On The Clash and Joe Strummer and the Birthday / Tribute / Benefit Show at The Middle East tonight

Banging this out on just a few hours sleep so bare with me.

“And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanized. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.” – Joe Strummer

When I was a kid growing up in VT, I just listened to whatever was on the radio – oldies when my mom was driving; country when my dad was driving; WEQX, an alternative rock station when that started up in the mid-80’s.

It was probably around that time that one of my friends played me The Clash, The Ramones, and the Sex Pistols.  (We were a little late to the party in Vermont.)

The Sex Pistols were raw and exciting, The Ramones were fast and fun, but it was the first Clash album that really took hold of me.  It was the combination of smart, socially conscious, occasionally political lyrics with those guitar / bass / drum sounds which sounded more urgent than whatever else I was listening to at the time.

“Career opportunities…the ones that never knock…every job they offer you’s to keep you off the dock. ” – The Clash

I later fell in love with Give ‘Em Enough Rope and London Calling, plus parts of Sandinista! and even some of the songs on Combat Rock.

I devoured those albums and collected everything I could.  They’re probably the only band whose albums I had on record, cassette, and CD.  I’ve had other favorite bands since, but they were the first.

“We aren’t particularly talented. We try harder!” – Joe Strummer

I have a lot of influences on how I lived my life and how I want to live my life in the future, but I’d have to include this band, The Clash, as one of them, which seems strange to say.

My takeaways were:
•    if you tried hard enough at something, you could do it
•    if you wanted to live your life treating people with fairness and respect, it’s possible
•    being into punk music and politics are not mutually exclusive
•    that punk rock doesn’t have to be dumb
•    that punk rock can mean being excellent to each other
•    that there are things in this life worth fighting for
•    that music can have power even if it’s just to give someone a voice
•    that you never stop learning
•    that anything is possible

I don’t think they said all of those things but that was the essence that came through in the music.

“It’s the best years of your life they want to steal” – The Clash

So tonight, we start what I hope will be an annual tradition.  The bands Stray Bullets, Far from Finished, Jason Bennett and The Resistance, and Dave Wells are going to be performing the songs of The Clash and Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, as well as some of their own, at The Middle East DownstairsDJ Krezner (Roots and Razors) is going to spinning tunes in between bands.

The proceeds will go to Strummerville, a foundation that Joe Strummer’s family set up after his passing.  The bands have put their time into this, I hope you can come by and support them.  It is Joe Strummer’s birthday today and I hope he’d be proud of what’s happening here tonight.

“The future is unwritten.” – Joe Strummer


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