Finer Feelings #7: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global A Go-Go (2001)

It’s tough to make a generalization like, “time was not kind to Joe Strummer,” because the former Clash leader certainly had plenty of fans until his death in 2002.  A more appropriate assertion would be that “the world was not kind to Joe Strummer.”  Anyone who has seeing the agonizing documentary Let’s Rock Again has seen how cruel the world (or at least New Jersey) was to Strummer and his then-band, The Mescaleros.  People seemed to have forgotten that this was the singer from The Clash.  Like, The Clash.  The three albums released with The Mescaleros explored Strummer’s love for fusing world music with punk and rock, but the middle record, Global A Go-Go, realized that vision best.  The last Mescaleros album to be released in Strummer’s lifetime, Global A Go-Go is special because it’s hardly punk rock at all.  Instead, we’re dealt a healthy dose of folk (“Johnny Appleseed”), middle-eastern drone (“Gamma Ray”) and Strummer’s beloved gritty reggae (“Cool ‘n’ Out”).  The defining moment, not only of The Mescaleros’ work but of Strummer’s whole career, comes in a simple line in “Bhindi Bhagee,” in which Strummer is asked what his band’s music is like.  Initially, he stammers, trying to come up with a simple answer that will both please his inquisitor without leaving out any musical influence.  He then breaks loose, rattling off a series of styles that would seem unrelated in a less-talented musician’s hands.  The other lyrics on Global A Go-Go fit in with the folk tradition of being simple but profound: on “Mega Bottle Ride,” Strummer proclaims that “it’s time to be doing something good,” and on the eerie “Shaktar Donetsk,” the message is “you’ll get there in the end.”  Though these sentiments seem jarringly upbeat when compared to some of The Clash’s songs, Strummer carries them with the strength of a world of downtrodden.  Sure he was a famous rock star, but Joe Strummer was unfortunately forsaken from the public eye by an impatient world.  We didn’t deserve him, but he loved us no matter what.

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~ by E. on November 26, 2009.

One Response to “Finer Feelings #7: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global A Go-Go (2001)”

  1. Dear E.:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful and insightful piece. I agree with you on all counts.”Global” is an extraordinary record and the scene in “Let’s Rock Again” when Joe is walking the boardwalk handing out flyers for his show is heartbreaking. But he didn’t seem to mind at all! His let’s-make-the-best-of-it humor saves the day.

    Perhaps you will enjoy my recent Joe Strummer article for “Tucson Citizen” which is written in a similar vein:

    http://tucsoncitizen.com/lizard/2009/08/01/missing-joe-strummer-and-the-clash/

    Respectfully,

    Geoff

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