“Clampdown” – The Clash

“Johnny Appleseed” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros

Joe Strummer would have been 63 today. Here are two songs that sum up the second and third phases of his career about as well as any. “Clampdown” is an absolute blowtorch of a song. It is roughly four minutes of righteous fury; a warning to either jump on board or get the hell out of the way. It is the epitome of what punk rock – at least from the Clash’s point of view – was all about in the late 1970s.

“Johnny Appleseed,” from his Mescaleros era, is much softer. Like so many of his later songs, rather than rage, it radiates a sense of community and a gentle call to action. It feels more of the 1960s, and I can easily hear Joe and his friends singing it around a campfire at one of the large European music festivals he loved to set up camp at in the final years of his life.