From Publishers Weekly
In this biography of punk icon Joe Strummer, music writer Salewicz focuses on the heady days of the punk explosion and Strummer's long hiatus after leaving the Clash. Born John Graham Mellor in 1952 in Ankara, Turkey, to diplomat parents, Strummer enjoyed a peripatetic childhood before being parked at a British boarding school. An art school dropout, Strummer (who was known then as "Woody") lived a hand-to-mouth existence in London squats before rock impresario Bernie Rhodes selected him to head a new punk band, and Woody became Joe Strummer, the sardonic, gravelly voiced rabble rouser. For a long moment, the Clash channeled the most progressive elements in pop culture, blending punk anger, rasta vibes, bank robbers, cowboys and revolutionary traditions into music that remains compelling today. After the band's breakup in 1985, Strummer fell into a long depression that Salewicz attributes to heavy pot smoking and a family legacy that included his brother's suicide. Yet Strummer had revitalized his career and was making excellent music before his sudden death of heart failure in 2002. As a young writer in the punk years, Salewicz had plenty of access to Strummer, and does a good job of providing a blow-by-blow account of the tours and albums. However, Salewicz provides little historical context, thereby diminishing the importance of the Clash. Despite nearly 600 pages of analysis, Strummer remains an opaque figure. (May)
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Salewicz recounts the passage of John Mellor, aka Joe Strummer, front man for the iconoclastic punk band the Clash, who died in 2002 of a congenital heart defect. A diplomat's son, he was born in Ankara, went to boarding school in London, and later became a squatter before singing with a pub rock band. After he saw the Sex Pistols in 1976, he was invited to join the Clash, which immediately drew attention for its adrenaline-fueled performances and "not overearnest" protest songs. The band produced a number of critically acclaimed albums, London Calling
being the best known. After ill-advisedly firing cofounder-guitarist Mick Jones, which he regretted for the rest of his life, Strummer entered his wilderness years, recording soundtracks and acting in a few movies before finding his way back to critical success in the Mescaleros. Salewicz reveals a brooding, self-medicating manic-depressive, blunt but charming, thoughtful but reckless, both family man and womanizer. Salewicz's scores of interviews with those who knew Strummer also reveal a well-loved, immensely talented man who died too soon. Benjamin SegedinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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