Bankrobbers: The Clash Family Tree

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Rocks Off cried the night he heard Joe Strummer died. It was December 2002, and we sat on our family couch and let it all out. That fabled Clash reunion that seemed just months away would never happen. Strummer died of a heart attack at 50, just three days before Christmas, leaving behind a wife and two children.

A month before, Strummer and Mick Jones had just played together in public for the first time in nearly two decades for a benefit show, and everyone was in high spirits. The media was going ape over the prospect of a reunion. We even started putting money aside in case we had to fly out to see them somewhere. (Anywhere.) The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame had already announced the Clash would be inducted the next spring.

This band, the only one that mattered, had helped us through junior high and high school on. Songs like "I'm Not Down" and especially "Lost In the Supermarket" were gauze that covered up the scars of growing up literate and punk in a land that didn't champion Strummer and Jones' system of thought. Do you realize what it's like hearing Sandinista when you are 16 years old? It's better than drugs.

The Clash was there in the beginning of punk rock, and through the members' various projects away from the band, would end up shaping the next 30 years of all music. After the band splintered, for real, in 1986 after Strummer gave up the ghost of trying to continue without Jones, Strummer began scoring films (Walker, Permanent Record).

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By then Jones and Don Letts had already been tinkering with Big Audio Dynamite for a couple of years. Alongside ex-English Beaters Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, Jones also did a few months in General Public. He left in the middle of recording that band's debut album All the Rage, but not before playing guitar on the group's best-known song in the U.S., 1984's "Tenderness."

Everything that the band members touched, no matter how long their tour of duty, had an indelible Clash stamp. Sometimes band members would end up hooking up with other musicians who were making Clash-style music, bolstering that sound all the more with that original bloodline.

Strummer spent time with the Pogues, playing on and producing 1990's Hell's Ditch. Lead singer Shane MacGowan still pays tribute to Strummer during live shows, toasting the fallen icon.


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