When Joe Strummer ran the Paris Marathon.

On the 21st April, 1982 – just three weeks before the release of The Clash’s fifth studio album ‘Combat Rock’, Joe took the boat and train from London to Paris, with then-girlfriend Gaby Salter to enter the Paris Marathon.

So you wonder how did Joe find himself in Paris and why did he run the Marathon? – well here’s the full story.

After the release of their previous 1980 album, the widely ambitious “Sandinista! A triple LP album containing 36 tracks and featuring many music genres and styles, including funk, reggae, jazz, gospel, rockabilly, folk, dub, rhythm and blues, calypso, disco, and rap. The triple album won several “best of the year” critics polls in 1981. It was voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics poll and Dave Marsh noted that it was a record whose topic was as many years ahead of its time as its sound.

To get people talking about their upcoming new album and shows, manager Bernie Rhodes suggested to Joe that he take a trip to Austin, Texas and go and stay with country singer Joe Ely for a few weeks, to stir up some controversy to help to increase ticket sales for an up and coming tour. Joe agreed, but instead took a Boat and Train and headed to Paris without telling anyone – turning a hoax AWOL story into a real one. After sometime The Clash camp started to worry when they never heard back from them and got private detectives involved to try to track him down. But in the end it was Kosmo Vinyl who found Joe.

In Chris Salewicz Strummer biography  ‘Redemption Song’, Joe and Gaby travelled around the city by metro, reading articles about Strummer’s disappearance. And together they ran the Paris marathon. Joe alleges that he finished the race in an astonishing 3 hours, 20 minutes while Gaby finished last.

Joe Strummer and Gaby Salter after the Paris Marathon, 1983.
Joe Strummer and Gaby Salter after the Paris Marathon, 1982.

In an interview with US Magazine Steppin’ Out in 1999. They asked Joe how he prepared for the Marathon.

Q: Didn’t you once run in the Paris Marathon?
Joe: Yep. I ran three of them.
Q: Correct me if I’m wrong but is it also true that you never trained for any of them?
Joe: You shouldn’t really ask me about my training regime, you know.
Q: Why?
Joe: Because it’s not good and I wouldn’t want people to copy it.
Q: Don’t make me beat it out of you.
Joe: Okay, you want it, here it is. Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.
Q: No running at all?
Joe: No, none at all. And don’t forget the 10 pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, “Do not try this at home.” I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.

The Paris wasn’t the only Marathon Joe participated in. In 1981 he ran his first London Marathon – sponsored by English tabloid The Sun. and in 1983 for the second and last time he ran the London Marathon on The Sun newspaper team, who were running in aid for Leukaemia Research, where he finished with a time of 4 hours and 13 minutes.

Joe Strummer during the 1981 London Marathon.
Joe Strummer during the 1981 London Marathon.

Photos of Joe Just before starting the 1983 London Marathon.

© Steve RapportJoe Strummer before the 1983 London Marathon.

Joe Strummer before his run at his second London Marathon, 1983. Joe Strummer at the 1983 London Marathon.

 

Joe Strummer during the 1983 London Marathon.
Joe Strummer during the 1983 London Marathon.

 

In this interview from 1988, Joe tells the truth about how he ended up at the Paris Marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Clash on Broadway

 

In 1981 The Clash headed to New York City to play eight shows at the Bonds International Casino located in Time Square, in May and June in support of their fourth studio album Sandinista!. Due to wide publicity the shows oversold (3500) right from the first night. This became a problem as the venue had a capacity limit 1750, leading the New York City Fire Department to cancel the Saturday, 30 May performance. In response, the band condemned the greed of the promoters while demonstrating integrity to each and every ticket holder by doubling the original booking with a total of 17 dates extending through June. Joe Strummer said of the exhausting ordeal, “We took a stand and it nearly killed us,” but the move stands as the band’s integrity and love of music.

The Clash Chaos in New York original concert poster
Original poster advertising the eight show.
The Clash poster featuring new dates
Poster for the show featuring the added dates.
The Clash concert ticket for the may 30, show at Bond International casino
A ticket for the may 30 show.
Joe Strummer performing at one of the shows at Bond International Casino, 1981.
Joe Strummer and Mick Jones (in the background) performing at one of the shows at Bond International Casino, 1981.
Joe Strummer performing at one of the shows at Bond International Casino, 1981.
Another shot of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones (on the left) performing at one of the shows at Bond International Casino, 1981.

 

A planned film project of the event was in motion by Don Letts but later aborted was to document the events and performances centering around the band’s historic shows at Bond’s International. Footage shot included Topper Headon strolling around NYC at night and being interviewed in a taxi, the band sitting on a rooftop watching a group of young black kids rap and breakdance on the pavement, the graffiti artist Futura and backstage scenes, and of course the performances from the shows.

Although the film itself never materialized, the footage that was shot at the time provided the basis for the “This is Radio Clash” video and formed much of the backbone of Don Letts 2000 documentary of ‘The Clash, Westway to the World.’

Here is some of the footage:

 

News report from 1981 about the historic shows:

 

Audio from the first show, May 28, 1981:

If you want to hear audio from the others show they are available on YouTube.

Here’s a video i put together of footage from the event played to The Clash’s “Broadway” from Sandinista!

The Clash “Rock In Athens 85′.”

The Clash in 1985, with their new band members – Vince White and Nick Sheppard (Guitars) and Pete Howard (Drums) they travelled to Athens in Greece to take part in a two-day Rock concert “Rock In Athens 85′”, which saw the likes of bands, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, The Cure and many others.

The event was organized by the newly formed General Secretariat of Youth and the French Ministry of Culture. Back then, the Greek minister of culture was the actress Melina Merkouri, who’s a member of the “socialist” government.

The event was held on July 26th and 27th at the Panathinaikon Stadium, which 18 years earlier saw the historic Rolling Stones concerts. The official promotion posters for the event had no mention of The Clash performing, although it did mention their was going to be “Very Special Guest Stars”, which turned out to be The Clash.

40,000 fans turned up to what was believed to be a free festival. However they soon found out that wasn’t the case, and unhappy at having to pay to get in, several thousand stormed the stadium on the Monday. Fears for safety on the second night, which saw major headliners The Clash perform led the organisers to offer free entry and no restrictions to avoid any of the violence which had left several police/security injured the night before.

The Clash were the major headliners on Saturdays nights bill, with supporting act not by the Cure [as is suggested], but possibly a local Greek punk band, though this could have been in fact Nina Hagen. Nina Hagen was a German singer who was involved in the punk scene in the late 70s/early.

Rock in Athens 85' promtional poster
The original “Rock in Athens 85′” poster promoting the concert.
Panathinaikon Stadium
The Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens, Greece, where the shows were held.

Guitarist Nick Sheppard years later said “The Clash were excellent that night and the whole place seemed buzzing”. In Marcus Gray’s book ‘Return of the Last Gang in Town’ Nick Sheppard told him that Bernie and Joe moments before going on were rowing side stage and Joe having a very angry look, a usual precursor to him going on stage all fired up and the clash blazing. Vince White later said that “Glasgow Barrowlands was the most exciting show I played and Athens (the last) was the best show I played.”

Joe Strummer talking to the photographers in Anthens, Greece.
Joe Strummer talking to the photographers in Athens, Greece before the show.
Paul Simono and Joe Strummer in Anthens, Greece
Bassist Paul Simonon and lead singer/guitarist Joe Strummer in Athens, Greece.

Sadly there isn’t any footage or audio of the Clash’s performance or any footage at all from the second night except The Cure’s set was broadcast on state TV and is popularly traded in their boot community. Greek TV did film the gig and footage of the Festival circulates but no Clash Concert footage. So here’s hoping that someone somewhere with footage or audio will release it.

Nick Sheppard and Paul Simonon performing at 'Rock in Athens 85'', 1985
Guitarist Nick Sheppard and Bassist Paul Simonon performing on the second night at ‘Rock in Athens 85” on July 27, 1985.
Vince White, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer at 'Rock in Athens 85'', 1985.
Vince White, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer performing at ‘Rock in Athens 85’ on July 27, 1985.

Letter of Note: Joe Strummer’s letter about Bruce Springsteen.

The late Legendary Clash frontman, Joe Strummer was asked by ‘Rockumentary’ film director Mark Hagen on his thoughts about Bruce Sprinsteen for a documentary he was currently working on about the The Boss, called ‘Bruce Springsteen: A Secret History’ which traces the steps from Bruce Springsteen’s career, from his early years up to the release of his CD Boxset “Tracks”. The documentary was broadcasted on British Televison on the 5 December, 1998. So here’s what Joe had to say:

Joe Strummer's letter about Bruce Springsteen
Joe Strummer’s letter to Mark Hagen, on why Buce Springsteen is “GREAT”.

If you can’t read Joe’s all-cap handwriting – here it is in normal text:

ATTN: Mark Hagen

Dear Mark – Here’s my contribution

Bruce is great… If you don’t agree with that you’re a pretentious martian from venus. Bruce looks great… Like he’s about to crawl underneath the chords with a spanner and sock the starter motor one time so that a engine starts up-humming and ready to take us on a golden ride way out somewhere in the yonder…

Bruce is great… Because he’ll never lay down and be conquered by his problems he’s always ready to bust out the shack and hit the track… His music is great on a dark and rainy morning in England, just when you need some spirit and some proof that the big wide world exists, the D.J. puts on “Racing In The Streets” and life seems worth living again… Life seems to be in cinemascope again.

Bruce is not on an ego trip… Bruce is actually into music…We need people like this…A lot of records today are made by people just to feed their fame. Bruce is great… There ain’t no whinging whining or complaining.. There’s only great music, lyrics and an ocean of talent. Me? I love Springsteen!!!

(Signed ‘Joe Strummer’)

So you can see that Joe was a big Springsteen fan and vice versa. Joe Strummer is one of Bruce’s musical heroes. During a gig in 2009, Springsteen, declaring Strummer as “one of the greatest rockers of all time” (which i have to agree) before launching into a rendition of The Clash’s “I Fought The Law.”

You can watch the video here:

And when Strummer died in 2002, Springsteen was more than happy to honor him at the Annual 45th Grammy telecast in 2003 with a killer performance of “London Calling” which he performed alongside Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Steve Van Zandt.

I could not find the video but here are some photo’s.

steven van zandt dave grohl bruce springsteen elvis costello
Steven Van Zandt, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello at the 45th Annual Grammy Award Show performing “London Calling” tribute to the late Clash frontman, 2003.
Bruce Springsteen Dave Grohl Stevev Van Zandt Elvis Costello London Calling Grammy's 2003
Steven Van Zandt, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello rocking out to “London Calling” at the 45th Annual Grammy Award Show, 2003.
dave grohl bruce springsteen elvis costello 45th Annual Grammy Awards Show
Dave Grohl, Bruce Sprinsteen and Elvis Costello performing “London Calling” at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards Show, 2003.

In 2009 Springsteen opened the second night at the Glastonbury Festival by playing a number called “Coma Girl”, the first single from Joe’s final band, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. The song lyrics were inspired by the festival, with Strummer as a regular guest up until his death in 2002, released on there third and final album ‘Steetcore’, released on 21 October 2003.

Here’s the audio from that night:

Here’s Bruce performing “London Calling” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert on 29 October 2009.

 

So you can see that Bruce is just as big of fan of Joe’s as Joe is of Bruce. It a shame that these two never met, i could see them rocking out together.