29
Mar
08

I Miss Joe Strummer: Julien Temple’s Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

After waiting for a year, I finally got to see Julien Temple’s documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, and it was definitely worth the wait. A bricolage of interviews, live performance footage, random archival footage, Strummer’s sketches that had been animated, and voiceovers pieced together from earlier interviews was stitched together with Strummer’s London Calling World Service broadcasts. It took me until the near end of the film to understand why most of the interviews with friends, family and celebrities, including John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Bobby Gillespie, and Anthony Kiedis, were conducted around campfires – in the latter years of his life, Strummer used the campfire as a metaphor for unity and harmony. In fact, the Christmas card that Strummer designed a few days before he died featured a Christmas tree and several little islands with campfires on them with boats of people heading towards the beacons of light.

Since I was already familiar with the story of The Clash, I learned the most from the film about Strummer’s early life, including his time as a hippie, and his post-Clash life. For example, I hadn’t been aware that he moved on a whim to Newport before he was in the 101ers or that he was one of those who broke into abandoned council buildings and squatted there. I found it interesting that in many respects he returned to his hippie roots later in life, attempting to reconcile the punk and hippie countercultures. I also hadn’t realized how distant his relationship to his parents was. There were also some great humourous anecdotes that I hadn’t known about, like when Topper Headon tells the story of how he called Strummer “Woody” when he first met him because Strummer’s ears reminded him of Woody Woodpecker, completely unaware that “Woody” was the name associated with Strummer’s past hippie persona; Strummer told him to “never fucking call me that again” and Headon wondered at Strummer’s sensitivity.

One of the main things Temple’s film achieves is painting a clearer picture of who Joe Strummer was, flaws and all. He was independent and tough, partly due to his nature, but also very likely because of his early separation from his parents and loss of his brother. At the same time, he could skillfully avoid confrontation, for which he was alternately labelled Machiavelli and a coward. As tough as he was, he was also sensitive, crying when he found out that news stations were playing Rock the Casbah over footage of Americans bombing Iraq. He was passionate – that was something that came across throughout the film, whether he was living life to its fullest by sleeping under the stars unnecessarily or preaching politics with The Clash or bringing people together around campfires, he was always honestly passionate. He was also a compassionate person who tried to look after others the best he could, giving fans money or a place to stay for the night, worrying about humanitarian causes, chastising the audience for booing Grandmaster Flash, and even looking after a young Courtney Love at her time of need. At the same time, he could be distant and unneccesarily cruel, shedding friends when they no longer suited him and often retreating from his children. Throughout the film, I grew to admire his courage as he faced traumatic experiences over and over; when the end of The Clash could have completely broken him, he did eventually fight and regain his footing. Just as intelligent as he was about world politics, he could be stubbornly silly about smoking, saying that non-smokers shouldn’t be allowed to buy things that smokers had made. All in all, he was a rock ‘n roll hero. And a human.

This film also made me agree with Bono for once: The Clash should have survived. When I look at the mistakes made by all parties involved, it makes my heart ache with the tragedy. Of course, at the same time, The Clash puts forth a conundrum that I’ve never been able to work out: when your band is based on being equal to your fans and your message speaks to living like a common person, how do you cope with massive success? It happens over and over again with bands, and generally the solution is either to implode and break up or to explode and lose credibility. In a sense, The Clash did both of those things. I guess I just wish The Clash could have found the magical answer to this problem and could have stayed together. I’ll admit I nearly cried when I saw the footage of Strummer and Mick Jones playing White Riot for the Fire Brigades Union benefit, reuniting for the first and last time since The Clash. And it served to remind me of how much it hurt when I found out Strummer died just before there would likely have been a reunion for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. The remaining members posing for photos for the Hall of Fame honour seemed like a pyrrhic victory.

I left the movie theatre with a mixed feeling of triumph and sadness. After all the events that occurred in Strummer’s life, many of them negative, Strummer’s belief in humanity shocks me. I don’t think I could have lived like he did and still come out the other end feeling that way, feeling that humans are inherently good. But in that way, Strummer inspires me. Though many people out there have probably already had the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend it for those who haven’t seen it yet. And for those who have seen it, see it again.

More than anything else, this film made me realize how much I miss Joe Strummer.

Keys to Your Heart – The 101ers

The Magnificent Seven – The Clash

Johnny Appleseed – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

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Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

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Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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