It's been nearly 10 years since Joe Strummer died of a congenital heart defect at the age of 50. Born John Graham Mellor, he took the name of Strummer just prior to joining Mick Jones and Paul Simonon in forming one of the most significant bands to come out of Britain's punk movement, The Clash. For six years they brought their politically charged combination of punk, reggae, ska, dub and pop music to the world.
In the all or nothing world of punk rock the band had remarkable longevity compared to most of their contemporaries. However, the departure of Jones as lead guitarist in 1983 marked the beginning of the end. Coupled with the departure of their drummer, Topper Headon, a year earlier due to heroin addiction, the band was only a shadow of its former self. While Strummer and Simonon limped on with replacements on guitar and drums for another three years, it just wasn't the same.
For the next decade or so Strummer vanished from the public eye. He composed the soundtrack for a couple of movies, acted in a few others and stood in for Shane MacGowan as lead singer of The Pogues when MacGowan's drinking forced him out of the band. Yet when he returned to the world of pop music full time in 1999 it was with a vengeance. Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros were cut from the same cloth as The Clash playing high energy socially and politically conscious music. However, as the band's name implies, they were also far more a reflection of Strummer's interests and taste than The Clash had ever been.
Over the course of three years and three albums the band's lineup was constantly being shuffled with Strummer, Martin Slattery (guitar, keyboards, saxophone, flute) and Scott Shields (guitar and bass) being the only consistent members. However, this lack of a consistent lineup doesn't seem to have had a negative effect on Strummer's creativity. Listening to Epitaph Records' newly reissued versions of Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, Global A Go-Go and Streetcore, you'll be amazed by both his ability to write in a multitude of musical genres and songs that were both meaningful and musically interesting to listen to.