Hello dear readers this I am sure will be quite a short post, but then good intentions and all that stuff eh? Anyway today is August 21st and it would have been the 57th birthday of the late great (it’s like those ls & gs never went away!) Mr John Graham Mellor who was perhaps known better as Joe Strummeroff of the Clash amongst others. Sadly he died way to young on 22nd December 2002 aged just 50 (spookily enough that’s my age now!) Click here to see the Clash with the supreme “London Calling”
His father was a diplomat and as a result Joe spent his childhood in many different places including Egypt, Mexico and Germany. He was actually born in Ankara in Turkey. The first band he was a part of was called the Vultures and this was during his time in Newport, Wales in the early 70s. During this period he also became a gravedigger for a time (a job that Rod Stewart undertook for a while as well fact fans!). He eventually came back to London where he busked with friends, it was around then that he became know as ‘Woody’ Mellor after Woody Guthrie. He formed a new band in 74/75 with friends from the squat he was living in at the time. In fact it was this property that gave the band their name, the 101er’s. The address was 101 Walterton Road in Maida Vale, London.
In 1975 he told everyone that he wished to be known as Joe Strummer, which seems like a self deprecating view of his role as rhythm guitarist. In April 1976 an as yet unknown band, the Sex Pistols (perhaps you’ve heard of them now) opened for the 101ers at the Nashville Rooms in London. Strummer was extremely impressed by the bands attitude and ethos and decided he needed a new direction. He was approached later that year by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones. At the time Mick was in the London SS and wanted Joe to join as lead singer. Joe was keen but the band split up before he had the chance. But that led to the opportunity that produced one of my favourite bands of all time the Clash. Initially the band consisted of Joe, Mick, Paul Simonon (it was Simononwho gave the band their name), Terry Chimes and KeithLevine. They played their first gig, curiously enough supporting the Sex Pistols in Sheffield in July 1976. Shortly after this Chimes decided to quit the band and Levene was sacked. Nicky ‘Topper Headon became the bands drummer. In the incestuous world of punk and post-punk Levene went on to be a part of the initial line up of Public Image Limited (PiL) with John Lydon.
By now the band had signed to CBS. The fanzine ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ had said that “punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS. Is that true? Well I’ll leave you to your own opinion. Anyway the Clash had a run of excellent albums, their debut album was the eponymously titled ‘The Clash’ and for me still sounds sharp and exciting today. But my favourite Clash album remains ‘London Calling’ It’s just so diverse and has some excellent lyrics andtop tunes. Here the boys with “Complete Control” their excellent dig at CBS by clicking here.
Joe later went on to front the Mescaleros and used to play a few Clash songs in their shows. He remained a keen politcal animal playing benefit gigs for striking firemen and such. I guess in many ways it was the Clash that made me think differently about politics andI thank them for that. I certainly never agreed with everything that they said or did, but I definitely started to think more about things after getting into the Clash
Joe as always you remain sadly missed and to remind us finally of how good the Clash were here is “White Man In The Hammersmith Palais“