Watching the Joe Strummer documentary by Julien Temple made me realise what an amateurish, art school, melodramatic director the latter is and what a beautiful person Strummer actually was. I guess at least Temple got that across, between putting bizarre vaguely racist images of belly-dancers when it emerges Strummer once lived in Turkey during his early years, or putting weird animal cartoons in some subversive link they may have been saying about authority.
What was a joy was sitting there with a true Clash fan and a fan of the man Joe Strummer, so much so he has his face tattooed on his shoulder and the 'London Calling' album sleeve on his left arm. To see the unpeeling of Strummer before our eyes was a unique experience because it seemed to question the roles we were playing in society the more Strummer was exposed on the screen. Here was a man totally selfish, but totally selfish with seeing a greater future, maybe knowing he couldn't change it. The merge between 'punk' and Strummer was a strange one at times and was completely manufactured in the forming of The Clash by wanting to be this attitude, this stench in the air in the 70's, which at the time was The Sex Pistols. It's a weird contradiction but punk was never the spikey hair, the gobbing or pogo-ing, it was the belief to try and make something happen regardless of your social standing.
I'm not sure he even called for a revolution. It was more of a personal, single-minded revolution. I'm pretty sure he never believed he could change the world, he may have wanted to on some level but his journey was seeing how far he could go in reinvention, the constant test of oneself to test the boundaries. That's why he let The Clash get so famous, because what is playing underground venues or bleeting on about something to a small audience. That's why their songs are pop songs, angry pop songs, with lyrics almost hidden away under his groanful slur. That is 'punk' for me. Taking this shitty genre that has no disconcerable meaning and making people think they like 'punk,' they are 'punk,' when they are just really listening to a popular culture. It's laughable but shouldn't be lost.
Music's just music no matter how you dress it up.
He liked the infamy of people thinking he was doing something important. When that started to crack though, that's when his story started to become sad. The Clash became a parody at the end, members leaving/sacked etc etc and they became a huge punk cliche. What you saw after the split was a man broken and desperate for that importance he once held. I guess you could denounce it as sad, but to reach a point where no-one regards your ideals as the gospel and to venture into the distopia that was the capitalist 80's and 90's, must have been a shock. He was this old 'punk' doing the odd shitty movie appearance. His single mindedness had not moved with the Thatcher/Conservative era, an era which must've angered him more.
How do you reinvent yourself when nobody is really that angry at anything. How can you preach when nobody is following your church? He found peace in the end in the world, not as a fight against it. I think he may have realised how important he was to a generation and to one generation was enough to plant his seed for a future that is unwritten, but he could maybe, in passing CD's or conversation, influence.
I did cry a bit when him and Mick Jones played at the fireman's benefit. You think maybe they could've gone against every grain in left-ist idealism by getting back together, but I think it got raped enough at the end of its existence to try and reinvent The Clash. To do it off the cusp, as Jones said 'an inspirational moment,' made it thoroughly moving.
Temple's choice of celebrity Strummer endorsers made me feel a bit sick though. Yeah Bono's a cunt, has been ripping The Clash off for years while selling U2 to every organisation going for a few quid, but what the fuck were two of the Chilli Pepper's doing on it? 'They've made us progress and challenge people with our music' Flea said. Such cornerstones of challenging music, while having Hyde Park gigs for £50 a ticket? I guess that's how you sell films too though.
'Punk' for me isn't an attitude, a two fingered salute or a way of dressing, it's a strive to test the boundaries of personal authority and the challenge of invisible sysyems. It's an expression of talent, a way to force whatever you think is your opinion or art onto someone or something. It's just that maybe you need a so called 'punk' band to do it.