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Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

rock punk alternative reggae punk rock

Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros were an English band formed by Joe Strummer in 1999 that went on to make three albums prior to Strummer’s untimely death in 2002. Musically, the band continued the genre-mixing that Strummer was known for during his time with The Clash. Elements of reggae, jazz, funk, hip hop, country, and of course punk rock can be found in the three Mescaleros releases. Many of the members of the Mescaleros were gifted multi-instrumentalists: the original line-up consisted of Strummer on vocals and guitar, Antony Genn on guitar, Scott Shields on bass, Martin Slattery on keyboards and guitar (as well as flute and saxophone on select songs), Pablo Cook on various percussion instruments, and Smiley (aka Steve Barnard) on drums. Richard Flack also appeared on various effects and instruments.

The band rose out of Strummer's work with Pablo Cook and Richard Norris. The three of them originally came together to write the soundtracks for two short films, Tunnel of Love, and Question of Honour. The song "Yalla Yalla" was originally written by this trio, and mixed by Antony Genn. Once Genn was brought on board, a new song "Techno D-Day" was recorded, at which point Strummer, at the behest of Genn, began recording a new record. The original drummer, Ged Lynch, left the band before recording on Rock Art & The X-Ray Style was complete and Smiley (Robbie Williams' former drummer) was brought in to finish recording. Shields and Slattery were recruited through a number of contacts with the band. Slattery had also appeared on Robbie Williams' Life Thru a Lens album, and Scott Shields was a friend of Slattery's. Oddly enough, in the initial lineup, only Smiley was playing the instrument which he knew best. Genn, although not a bad guitar player, reportedly did not have the ability to play sufficient lead guitar, hence Slattery was brought in. He, however, was trained in horns and keyboards, but had a natural ability with nearly all instruments. Strummer once joked that Slattery could play a hole in the windshield of the tour bus. Shields had previously been a drummer, but was recruited to play bass, and later guitar.

The Mescaleros first gig was in Antony Genn's hometown of Sheffield at The Leadmill on 5th June 1999. They toured extensively for the next six months, including playing the Glastonbury Festival, the U.S., and Europe. 2000 saw the band play Big Day Out in Australia & New Zealand, plus tour Japan.

The band signed with the Californian punk label Hellcat, and issued three albums. Following the release of the first, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, they toured England and North America; sets included several Clash-fan favourites.

Singer-songwriter Tymon Dogg, a longtime friend of Joe Strummer, joined the band in 2000 playing violin and Spanish guitar. He contributed some of the tunes on "Global A-Go-Go" including "Mondo Bongo". Honorary Mescaleros include John Blackburn and Jimmy Hogarth, both of whom played bass in place of Scott Shields on the 2000 tour supporting The Who, which was also Tymon Dogg's first tour with the band. Following the departure of Genn and Smiley, Scott Shields moved to guitar, Simon Stafford was brought on board to play bass, and Luke Bullen was brought on board to play drums. Pablo Cook left in Aug 2001 to join Moby.

Following the release of Global A Go-Go, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros mounted a 21-date tour of North America, Britain, and Ireland. Once again, these concerts featured Clash material ("London Calling", "Rudie Can't Fail"), as well as classic covers of reggae hits ("The Harder They Come", "A Message To You, Rudie") and regularly closed the show with a nod to Joey Ramone by playing The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop".

The band is also the subject of a documentary by Dick Rude titled Let's Rock Again! which was released on June 27th, 2006. The single Mondo Bongo recently featured on the movie Mr and Mrs Smith. A version of Minstrel Boy (from 'Global-A-Go-Go') appeared during the credits in the movie 'Black Hawk Down'. The song Johnny Appleseed was used as the theme song to the HBO series John From Cincinnati.

Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros' last ever concert was on November 22, 2002, in Liverpool. This show is often overlooked however, in favor of citing the November 15 show at Acton Town Hall. It was this show, which was a benefit for striking fire fighters, that Mick Jones joined Strummer on stage for the first time in nearly twenty years, during the classic Clash song "Bankrobber." An encore followed with both "White Riot" and "London's Burning". The Last Night London Burned, a 64-page book written by George Binette, showing never before published pictures of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, and a 26 minutes film by Gregg McDonald and Alan Miles, were released as a unique visual record of that last ever London concert by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros. Following the conclusion of this tour, the band headed straight for the studio, but Strummer died of a congenital heart defect on 22 December 2002 after returning home from walking his dogs.

The band's final album, Streetcore, was released posthumously on October 20, 2003.

The band also made appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, as well as touring on the Hootenany Festival in the summer of 2001.

Various Mescaleros have performed at numerous tribute concerts in both UK & Europe.


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