January 30, 2003

From the Horse's Mouth

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Three paragraphs about “the only band that matters.”

I. The NME website opened with the headline — “Joe Strummer dead at 50.” Too terse to be a hoax and who could be so cruel? The brief article provided the imagination no sordid details to gloat over. No covert drug habits, no suicidal tendencies, no incurable stomach pains. He died peacefully, in his sleep at home from an unknown heart condition. I walked out of the library into the cold rain with which places without real winters supplant their Decembers. I called some friends. Some knew, some didn’t. Later that night my friends and I gathered together. A low-key night. We sat close, talked about our lives, listened to the Clash. Like we usually do. The record came on as a matter of tribute. It stayed on as a matter of habit. Sad to hear of Joe leaving the world, but he was gracious to leave quietly, to leave without luggage, to leave all his gifts to us.

II. Two guys in bondage pants remark on the irony of the Strummer playing a free show at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square to promote his new album with the Mescaleros. What about rebellion? ’77? DIY? “He’s licking the boots of the man,” they say. More generalities and punk rock clich