August 5, 2021

The Clash and the mysterious disappearance of Joe Strummer | LOS40 Classic

What happened hereApril 21, 1982 is considered one of the most unique episodes in British pop history. That day, wednesday, Joe Strummer mysteriously disappeared. If you leave a trace. The Clash were forced to cancel their UK tour. 23 days later, he appeared in Paris.

Road to disintegration

In April 1982, The Clash had started the road to disintegration. Although the London band was about to release a new album (Combat Rock) and had dates booked in Europe and the United States for a tour, its components did not get along. The relationship between the two creative forces of the group, the lead vocalist Joe Strummer and the guitarist Mick Jones, was becoming more and more tense. To the struggle of both egos, was added the heroin and cocaine addiction of drummer Nicky “Topper” Headon. I was wreaking havoc

A deception concocted by the manager

No wonder Strummer would like to run away from all those internal pressures. And the occasion was presented by the band’s own manager, Bernie Rhodes. A year earlier, in February 1981, the bassist, Paul Simonon, and Joe himself, had convinced the rest of the group to recover who had been his original manager: They wanted to bring back the ‘chaos’ and ‘anarchic energy’ of the early days of the Clash. Although the decision was not well received by Jones, who was increasingly estranged from his peers, Bernie returned. And he messed it up.

When Rhodes realized that the concert tickets for the Scottish leg of the tour they weren’t selling well, concocted a publicity stunt: Joe Strummer was to “disappear” a couple of days and the local press would pick up the news. The plan was for the singer to secretly travel to Texas and stay there with his friend, musician Joe Ely. But the shot backfired.

The Clash before a concert in London / Michael Putland/Getty Images

Strummer in Paris

Strummer fulfilled only one part of the plan: that of disappearing. But he didn’t go to Texas or stay for a couple of days. On April 21, 1982, he went to the group’s London offices and gave a telephone interview to promote the concerts of the tour, called Know Your Rights as the first single from their new album. The next thing he did was take a ferry and cross the English Channel, heading for Paris. Without telling anyone.

In the City of Light, with his girlfriend Gaby Salter, he visited pubs, grew a beard and ran the Paris Marathon. “I thought it would be a great joke if I didn’t call Bernie to tell him,” Strummer stated in The Future Is Unwritten. “He was going to think ‘Oh where has Joe gone?’ … And I also ran the Paris Marathon.”

Indeed, there are photographs that corroborate that Strummer participated in the race, although without registering, with his girlfriend. She quit early, but apparently Joe made it through. His training, as he himself stated, consisted of 10 pints of beer the night before.

It was not the first time that the leader of the Clash ran a marathon. It is documented that he competed in the London Marathon in 1981 and 1983.

Concern grew and concerts were canceled

Joe’s whereabouts were a mystery, not only for the public, but also for the band and for the manager who had concocted the plan for his disappearance. Meanwhile, the Aberdeen and Inverness concerts were canceled. On April 27, Rhodes stated on NME that he hoped Strummer would arrive in time for the two dates in Edinburgh.. The concern grew.



The Clash band during one of their concerts / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Obviously Joe’s mysterious disappearance he was not getting the effect desired by the manager. When fans discovered Strummer’s absence, they stopped buying tickets. Finally, the entire UK tour was postponed.

La barba de Strummer

In early May, rumors began to circulate: Strummer had been seen in Paris. His thick beard hadn’t been enough to go incognito, and his appearances in the pubs of the city were frequent. Kosmo Vinyl (who had sometimes served as the group’s manager) traveled to the French capital and With the help of a detective, he found Joe at his favorite pub.

It was on May 14, 1982, when Vinyl greeted a bearded Strummer saying “Fidel!” Both of them They returned to London in time for the Clash to head to the Netherlands and will participate in the Lochem Festival. The news of Strummer’s disappearance had been so popular that many who attended the concert that night believed that it would eventually be canceled.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I was still alive.”

Later, Strummer explained the reason for his sabbaticals at NME: “Well … this was something I wanted to prove to myself: that I was still alive. Being in a band, it’s like being a robot … and rather than going nuts and going crazy, I thought it was better to do what I did even for a month … I think I would have started to drink a lot on tour, that I would have started to get petulant with the public, which is not the right kind of behavior. ” He also acknowledged that it was a huge mistake and “you have to have some regrets.”

Joe Strummer appeared the same day as Combat Rock, the fifth album of the Clash and the best-selling of the British band. Contains two of his most popular songs, the singles Rock the Casbah Y Should I stay or shoul I go.