27 November 2008 | Spikeopath
Joe Strummer, voice of a generation, and to me an inspiration.
A documentary charting the life and untimely death of one of the leading figures in the Punk movement in Great Britain in the late 70s. From pub rock beginnings to filling out stadiums in North America, this film attempts to create an in-depth marker to just what made the Clash front man tick.
First off let me say that I myself consider myself to be one of The Clash, and Strummer's biggest fans. Being around at the time of the Punk explosion, I still to this day, live my life as a Punk in spirit. For sure this is an invaluable film for fans and anybody who's interested in getting involved with Joe and his music, with some of the early footage (to me at least) being quite simply priceless. Yet it's lacking the necessary edge to make it one of music's great documentaries.
Julien Temple (who set the benchmark for rock docs with his brilliant The Filth And The Fury in 2000) tells it well, edits it nicely and gets the tight and trusted friends and colleagues to line up with back slapping praise. You got the likes of Bono, Martin Scorsese, Johnny Depp, Flea, John Cussack and Michael Stipe, all men of substance who certainly don't need to be on this film to make themselves seem cool-so you can rest assured that these guys mean it when they are dishing out the plaudits to one of Punks great fathers. But, and here's the thing with me, the itch that I just can't scratch, why has important periods in The Clash/Strummer's life been given over to so many filled in back slaps? Anyone who knows their Clash history will know of the troubled making of their second album, Give Em Enough Rope, it's not even mentioned here! From The Clash's debut album we lurch forward to London Calling, it's a gap of some distinction I can tell you, and practically unforgivable. I was further annoyed that the new look Clash around the time of Cut The Crap was given about a two minute overview, this was a very critical time in Joe's life, but we basically just get told that, oh Joe was unhappy and the new guys were in awe of him.
This is far from definitive, but as it is, it's probably the only documentary we will ever have on the late great Joe Strummer. So with that in mind I'm truly thankful. But as glad as I am that it exists, I'm equally annoyed that the story has holes that have not been filled because Mr Temple (perhaps wondering just how many people would want to see the picture) has over crammed in the plaudits. 7/10