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Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.

Joe Strummer Part 1 - Birth to The Clash

Sunday, 21 February 2010

His voiced touched millions the world over and his influence can be felt in many places within popular music; from James Dean Bradfield to Bono to Pete Doherty.

Born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey in 1952, Joe Strummer, as he would become known, was the son of a British diplomat and his family moved around the world until he was nine, when they settled on a life in Surrey, England. Joe attended the City of London Freemasons School as a boarder and described his time as "bully, or be bullied. I chose bullying."

In his late teens and early twenties Joe became a squatter and squatted mainly in London. He was known as "Woody" for a few years, his own personal homage to Woody Guthrie, before finally settling on being called Joe Strummer as he could only play all six strings or none at all on a guitar.

He became part of a pub rock band called the 101ers and eventually became their frontman. One night in 1976, the Sex Pistols supported the 101ers and Joe saw the new groove. He joined Mick Jones and Paul Simonon on the advice of Bernie Rhodes and formed The Clash. In 1977, a drummer named "Topper" Headon would complete the line-up.

Under Rhodes' management The Clash released their first two albums: "The Clash" and "Give 'em Enough Rope". Both were big UK hits in 1977 and 78 respectively. In '79, The Clash got rid of Rhodes as manager and began recording the album that would become their magnum-opus...

London Calling transformed the group from Ladbroke Grove punks, big in the U.K. into bona-fide rock stars. The album was to be voted the best album of the '80s by Rolling Stone magazine and won plaudits everywhere. The mixture of reggae, jazz, balladry, punk and rockabilly proved to be a successful one and the band released the double album at the price of a single album, much to CBS's despair.

Now big on both sides of the pond, The Clash decided to go one better than London Calling and make Sandinista in 1981, a treble album. Mixed reviews followed but nobody denied that the eclecticism and boldness of the album was both admirable and was taking rock music to a new level.

The fifth studio album, 1982's "Combat Rock" was a single album and sold extremely well worldwide, bolstered by having the popular singles "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Rock the Casbah" on it. Also, crucially, Bernie Rhodes was re-appointed managerin this year. Topper Headon's heroin addiction became too much for the band in '82 and Strummer sacked him and then sacked Mick Jones in '83. Two decisions he would go on to regret...

Click the link below (labelled "posted by Luke Cloherty") to download Keys to Your Heart by The 101ers: