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Artist: JOE STRUMMER
Album: “I Need A Dodge! Joe Stummer On The Run” DVD
Label: Cadiz Music
Released: 24 August, 2015
“I Need A Dodge! Joe Stummer On The Run” – DVD
In living up to their own rebellion against the way in which some of the Rock elite preceding Punk had become detached and pompous in both sound and behaviour, the majority of Punk’s stars made themselves totally accessible to their fans, warts and all. Speak to many of the class of ’76 punks who were at the first wave of gigs, and you may be surprised at the stories of close encounters with street-level geezers who are now regarded as icons and legends. Nick Hall’s “I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run” is a case in point, and is more resounding evidence to add to the countless stories that have been shared over the years by fans, musicians, crew members, journalists and on this dvd, a huge section of the mid-80s Spanish Punk scene, all of which attest to the basic fact that Joe Strummer was a bloody good bloke.
Having previously done a runner, literally, by disappearing on the eve of a Clash tour in 1982 and running the Paris marathon whilst on the lam, Joe repeats his disappearing act again in 1985, following the latter-day Clash line-up’s disastrous “Cut The Crap” album, which saw the group hijacked by manager Bernie Rhodes, who, according to the former band members interviewed here (Pete Howard and Nick Sheppard), saw himself as the perfect candidate to fill the creative void left by the departure of Mick Jones. The scathing response which met the album on its release hit Strummer hard, although Sheppard and Howard reveal that the lyric of “This Is England” contained a reference to the fact that Joe already knew the band was finished. At the same time, he was dealing with the additional blow of the death of his father, and fled to Spain “to feel the pain of the wound”.
Anyone familiar with the “London Calling” album will know of Joe’s affection for Spain, and its literary hero Lorca, namechecked in the lyrics to “Spanish Bombs”, and whilst hiding in plain sight in the bars of Madrid, he’s recognised. As word spreads through the local Punk scene, he becomes involved with producing local band 091, and spends time with national Punk heroes Radio Futura. During his stay, in a nod to another track on “London Calling”, Strummer’s love of classic American cars rears its head, but as the film’s title says, in this case it’s not a “Brand New Cadillac,” but a Dodge. There’s a fascinating time capsule moment in the documentary, as Nick Hall tracks down vintage TV ads which show that under the oppressive Franco regime, a Spanish car manufacturer partnered with America’s Dodge motor company, to give Spain its own home-grown muscle car, the Dodge Dart.
Hall got the initial seed for this documentary on hearing a radio interview Strummer gave to a Spanish radio station at Glastonbury in 1997, in which he called on the people of Spain to track down his Dodge, which he’d abandoned in a Madrid parking garage while making a frenzied attempt to get back to London in time to witness the birth of his first daughter, and couldn’t find again on returning to Spain to resume production duties on 091’s album.
Nick Hall himself takes up the mantle of the Great Lost Dodge Quest during the making of the documentary, turning up more engaging snapshots of Strummer and life in Spain during the time Joe was there. Without giving the game away, there are loose ends hanging at the conclusion of “I Need A Dodge!”, but this doesn’t detract from the documentary one bit, because it succeeds in revealing a wealth of insight into the character of Joe Strummer that will delight fans, as the people he spent time with during his Spanish sojourn come forward to talk about the impact he made on them, simply by taking time out during a dark period of his life to show an interest in how the Punk scene he helped spearhead had spread to their country.
Essential viewing for Clash fans, “I Need A Dodge!” stands out among the growing library of documentaries about the band and Joe himself, in that it shows him in action away from the usual settings of Punk-era London and American tours. The cast of interviewees includes Joe’s then-partner Gaby Salter, and members of both 091 and Radio Futura, along with other compadres and eyewitnesses. And the bonus feature interviews with Nick Sheppard and Pete Howard are alone worth the price of admission, providing a good humoured insight into the decline of the Clash.