Certain Songs #796: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – “Burning Streets”

Album: Streetcore
Year: 2003

This is making me sad. Writing about St. Joe Strummer, and the last songs that he ever wrote and recorded.

I mean, it’s a sad time all around, I guess, so maybe it’s more that, but I keep thinking about what he would have done in the past fifteen years, and how such fucking wrong it is that a man that always felt so full of life was felled at such a young age. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, I’m four years older as I write these words than Joe was when he died.

If only his heart had been as strong as his soul.

Maybe this story is bullshit, of course, but apparently he and Mick Jones (I originally just wrote “Mick” here w/o even thinking, because what other “Mick” could it possibly have been?) were getting together and writing songs for what could have been The Clash’s comeback. Maybe it would have been crap, but it would probably have been better than Cut The Crap.

Or maybe none of it would have never come out, maybe Streetcore wouldn’t have been any good had Joe not died and not had a chance to overthink the tunes, maybe the alternate universe where Joe Strummer is still alive, he still hadn’t done a single great thing after “This is England,” though given we are in the darkest timeline, that probably isn’t the case.

London is burnin’ don’t tell the Queen
Somebody tried to speak garage
And they burnt down Bethnal Green
Piccadilly’s yearning, like a reggae beat
Soon you’re gonna be runnin’ down

What is the case is that “Burning Streets” is slow and stately and gorgeous and self-referential both overtly (“London is burning” is the main hook) and subtly (both guns and supermarkets get discussed), and sadly (because always sadly), feels like a potential new direction for his music, overstuffed with backwards guitars and vocal filters and round-robin choruses, and I could just hear what Mick might have been able to add to this stew two decades after they broke up and with nothing left to prove except that two titans could still get together and do whatever the fuck they wanted to, because their legacy is once and forever secure.

And London, will forever be burning. Sometimes with boredom. Sometimes not.

“Burning Streets”

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