Joe Strummer Keeps Busy Since Clash Split
Though many people think Joe Strummer, ex-front man for the Clash hasn’t done much since the end of his band, don’t let him catch you saying that. In fact, Strummer has gone many ways since the dissolution of the Clash.
Since the 1985 breakup of the Clash (Clash fans claim the band ended with the ousting of Mick Jones in 1983,) Strummer has gone into film, both as an actor and to creating sound tracks. Strummer’s first acting bit (save his part as himself in 1980’s Rude Boy) was in Martin Scorcese’s King of Comedy with a cameo as a guitar player.
By 1987, however, Strummer his first shaky steps toward a career in acting in Straight to Hell. As Strummer had a starring role in the film, this is considered to be his first “real” role. The story centers on three fugitives on the lam in Mexico and is reminiscent of a obat perangsang wanita spaghetti western. However, the movie was not received well by critics or audiences alike, and was savaged by those who saw it. In fact, one of the nicest reviews of the film was given by Brian Case in Time Out: “… it resembles the result of roadies bouncing ideas off each other after the gig.” Case’s views on the film are fairly accurate, as the most notable aspect of the movie are its cast: a hoard of rockers: besides Strummer musicians who appeared in the film include Pouges Shane McGowan and Spider Stacy who received equal billing with Strummer; Elvis Costello in a cameo as a butler; Frank Murray, another Pouge; a pre-Hole Courtney Love; and Zander Schloss, who would later play lead Guitar in Strummer’s Latino Rockabilly War.
Soon after wrapping up shooting on Straight to Hell, Strummer left to shoot Walker in Nicaragua. Walker portrays the life of an American imperialist who was self-proclaimed president of Nicaragua in the late 1800s. Strummer’s acting was mostly left out of the film, which didn’t surprise him at all. “We were supposed to be the comic relief from the classy actors. But of course we got cut out, it was classic cutting room floor parts. I felt it would be from the time we got down there,” he told Mal Peachy in a 1988 interview. Walker wasn’t entirely a disaster, as Strummer was asked to do the score after six weeks of shooting. After working for a couple weeks in Grenada, he demo’d the entire score. Though some criticized his work as quickly thrown together, Strummer defended his piece, saying: “I think this record has soul in it, like Combat Rock, but its different, and when I was listening back to it I was thinking of skinheads in Camden Town trying to listen to it through their ears, and I realized it might be a little difficult to take– from me especially. But I did think there was soul in it anyway.” (Peachy) Walker was never released in the UK, and only released on a small scale in the US, where, much like Straight to Hell, it got poor reviews.
Upon returning to England, Strummer was invited to tour the States with the Pouges, who had taken an instant liking to him during their time on the set of Straight to Hell, as a replacement for injured guitarist Phil Chevron. Strummer later produced the Pouges’s 1990 album Hell’s Ditch, and was a candidate to step into McGowan’s shoes as lead singer before Stacey took the part.
While on tour with the Pouges, Strummer was asked to score a movie about teen suicide titled Permanent Record. Gathering Zander Schloss (guitarist on Walker), Jim Donnegal, Robbie MacNeill, Pancho Sanchez and Ramon Bonder, recorded a six track score for the film, under the name Joe Strummer & the Latino Rockabilly War. The sound track from Permanent Record has been called by some Strummer fans the closest thing to a Clash album done by Strummer since the end of The Clash.
The Rockabilly War toured both the UK and US, but crowds were more enthusiastic to hear Clash covers and spit on the band than hear Strummer’s new work. After the tour, the band deteriorated and moved on to other projects.
Strummer has also scored Sid and Nancy and When Pigs Fly, adding to his long list of Hollywood credits.
By the end of 1988 Strummer had starred in another film, Mystery Train, about a Japanese couple obsessed with the 50s who travel to America to visit Elvis’ grave in a series of three stories that are linked by a seedy motel where it is st.. Strummer plays rocker Johnny, in a less-than convincing job. Though Mystery Train was received much better than Strummer’s other films, this movie marked the end of the career of Joe Strummer, the actor. Strummer’s only other parts were cameos as Mario in Candy Mountain, and a guitar player in I Hired a Contract Killer, 1990.
After finishing off Mystery Train, Strummer again went to work in the recording studio. Gathering Schloss, Lonnie Marshall, Willie MacNeil and Jack Irons, he cut Earthquake Weather in ’89. Though working with Schloss again, the Latino Rockabilly War was not credited on the label, which listed it as a solo album for Strummer.
Since Earthquake Weather, Strummer has slowed down in recording. In 1995 he recorded a single, “Zeitgeist” with the Levellers. Strummer, though noted for his voice and rythmn guitar work, plays the piano in this song. Jerry Cunningham, bass player for the Levellers, told the NME: “We wanted a piano player for the single and I knew that Joe played because some mates had seen him and he did it in the film Rude Boy. I suggested him for a laugh. Mark phoned him up and he agreed to do it..”
After recording with the Levellers, Strummer has supposedly started recording with Richard Norris of the Grips, on a project said to be called Strummerville. Recording has begun at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio reported the Music News of the World on Nov. 19, 1995. A Strummerville release is believed to be imminent by the end of 1996.