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Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer's untimely death at the age of fifty in December 2002 took from us one of the truly unique voices of modern music. The quintessential Rude Boy, punker, rebel musician, artist and activist, Strummer wrote some of the most important and influential music of the last century including "Guns of Brixton," "The Washington Bullets," "Spanish Bombs," "White Man in Hammersmith Palace," "London's Burning," "Lost in the Supermarket," and "Garageland." Effectively melding raw creativity with radical politics, Strummer transformed punk rock from its early associations with reactionary, right wing and nihilistic politics into a social movement. From Rock Against Racism to the Anti-Nazi League Festival to supporting the H-Block protests, Strummer and The Clash led the charge for human rights. Let Fury Have the Hour collects articles, interviews, essays and reviews that chronicle Strummer's life both as a musician and a political activist. Included in this collection are essays and interviews by Antonino D'Ambrosio, alongside contributions from Peter Silverton, Barry Miles, Anya Philips, Sylvia Simmons, Vic Garbarini, Caroline Coons, Todd Martens, Joel Schalit and others. This book also includes original lyrics, photography, art, posters, and flyers, and offers the first serious examination of the life of this extraordinary man.
||November 03, 2004|
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9 of 9 found the following review helpful:
A Somewhat Haphazard but Welcome Message of HopeMar 09, 2005
By A. Ross
Bottom line? This somewhat haphazard collection of twenty-five or so articles about Joe Strummer is more or less exactly the homage one would expect, with few (if any) surprises. The focus here is to celebrate the passing of a highly influential musician and his legacy as a progressive and hopeful force, while putting him in the context of his times. Most diehard Clash and Strummer fans won't find anything new here, and those unfamiliar with him may find it a bit overwhelming, but taken in small pieces, it's an inspirational tribute to Strummer's spirit. While the book would certainly benefit from from greater thematic organization (not to mention attention to detail), its heart is in the right place, and it's hard to imagine any collection of clippings and essays being any better.
The book is organized into four loose sections proceeded by a very brief piece by Chuck D about The Clash's influence on Public Enemy, along with an introduction by editor D'Ambrosio. The first (and longest) section covers Strummer's career as leadman for The Clash. These are all pieces that originally appeared elsewhere, beginning with D'Ambrosio's lengthy overview which ran in the Monthly Review in 2003 and is available on their web site. There's the 1976 interview from Sniffin' Glue, gushing pieces from Trouser Press (1978), Rolling Stone (1979), Sounds (1979), a 50-page excerpt from Lester Bangs' seminal book Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, and a much-revised piece by Greil Marcus that has appeared in a number of places. These reprints are all fine, and as a collective, give a reasonable sense of the power and importance of The Clash for those not already in the know.
The second and third sections are divided rather arbitrarily, and are a hodgepodge of essays and interviews mostly about Strummer's post-Clash career. The first of these is a pretty decent overview of his work in film from D'Ambrosio, who interviewed Alex Cox, Jim Jarmusch, and Dick Rude for the piece. This is followed by a nice short 1988 piece from Sounds focusing on Strummer's soundtrack work, especially Walker. The next essay, titled "The Politics of Punk's Permanent Revolution," attempts to posit that the Clash "helped precipitate a permanent revolution." It reads like something from an academic journal, and invokes philosophers from Hegel to Kant to Kouvalakis with a little Marx thrown in. There are a few promising ideas, but it's hard to take the author seriously when he writes that the album London Calling is "a perfectly awful mish mash of musical styles." Freelance writer Amy Phillips contributes an interesting article about the influence of The Clash on women, and D'Ambrosio adds one about The Clash and antiracism.
Section three starts with a rather boring essay by D'Ambrosio which attempts to reframe Strummer as a political folk artist in the vein of Victor Jara or Silvio Rodriquez. It's probably more interesting if you know those artists, but is to be commended for highlighting some of Strummer's more obscure influences. Two good personal interviews from Punk Planet (2000) and Arthur (2003) follow, a brief profile from Metropolis (2001), and a brief piece from Arthur about Strummer's relationship with Jamaican music. None of these are anything breathtaking, but worth checking out if you missed them the first time around. The final piece about the importance and legacy of The Clash isn't particularly strong, and can be read at poppolitics.com.
The final section is dedicated to essays attempting to give hope for the future. In the first D'Ambrosio profiles musician/activist Michael Franti and actor/activist Tim Robbins as two socially-conscious artists in the tradition of Joe Strummer. Alas, if those are the best we have to offer, the future looks bleak. This is followed by tributes from fellow musicians like Not4Prophet, Billy Bragg, and the singer for Radio 4. This latter group I'd not heard of and will definitely be checking out. These last voices, along with D'Ambrosio coda detailing a late collaboration between Strummer and Johnny Cash, act as a welcome call to action, a reminder that as bad as things look, one should never lose hope and stop striving to change the world around you. That,
17 of 22 found the following review helpful:
Fine intentions, maybe, but ultimately best avoidedNov 23, 2004
On the surface, you can't really argue with a book compiling Strummer-related writings from people like Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Sylvie Simmons and Ann Scanlon. Much of the material between the covers has previously appeared elsewhere, but never before with such a stunning array of glorious typos.
Unfortunately, Mr D'Ambrosio dually blows his cred as both a writer and an editor before he even finishes what serves as his introduction. "London Calling was recorded in New York City" (p. 11)? No, I don't think so, but close...it was recorded in London. Hence the title, geddit? But it's a spattering of mis-information, disguised as matter-of-fact statements, such as "In an ironic twist, on December 22 he would perform (with Mick Jones) for the last time ever at a benefit for striking firemen in London" which ultimately made me dismiss the book without a whole lot of further reading and fling it across the room. December 22 was, as fact-fans worldwide will note, actually the sad day of Mr Strummer's passing, which would clearly rule out any chances of playing a gig (with or without Mick Jones), let alone making it up to the microphone.
Picking the nit? Maybe, but not when there are absolutely fantastic books out there at the moment which do quite an honourable bit of justice to Joe Strummer's memory and legacy. My recommendation, then, would be to bypass this book altogether and make a dash with cash for Pat Gilbert's "Passion is a Fashion: the Real Story of The Clash" or Kris Needs' "Joe Strummer & The Legend of The Clash."
Mr D'Ambrosio's book, unfortunately, smacks of a careless cash-in with little regard for factual accuracy or careful editing. To state that "some people are missing the point reading it like a biography...that is so dumb and pathetic" -- as the remarkably forgiving and splendidly lenient C.C. Ho of Minneapolis has so eloquently stated above -- is no excuse for such an over-abundence of mis-information and fallacies to be presented as facts.
If some guys have all the luck, then clearly none of them are spending money on this particular book.
4 of 5 found the following review helpful:
I Have to Agree with Sour...Nov 27, 2004
I just finished the book, and while the spirit of the thing is terrific, I was a little disappointed with the typos and misstated facts - there are also a lot of lyric errors and one page that seems to end with the middle of a sentence and doesn't connect with the next page.
The author is obviously a big fan but some of his articles sound a bit too much like research papers for college.
I hope a future edition (if there is one) will correct this stuff.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
A Truly Great Book about Joe StrummerDec 02, 2004
By Falcon Lirica
Let Fury Have The Hour is a thoughtful and moving examination of the soul of creative-activist Joe Strummer who, through the medium of punk rock, became for many the "unofficial leader of a people's movement." This book may not appeal to Clash fans looking for newly unearthed trivia. D'Ambrosio has given us instead a well-chosen collection of vivid stories, both old and new, and deeply felt reflections upon the enduring importance of Joe Strummer and the Clash.
I was repeatedly struck by the stories of Strummer's generosity, empathy, and gracious attention. In both his music and his interactions he proved himself a profoundly committed humanist who recognized the need for class struggle and the fight against racism, imperialism and music industry commodification. A radical consciousness imbued his music, and his melding of multicultural genres with punk and pop became a political statement for justice and equality.
Joe Strummer's wish for himself was to be seen as simply "a good soul." He sought, through his music, to break and remake the world a better place. Strummer told D'Ambrosio when they met in April 2002 that the goal all along was to keep things hopeful and remain optimistic. "We must be positive and know that truth is on our side," said Strummer. "Music can turn people on to the beauty of a life still to be lived...we choose to not take any more and not be miserable." Let Fury Have The Hour is a fitting tribute to Strummer in that the book itself carries on that message of idealism and faith.
This volume is artfully structured in four parts that tell the story of Strummer's musical and political legacy, as each essay delves progressively deeper into the major stages of Strummer's life and career--from his early days with the Clash through his final work on Streetcore and his end-of-life meeting with quintessential rock outlaw Johnny Cash. It opens with a broad essay by D'Ambrosio, intended for an audience unfamiliar with the Clash; followed by six exciting essays originally published in the 70s and 80s that offer up-close glimpses of the Clash unleashing its fury. The most thrilling is Lester Bangs' recapture of a performance where a whole lot of kids "supped on lightning" and Strummer "connects with the nerves of the audience like summer thunderbolts...a man trapped and screaming and...it's the cage of life itself and all the anguish to break through which...is rock `n' roll's burning marrow."
The second section explores the period after the breakup of the Clash when Strummer experimented with film-acting and stayed true to his vision of building up a community of rebels. The third section places Strummer in the canon of great political folk musicians. In the last section, "The World is Worth Fighting For", a set of fresh, gorgeous essays by Anthony Roman, Not4Prophet, Billy Bragg, and D'Ambrosio himself demonstrates why Joe Strummer, still making socially conscious music to his last breath, was a hero whose pioneering life and work will continue to manifest itself for generations to come.
2 of 3 found the following review helpful:
Flawed but inspiringDec 08, 2005
Alright, its true, this book is filled with typos and misinformation. But none are so detrimental as to label this book useless to the growing library of Clash/Strummer literature. D'Ambrosio does an excellent job of compiling pertinent essays on the life and inspiring words and ways of Joe Strummer. Yes, some essays are definitely worse than others. Some essays make you want to blast Clash from your stereo, some make you want to go start a non-profit organization, and some just make you wish beyond belief that you could have met the man. Whatever effect the book has on you, I am certain that if you are a Clash/Strummer fan, you will walk away more inspired by and enthralled with the human being that was Joe.
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