11, 2008

Desire is Desire: Joe Strummer's "Redemption Song" and "Coma Girl"

Joe Strummer has long been one of my heroes, and though he proved the Husker Du axiom that "heroes always die," his last years were something of a return to old form--a much mellower form, with the Mescaleros, but a lot of the soul, passion, and lyrical inventiveness, that marked his best work with the Clash.

The first I heard the Clash was probably on popular/rock radio, in the early 1980s, with "Rock the Casbah," (a song whose politics, to this day, I'm still puzzling over) and "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Those two songs mark the shift of the Clash from a straight-ahead punk band who said piss off to love songs (see my earlier post on Strummer's revision of "I'm So Bored with You" to "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A.") to a much wider palette that would include love (lust?) songs.

Actually, to me, Strummer was the kind of guy who could see that desire is desire, whether manifested in political love or romantic hankerings. These two videos of the late Strummer, in some sense, bring us to those polarities embodied by Strummer and by rock and roll.

The first is a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," and it nearly brought me to tears when I heard it after he died. "The Future is Unwritten," indeed.

Though I'm a little queasy about the MTV-ism of the second video (which does its typical eroticizing of the body without much soul), the song is pop bliss.


RazRocks said...

Joe Strummer rocks. I am not a big fan of Bob Marley and his music, but I do enjoy "Redemption Song". Joe was known for being extremely devoted to his fans. He would stay hours after a show and talk to any fan who wanted to talk to him, and sign autographs. When he was with the band Mescaleros, people used to chant for old Clash songs during their concerts, and despite the protests of his band mates, he played old Clash tunes for his fans. He is definitely a punk hero of mine. (He is 4th to Johnny Ramone, Lee Ving, and Henry Rollins. Sorry!)


Anonymous said...

The first Time I heard The Clash, I was 16 I think... but Joe was here... I was lost.
When he legalize Punk and Reggae in musical movement... I think free...
Now, I'am married with a wonderful wife, an fine and worked child, feel my life... and they all think like Joe was thinking when he heard at the first time Bob Marley...
I think it was like that :