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Campfires for Punk Icon Joe Strummer

Posted by Michael / February 21, 2008

According to David Lee Roth, Joe Strummer was waaaayy too serious. He should – as only a stoked Roth could preach - ‘chiilll out n’ have some fun’ (insert guitar squeal here). Apparently, Strummer should’ve looked in the mirror, realized life is for the taking, permed his hair and soloed on a flying-V like Van Halen. Well, if he had done just that, then we’d have lost one of the greatest influences in music history and would be left with one too many self-indulged rock stars.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten is Julien Temple's lucid and loving documentary about Strummer’s life before, after and during his rise as the iconic ‘punk poet’ singer of The Clash.

In his life, Strummer went from son of a diplomat to a squatting folk singer named ‘Woody (Guthrie)’, to his punk rocker persona. After The Clash, Strummer laid low for a while, then mellowed out in his later life as a self-described hippie, complete with tree slung hammock and an acoustic guitar. Those were the days of the ‘Strummerville Campfires’ he adoringly organized.

These campfires were ‘more important than the music’ believed Strummer. Well, millions may beg to differ, perhaps because they never had the joy of sharing firelight with the charismatic Strummer. Instead, they know how important London Calling, Sandinista and Combat Rock were to them.

In The Future is Unwritten; Temple takes various cultural gurus and modern music heroes and has a ‘Strummerville Campfire’ of his own. This ‘Strummer love-in’ has people like Bono, Depp (fittingly dressed as a pirate), Flea, Mick Jones (Clash Guitarist), Scorsese and even some adoring ex-girlfriends musing over the late rock star and his affect on music. The campfire footage is mixed in with some very kick-ass archival footage of Strummer's many phases and topped off with great live The Clash moments.

The film's journey tends to ‘write-around’ who was Strummer, not really getting to the core of his contradictions and character. Many questions are left for you to ponder. Did music and fame fail Strummer? Was he really a punk, or just a man who used a punk persona to get a message across? Does he think he made a difference in the world or that it was it all in vain? Was it all in vain?

Still, Strummer’s felt importance is well emphasized throughout, and this fast paced two hour fly-by is a must see for any Strummer lover, anyone interested in music history or social activism.

The Clash rocked the world with a type of inclusive punk that was different from the nihilistic ideas of punk groups of the time like the Sex Pistols. Strummer charged the lyrics with meaningful rhymes deep with political and social messages meant to get people thinking and making a difference. You can hear it, see it and feel it in the film.

The film is like a good history lesson; it gets you thinking about the future. It starts Friday at Cinema du Parc.

Who is the next Joe Strummer?

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