Thursday, August 17, 2006

let's rock again

It was a bit disconcerting to watch the scenes in Let's Rock Again where Joe Strummer doggedly promotes his band, the Mescalero's, as if he were just another hack trying to earn a couple of bucks. We see him knocking on doors at a radio station somewhere in New Jersey, almost begging to be let in, and for the dimwitted DJ to play a song off of his brilliant new album, Global a Go-Go. We see him on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, handing out flyers that he made himself with a Sharpie. Only one person recognizes him, and they don't seem to care.

It's like, Good God! He's one of the most important people in the history of rock, and he's forced to hustle like a windshield washer in Manhattan!!

Still, Joe's ever in good spirits. The film's website says it's "a story about never giving up." Strummer proudly claims to be nothing more than a hack. He says he's played to an empty room. He says he's been from the bottom to the top and to the bottom again, and he's grateful for the ride. His goal is for his album to break even.

But then the tour winds up in New York, and all the arty dignitaries show up backstage -- Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon, and a bunch of other cool-looking important people whose names I don't know. You need a city that big, it seems, to get enough people together to make it seem as though quality translates into popularity, to find a few hundred people who agree with you on the things that make life just a little more than worthwhile.

At one point, Strummer says all he wants is for people to go out and buy one thing that's weird, do one thing to break out of the routine. And in the film's closing minutes Strummer manages to persuade the New Jersey DJ to deviate from the computerized playlist and spin one of his new tracks, one of my favorites, "Johnny Appleseed." He gets another station to do this as well, despite the DJ's protests.

"It's a toe-tapper," he exclaims as the song is playing. He opens the studio door, sticks his head out and yells across the station's office, "You've got a toe-tapper playing now!"

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