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With parenthood and work taking up nearly all of my time these days, I've not been writing much in the way of new songs. But I have been thinking about some of the songs I've written and, as I am wont to do, engaging in a lot of second guessing (Did I do the best job I could? Is that guitar tone really right? Why oh why did I have the singer phrase it that way? And on and on and on and on). 

One song that especially has my mind twisting is Joe Strummer Is Dead. It's a straightforward call for how we need a voice like Joe Strummer's in today's world, a voice that is honest to a fault, that calls a spade a spade, that never backs down. 

But do I confess, back when I first put the song out there, I was a little concerned that some of my friends would mumble to themselves, “Give me a break, like Jeff could give a shit about Joe Strummer.”  Because the fact is that back when Joe Strummer was in his prime and belting out spittle spangled spite, tinged with a little humor, about the state of the world's affairs and how off track we seemed to be, I didn't buy it. And I didn’t hesitate to say so. I loved The Clash but I wrote off Joe Strummer as a socialist, not even sure what that meant, and then went on about the virtues of Reagan.

I still don't think Joe Strummer was always right, but I know this: the world needs people like him, people who question everything and ask that others to do the same. You might disagree with the Strummers of the world, but what good is a point of view without its opposite?

And that's all I was trying to say with the song, that we need some truly honest big voices out there, people who don't behave differently when they think no one is looking, or radically change their story based on poll numbers, or compromise until their message loses all power to provoke us to stop and think.

So, even though I might never have been the biggest fan of Joe Strummer's politics, I wrote the song from my heart and I meant it when I wrote it – and I still mean it.


Back at the end of the 1970s
No one wanted more of what had gone before
The politics of lies, the politics of tricks
The politics of hate and the whole game fixed

And once again we need a voice
To bring us to our senses
Strip away the lies
And the false consensus
Get us all to see
We've let things get to our head
The world is calling out
But Joe Strummer is dead

Now every politician wants to spin the truth
Wants us to believe that we can't understand
But the halls of power can fall to the ground
Broken into pieces by just the right sound

"And death or glory
becomes just another story”
When we’re all pounding rocks
Way down in the quarry

"And death or glory
becomes just another story”
When we’re all pounding rocks
Way down in the quarry

(Now) back at the end of the 1970s
No one wanted more of what had gone before
Tricky Dick and fuck the common man
Everybody cheating just because they can

Vocals: Toby Germano
Harmony Vocal: Jeff Shattuck
Guitars and bass: Timothy Young
Drums: Andy Korn
Written by Jeff Shattuck and Joe Strummer
Produced by Jeff Shattuck
Engineered and mixed by Jaimeson Durr
Recorded at Hyde Street Studio C, SF, CA