The Deification of Joe Strummer

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 10, 2007 — 1 Comment

Film-maker Julien Temple, director of the infamous mockumentary “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”, has made a new film about his friend and punk legend Joe Strummer. Strummer, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for The Clash, died an untimely death in 2002 due to a undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Temple goes beyond mere documentary as tribute to his friend, as evidenced by this article in the Guardian where standing stones, magic mushrooms, and bonfires enter the picture.

“…they were, he says, “in stasis”, unable to work out how to honour his memory. First, they attempted to build a stone circle in the back garden of the singer’s Somerset home, “in the old druid style with big levers and stones, trying to line them up by the stars and all that kind of thing”. This, he concedes, was a nice idea in theory, but perhaps a little ambitious in practice: “It was a kind of Spinal Tap thing. It went on for about six weeks, in the mud in February; we got about three stones done and then we thought, ‘We’ve had enough of this, bring in the diggers,’ which Joe would have liked. So we got a digger and, having done three stones in six weeks, we got the rest done in an afternoon. I suppose you could say it was very Joe-like, a mixture of the old way and the new way. But that was all we managed to do, and I just felt that maybe it would be a kind of a good way of moving on if we all got together and made this film.”

For the film, Temple created a series of bonfires to facilitate honest conversation about Strummer, and perhaps they invoked something a bit more in the process.

“Eventually, he came up with the idea of interviewing Strummer’s friends and fans around a series of campfires. In his later years, Strummer had become obsessed with building campfires, most famously at Glastonbury, “almost as a creative statement – there was this idea that it was a great leveller, that it reached back to prehistoric man, that people never really meet each other that profoundly in any other context”. Temple’s first attempt to recreate a Strummer campfire, however, was rather too successful in conjuring what he describes as their “bacchanalian” spirit: “The first one was in the middle of a blizzard in February in Somerset, and I don’t know who it was, but someone put magic mushrooms in the tea and …” He trails off, chuckling.”

So who knows, with such inspiration in the air perhaps some form of punk apotheosis has occurred, and the divine spirit of Joe Strummer now watches over the oppressed and helps protect the natural world. “The Future Is Unwritten” debuts in the UK on May 18th.

Jason Pitzl-Waters