Joe Strummer’s great final act was leaving us the three excellent albums he recorded with the Mescaleros between 1999 and his death in 2002 . Uncomfortable with the mega-fame he had achieved as The Clash’s front man, Strummer stayed out of the spotlight for ten years after the band’s implosion. Quietly he regrouped and formed the Mescaleros. By the time anyone noticed, they were already a well-honed group with a growing body of intelligent and original work infused with a world view and deep sense of political consciousness.

The band crafted exquisite musical structures, marked with poetic, freely associative lyrics that expressed global concerns and a leftist social perspective. Through a tapestry of the world’s music, they took stands against global capitalism, the fate of refugees, the impact of globalization and on how war, ethnic intolerance and poverty are ripping the world apart.

“You can only follow what’s on your mind. In fact, a song is something you write because you can’t sleep unless you write it.” — Joe Strummer

They recorded three albums before Strummer died at age 50. Below is Tony Adams from the 1999 album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style.

The Clash – The Greatest Rebel Rockers of Time.

The Clash’s sort of creative activism stood in direct opposition, aesthetically and politically to the Thatcher/Reagan era and its trademark soaring unemployment, shrinking social services and increased poverty, teetering global economy and mounting social tensions, racism and xenophobia. Police brutality was the order of the day. The Clash gave voice to mounting feelings of anger, frustration, and a deepening sense of isolation that had left many young people feeling hopeless.

“Punk rock for us was a social movement” — The Clash

May 1968 in Paris, the student and labor movements of Italy’s hot autumn, and the election and overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile were just some of the ideas that inspired the Clash ideologically and aesthetically.

London Calling (1979)

Written following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident this song echoes today’s concerns about climate change: “The ice age is coming/The sun’s zooming in/Meltdown expected/The wheat is growing thin.”

Rock the Casbah (1982)

In “Rock the Casbah,”, a Middle Eastern sherif, orders his air force to put down an uprising by bombing his own subjects. By far the band’s biggest hit song, its genius lies in the infectious pop hook wrapped around a satirical protest song. It certainly stands the test of time. Couldn’t this be about last week’s news from Syria?

The Only Band That Matters

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