Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I Got This Great New Book

I got this great new book in the mail today.It's called The Last Night That London Burned. On the surface, it's a short photo-journalistic account of Joe Strummer's final concert ,11/15/02, but inside there are written tributes ,background and historical pieces and plenty of great older photos. More than enough to open a flood gate of memories. I'd not really thought about it before, but reading through this book made me realize that the Clash played a major role in making me who I am today. I think that's a good thing. Feel free to disagree.
I think it was tenth grade, maybe eleventh (circa 1981)and I was living in a "planned" (artificial and character-less)community called Columbia,Md. Most of my time was spent smoking dope,playing Dungeons and Dragons,taking acid,going to Grateful Dead shows ,drinking and having reckless sex in public places. More of the first things than the last, I'm sad to say.
Anyway, I asked an older pal to make a copy of a Deep Purple album and he said, OK, but only if he could turn me on to a band called the Clash. He put a mix from the first album and some bootlegs and stuff on the other side of the tape. Cool.
At this time I had the world's best paper route.It was in a hi-rise apartment building and the papers came around four in the morning, so the world was always very quiet. Being a rebellious teenager, I hated a quiet world. I got a Walkman. I'd grab a cart from the laundry room, chuck the papers into it and start making the rounds.
Listening to "Career Opportunities" while high on acid and delivering newspapers really makes you think. It makes you ask questions,it makes you demand answers. That, to me, was my quintessential punk moment of clarity.

I'd like to say that I immediately eschewed all things 'Hippie', got a Mohican, painted an Anarchy symbol on my leather jacket and joined an activist movement,but real changes don't work that way.
What I did was gradually start paying closer attention to the world around me. To what the Reagan administration was doing in Central America.
To the social-economic dynamic that prevents so many of us from living at peace with ourselves and with others.
To why I really didn't feel like listening to the Grateful Dead anymore.
To why I didn't want to dedicate my life to a job I hated.
To the fact that I'd only never be truly happy if I wasn't doing something I believed in.

It wasn't long before I traded my Atari video game for my first electric guitar.
I'll never be famous. I don't care. I have my beliefs and my passions to sustain me. I can suffer through shitty jobs because I can play their game.
I can smile because I know they can't play mine.

I thank Joe Strummer for helping me ignore alien orders and be myself. I just wish I'd done it sooner, damn it.


Lyzard said...

For those interested, a copy of the book can be purchased at The book can be found under the "Joe's Causes" link. The concert was a benefit for the Fire Brigade Union at the end of a 48 hour strike by the FBU. All proceeds from the book go to support the Fire Brigade Union.

nick said...

Allan - you always have the most entertaining stories. Great post.

Allan said...

Strummer News link on sidebar. Y'all are great.