Penthouse Retrospective

by Chaunce Hayden Originally Published: June, 2000

Joe Strummer | 20 Years Ago This Month

Like who?

I’m into all the new punk-rock groups. I like the Offspring. They’re the bomb. And I’m into all the new African groups as well. I’m also into the Sudanese and the Colombian bands. I’m also listening to a lot of Gypsy shit that’s coming out over in Eastern Europe.

These days MTV hardly plays music, and what it does play usually sucks. What’s happened to MTV?

Well, I’ll tell ya what’s happened. The bean counters are in charge of everything from music to refrigerators. From the hinges on your window to the boots on the soles of your feet. It’s not the creative people running the show. I’m only speaking from a British point of view, but everything in Britain is ruled by committee-minded, focus-group idiots. It takes two years just to put together a TV show. There’s no way anything instant can happen anymore. And there’s no way of getting out of it, either.

You make it all sound so hopeless.

Back on the street, I say. Turn everything off in the pad and get back out on the street. As long as people are still here, rock ‘n’ roll can be great again. We can resurrect it. Everything has to go through bad patches before the glory days.

What did you think during the Gulf War when American pilots played the Clash song “Rock the Casbah” during air strikes?

[Laughs] I’m laughing because I got this fax saying, “Hey, I’m head of this corporation, and we make all the big video games in bars and stuff.” And [the guy] goes, “I got this great ‘Rock the Casbah’ idea. The machine will look like this, and jet pilots will fly over towns, and the music in the background will be ‘Rock the Casbah.’” I went, “No way! Are you crazy?”

No way! I mean, holy moly!

What do you think about the fall of communism?

I would say it was a bloody good idea. The thing is this: Any idea that has to be enforced by the secret police is a bad one. I mean, we’re all in a twit with Russia about the labor and the capital and the rich and the poor, but to have strength and power with the secret police and the K.G.B. is just too horrendous.

Do you think President Clinton weakened the world’s opinion of America with the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

You’re taking it all too seriously. Look, the Lewinsky thing made Bill Clinton’s star in Europe rise immeasurably.

Why do you think that is?

He came across looking human.

Everyone has a skeleton in their closet. Hey, in France if you don’t have a mistress, you’re weird. It’s not like that in Britain, but in France you keep a mistress set up in a flat. I’m talking about the Cabinet members and prime ministers. The whole thing is kind of normal there. Then you travel just a little bit, and the whole atmosphere is different. I mean, it just seemed to me that anyone who went up against Bill Clinton ended up having ten mistresses of his own holed up in a condo in Idaho.

The best line I ever heard about the whole Clinton scandal came from Larry Flynt of Hustler magazine when he said, “Was the cigar Cuban?” That was considered very funny to people in Europe. Was the cigar Cuban? That was beautiful!

Didn’t you run the Paris marathon?

Yup. I ran three of them.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it also true that you never trained for any of them?

You shouldn’t ask me about my training regimen, you know. I wouldn’t want people to copy it.

Don’t make me beat it out of you.

Okay, you want it, here it is: Drink ten pints of beer the night before the race. And don’t run a single step for at least four weeks before the race.

No running at all?

No, none at all. And don’t forget the ten pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, “Do not try this at home.” I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson, but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.

What Clash song best represents who you are?

“If Music Could Talk,” on Sandinista!

Great CD.

It’s not a CD — it’s a fucking album!


Don’t be sorry. I’m guilty of saying CD myself every minute.

Finally, if you could stand up on-stage in front of the whole world and give the people one message, what would that message be?

I’d say, “Loosen up.” That’s all. Just loosen up.

The name Joe Strummer may not immediately jump to mind if someone mentions it these days, but almost everyone remember The Clash in their lives.

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