Glastonbury Festival: How Joe Strummer left a lasting legacy in the fields of Worthy Farm

Ask any die-hard Glastonbury Festival fan which artist they would have liked to see perform at the festival but never did and you’ll get a myriad of different answers. But you can guarantee there would be quite a few votes for legendary British punk band The Clash.

Formed in 1976 and disbanded 10 years later, the original foursome may never have set foot on Worthy Farm soil as an entity, but fans were treated to an authentic slice of their back catalog when former lead singer Joe Strummer and his band the Mescaleros performed for the first and only time at Glastonbury in 1999.

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, June 26, Joe’s longtime friend and occasional collaborator, actor and writer Keith Allen took to the Pyramid Stage to introduce this brand new incarnation to the crowd to rapturous applause. .

The Clash live in 1977 – Mick Jones on guitar, Paul Simenon on bass and frontman Joe Strummer

Knowing how to perform in front of his audience, Joe mixed a bunch of classic Clash punk anthems with unreleased, yet reassuringly Strummer-esque songs from the yet unreleased album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, and made them eat outside. her hand.

London Calling was followed by (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais, Straight to Hell, Rock the Casbah, I Fought the Law, and he finished the set with assault tracks Tommy Gun and Bankrobber.

Joe Strummer performs to the crowd from Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage with his band the Mescaleros in June 1999
Joe Strummer performs to the crowd from Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage with his band the Mescaleros in June 1999

It was Joe’s first time to officially perform at Glastonbury on his own, but by then he was a local and firm friend of Michael Eavis, having moved to a farm in Brookfield, Somerset in 1997 with his wife , Lucinda.

Joe quickly became a festival institution and enthusiastic supporter. He would gather near the other stage with all of his friends and supporters, building a large campfire that would spark impromptu sets late into the night. In 1998, this led to a near-anarchic DJ set on the Other Stage with Joe, Bez (Happy Mondays) and Keith Allen (hot from his hit Vindaloo with Alex James of Blur).

Joe Strummer with Glastonbury Festival organizer Michael Eavis
Joe Strummer with Glastonbury Festival organizer Michael Eavis

John Shearlaw describes how Joe reacted to the deluge of rain that soaked the fields on the Thursday evening before the largely dry and sunny 1999 festival, in the book Glastonbury: an oral history of music, madness and mud, co -written with Crispin Aubrey.

“Joe went out for his walk with everyone in tow. Moschino jacket, Mexican hat, champagne and tequila and a word for everyone throughout the site. He was welcomed like a legend, and he was out there in the jazz business, in the mud, really talking to people, the weekend just getting started. The energy and enthusiasm lasted until the end.

It came as a big shock when Joe (real name John Graham Mellor) died suddenly of a heart attack in December 2002, aged just 50, but his spirit lives on 20 years later in a special area of ​​the festival dedicated to his memory.

The concept of Strummerville had already taken shape, but it’s now the official name for a hangout area at Worthy Farm where like-minded people can bond around the campfire and embrace community goals, music, love, peace, freedom and caring for the planet that Joe started and is continued by the charity Joe Strummer Foundation.

You’ll find his stage surrounded by trees beyond the sacred space, near the teepee field, and there’s also a standing stone, chosen by Michael Eavis and Lucinda, to recognize Joe’s special relationship with the festival.

Did you meet Joe Strummer at the Glastonbury Festival? Let us know in the comments section below, or send your memories and photos of the festival over the years to [email protected]

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Jan G. Gilbert