I watched the Rock Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony on TV earlier this year. Watched the eloquence of Audioslave's Tom Morello and U2's the Edge during the induction ceremony for the Clash.
His last band, The Mescaleros, performed a tribute concert for him in NYC tonight. Saw them last year at a local hoot'n'nanny while Joe still fronted the band. God, he was so young. I keep thinking that I would have listened more intently, put everything into enjoying the performance, if I'd known that he was going to up and *die* like that.
How many times, at 15,16,17, did I lie in the dark listening to Clash albums? On a turntable. Remember those? Vinyl...there was just something to the heft of a 12" disc. The way it felt spinning in my hands. The crackle of the needle sliding into the groove. I *like* the convenience of CDs...but it's just not the same. Not just me. Even the club DJs feel it. Two turntables and a microphone. All that, you know?
A few years ago, I walked into a Tower Records with an old Clash concert shirt on. The little boy (you'll see why in a minute) behind the counter gushed about the shirt while I was making my purchase. He was somewhere between 16 and 20. "Did you see them perform, like, live?" he said.
"Yeah, a few times."
"Did you see the Sex Pistols too?"
"No. I didn't." Miffed now because how old did he think I was anyway? Truth, I am almost that old. I remember when the Sex Pistols played the Winterland in San Francisco. I actually remember wanting to go see them. But my parents wouldn't let me out of the house. After all, I was twelve at the time.
And that young man touched my hand as he handed me my bag. Reached over and touched the hem of the shirt-sleeve. Fondled it for a few seconds. And he gave me that *look*. The look that said that if he rubbed me the right way, history would peel off my skin and into his arms. My shirt lent me cache, said that I belonged to an era that had come and gone. Should have been flattered. Instead I just felt *old*. Didn't dare tell him that I'd gone backstage for that show, met the band. If I'd told him that, he'd have tried to drag me off to the stockroom or something...
And can I blame him for wanting to touch a bit of that? Because it was glorious. The music, the people, the times. Heady and gritty and so full of newness, the crackle of possibility. No apathy. They mattered. Joe mattered. Still matters.
So goodnight, Joe Strummer, wherever you are. Hope you're jamming away, screaming out those lyrics, into wherever that may be. Peace. Out.