There’s a great quote in this book, which substantiates that Joe Strummer was indeed, the (ideological) dog’s under-carriage in relation to the punk manifesto: ‘’at Leeds University, he delivered the customary diatribe of the times: ‘No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones…but John Lennon rules, OK?’’
Telling or what?
Redemption Song gets its title from the brilliant Bob Marley song - which was (ironically) not only a huge influence on Strummer, but something of an inadvertent and reflective soundtrack to that of a deeply troubled life. ‘’I have given the book the title of Redemption Song, because Joe’s life-story really did seem to be one in which he was obliged to redeem himself,’ writes author Chris Salewicz (whose former books include Rude Boy: the Story of Jamaican Music and Mick & Keith among many others).
Moreover, this copious and well-documented book will be the ‘Clash Chronicle’ by which all others will undoubtably be measured. For it’s all in here - from upside down and inside out and everything else in-between: Strummer’s childhood, Strummer’s squatter days with the101’ers, Strummer’s tempestuous beginning(s) with the band Billy Bragg has since deemed ‘’the greatest rebel rock band of all time,’’ the fall-outs, the fall-ins, the films (such as Alex Cox’s Straight To Hell and Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train), Strummer’s period with The Pogues and naturally his final outfit, The Mescaleros.
Also included are contributions from his former compadres in The Clash, of whom Paul Simonon declares (on a number of occasions) ‘’Joe was my older brother.’’
Such candour may be (partially) due to Salewicz having been a close personal friend of Strummer for over twenty-five years, thus making No Redemption a book that tells it as it is and as it simply should – by being indicative of its era due to a tumult of granulated gravitas and political persuasion : ‘’…although The Clash aligned politically with some indeterminate strands of the left, the politics of this supposedly ‘political’ group actually were those of the human condition.’’
And it’s this humanity that to my mind at least, accounts for Joe Strummer still being considered as the inexorable personification of a street-cred-cool outlaw, replete with beating heart and something to say.
Unlike the likes of Pete Doherty and his consortium of coke twats!
Redemption Song - The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer
By Chris Salewicz
Harper Collins - £20.00