Daughter Lola Inspires one of Dad’s Last Great Songs
Anyone who follows my blog (OnPirateSatellite.com) should be well aware of my love for The Clash and for the late-great Joe Strummer (the name of the blog is itself a reference to a Strummer lyric from the song ‘This Is Radio Clash’).
As I was finishing up my playlist this week, as I was reading an old article about Joe, it occurred to me that I had never before included a song from Joe’s band ‘the Mescaleros’ (this struck me as quite odd at the time).
So, wanting to immediately rectify my oversight, I included one of my all-time favorite Mescalero’s songs “Coma Girl” to close out the playlist (and I feel like it was the perfect choice).
The "Gold Coma Carnation" Spotify Playlist (I Hate Radio)
Every week I produce a new Spotify mixed-tape style playlist (like back in the day when we used to actually make real…
So, aside from being a great song, it also has a cool backstory.
Legend has it that Strummer wrote the song about his daughter Lola who had accompanied him on a short festival tour of California.
Here is what the reporter, biographer, and friend of Joe Chris Salewicz said about Joe, her, and the song in his biography of Strummer ‘Redemption Song’ (p. 594):
“‘Joe always seemed to believe in the romance of the traveling troubadour,’ said Luke Bullen, ‘He turns up to the show and plays the part of Joe Strummer.’ Lola, Joe’s sixteen-year-old daughter, came with a school friend on that short West Coast tour, and Joe wrote a song about her, ‘Coma Girl,’ one of his greatest final songs (‘I was crawling through a festival way out West,’ runs the first line). ‘Lola didn’t play on the fact that she was Joe’s daughter,’ said Martin. ‘She didn’t stomp about, she was totally cool. She’s got Joe’s artistic talent: She drew me a brilliant little cartoon — just like Joe would have done.’”
Strummer became quite famous for spending time backstage at festivals in general in his later days, but particularly for hanging out at the Glastobury Festival. There is a stone that actually memorializes Joe’s place at the festival site and Strummerville is an established feature of the festival itself (and is also the name of a charity dedicated to assist underprivileged musicians).
Here is the video for the song (made posthumously, which might explain why the cut-away shots seem more than a bit inappropriate given the history of the song). I include it here because Joe’s essence really shines out throughout the entire video.
The second single from the Streetcore album was Joe’s rendition of the Bob Marley classic Redemption Song. I include it here because the video is such a powerful tribute.
There are several important cameos, but in particular I want to point out that the band ‘Rancid’ appears which is important because it was the Hellcat record label which Tim Armstrong of Rancid founded that released much of Joe’s later output when no other labels had any interest in his music (a time when Joe was not as appreciated as he clearly should have been).
Unfortunately, on December 22, 2002 Joe Strummer died in his sleep from complications caused by a congenital heart defect (strange but true) and that video always makes me mist up remembering it.
Not very long after Joe died, The Clash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Famously, the Hall of Fame censored this clip (Mick Jones called his friend in Baghdad a ‘human shield’). It is also important to mention that Topper Headon didn’t appear because he was estranged from the other surviving members of the band (they reconciled in 2009). <another fan informed me that they had reconciled prior to this event and that Topper was uncomfortable flying…mea culpa>
I love that Mick dedicates their enshrinement to garage bands everywhere.
In other news, I would heartily recommend reading the book Redemption Song if you are a Strummer fan (or a Clash fan). I think this passage is a particularly powerful tribute to Joe (aka John Graham Mellor)(p.609):
“Almost immediately, some were apotheosizing Joe. But those who knew him, that international group of interconnected old souls who had formed his and the Clash’s posse, knew he wasn’t Saint Joe. No, he was much more interesting than that. If you knew him you’d love him. But you’d be mad not to realize what a piece of work he could be. Regardless, Joe showed how, if you lock yourself into a great truth, however apparently implausible (that man might be able to live with man, for example, as he articulated in ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais,’ or that you should get out of bed and motivate yourself), it can resonate around the world with a loving spirit.”
Given that last quote, this might seem a surprise, but I will close this out by quoting a lyric from the song ‘Constructive Summer’ that seems appropriate (written by Craig Finn of The Hold Steady):
“Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer, I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.”
Amen, and, as always, Rest in Peace Joe Strummer.
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