Eerily enough, last night, I was reading the Lester Bangs article on the Clash from his collected essays. I think he managed to put the band in perspective. He sopke profusely about their righteousness and noble stances, their common-man perspective with their fans. he also expressed profound dissappointment over an incident on he tour where their cranky driver physically accosted a young fan after a band initiated food fight, and the Only Band That Matters just sat by and watched. He was dissapoited to find out that they were not the Promethean fire-bringers shedding Light on us mortals, but mere mortals themselves.
But that's the thing about heroes, they never really are heroes. Its the hubris thing. Joe Strummer had all the hero qualifications: legend status, fabled performance ardor that was probably exaggerated, and for hubris: his excessive ecclecticism. Remember, only a fraction of his musical output was all "Guns of Brixton" and "White man at Hammersmith Palais." the rest was spent on the White Album-and-then-some "Sandinista" (phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust, indeed) and a number of decent but unremarkable world music-ish projects. But that's OK, he managed his Solo artist status with more panache than most. (Neil Young has his old-fartish sexism to occassionally mar his ragged output, Lou Reed has never met a horrible couplet that he didn't use. If your crime is that you are too open-minded, that's not so bad) Plus he fronted the Pogues for a while. Now that's cool. Sure, he was no Shane MacGowan, but imagine the relief washing over the band when they were temporarily helmed by someone sober.
And I am not going to be one of the millions that talks about how the Clash changed my life. I was too late in life for that. (Devo was the Only Band That Mattered in my time frame) But I can see how they did for others. They were cool without being overly clownish. I had a hard time seeing them as a punk band, because Combat Rock was my intro. I thought they were the coolest New wave band. "This is Radio Clash" was a revelation to me, that to-me-then odd dub beat, the stripped down video. that was different. They were the New Wave band everybody liked. There has never been a party regardless of scene that "Should I Stay or Should I go" wasn't well received. You were never embarrased to be a fan of the Clash. They left me with a sparkle that you didn't have to be total Gary Numan weird to be different. You could walk among the worker bees and still be your own person.
Remember they come in threes. Jam Master Jay managed to bring the rap world to backwater non-comitted metal heads like me. Joe Strummer did the same with punk. Johnny Cash ain't lookin to well. and actually, that trio sounds like Joe strummer kind of project.