The late Joe Strummer - singer, songwriter and guitarist of the Clash - had a train named after him at a ceremony Feb. 12 at Bristol Temple Meads railroad station in southwest England. The locomotive is a Class 47 diesel, originally designed in 1962. After being named, the train will see active service in East Anglia. The Strummer train follows a 200-year-old tradition of British trains being named after famous folk.
The sting of Strummer's death has not faded much for me in the two years since his passing. It still hurts somewhere deep and jagged. I wrote this tribute when Strummer died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in December of '02:
I'm very sorry to see Joe Strummer go - 50 seems ridiculously young to me now. I was an enormous Clash fan. While the Sex Pistols may have been more "punk," the Clash were a real band, a rock 'n' roll band that transcended the strictures of punk to incorporate funk, reggae, dub, roots rock, even folk. I enjoyed a fair amount of the post-Clash work of Mick Jones' Big Audio Dynamite and Strummer solo, especially this year's world music manifesto, Global a Go-Go, but like so many magical combinations, the Clash was greater than the sum of its parts and Strummer/Jones were always better together than apart. It's that synergy thing.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame better be careful or it will come to be associated with a curse, at least concerning punks: Joey, Dee Dee Ramone, now Joe, but at least Joe knew he had been voted in. This year's induction ceremony will be a downer instead of the riot it would have been with a Clash reunion - Joe will be an impossible hole to fill.
One of the reasons it took me so long to switch from vinyl to CDs was the "side" factor: records have sides that neatly divide an album into 20-24 minute halves. After 25 years of listening to records (by 1991), my body clock was attuned to this time frame and sitting through an entire CD without a break made me feel like I was buried alive. Perhaps I exaggerate, but it did bug me.