Strummer

I found a printout of this image while cleaning the other day, and it seems like as good a time as any to look back on another major influence in my life: Joe Strummer.

Prior to Joe’s death in 2002, my interest in the Clash was inconsistent. I taped “Train in Vain” off the radio in spring 1996, and listened to it over and over again on the bus to school. But I didn’t know the name of the song and was too shy to ask anyone who might know. So I bought the boxset Clash on Broadway figuring that it had to be on one of those discs! I regularly played songs from the set on my college radio show in the late 90s, but by 1999 I was into jam bands and didn’t care as much about punk rock.

Fast forward to the fall of 2001, shortly after I moved to Philadelphia for grad school. I was buying a ticket for a show at the TLA on South St. and I saw a sign that said “Joe Strummer – SOLD OUT.” Why would I want to see Joe Strummer, I thought, wrongly assuming that since it wasn’t the full Clash it wouldn’t be worth seeing.

Another year plus goes by and I’m at home for the holidays, in a bank parking lot when the news came over the radio that Joe Strummer had suddenly passed away. Instantly I thought back to that moment the previous year and cursed myself for not paying more attention. How could I have passed up a chance to see him? (Indeed, he had played the venue several times in the late 1990s, but I never knew about those shows until a few years ago.)

From that moment on I made up my mind that any chance I might have to see one of my favorite performers, I had to make an effort. I think this is largely what drove me to go to as many concerts as I have, and yet I also now feel satisfied, like I have seen enough to cancel out the regret that I once felt. I’ll try to explore this more in other posts, the idea of when is it enough. The pandemic may have forced an all-stop to concerts, but maybe I was already done.

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