Listen to this track by returning punk rock champion turned world-folk-meets-pop practicioner Joe Strummer. It’s “Willesden To Cricklewood” as taken from the 1999 album Rock Art and The X-Ray Style.
It was his first record with a new band, and a new record in general; his first since his 1989 solo album Earthquake Weather. That’s a ten-year gap, although Strummer kept himself busy with continuing soundtrack work, and work as an actor, too.
All the while of course, talks of a Clash reunion persisted. This was because the Clash had been so influential, of course. But, it was also that the demise of the band was extremely dissatisfying to most. After trying to redefine the group with new members after primary guitarist, singer, and songrwriter Mick Jones was fired, it was a question of not with a bang, but a whimper.
Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite, and put the possibility of a Clash reunion behind him. Strummer meanwhile, after the new Clash line-up imploded, found himself in a period of extended transition. In Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, he admitted to needing to get his bearings. Traveling, working on movies (Walker, Straight To Hell), cameos on stage with the Pogues, and a not-very-well-received solo record, he became something of a wanderer, just as he had been before he became a musician.
But, when at The Glastonbury Festival in the 1990s, he met musician Anthony Genn who asked him: “When are you recording again? We need you!”
“OK, then. You can help me.” And the Mescaleros was born.
And what is it that makes this song so indicative of how ready Joe Strummer was for a comeback?