With their bands, Joey Ramone and Joe Strummer represent the extents of the punk spectrum, both in time and in substance. The Ramones were one of the first of the punk bands, surfacing at CBGBs in the mid-70s, and playing their brilliantly brainless 3-chord paeans to sniffing glue, performed at blinding speed in the style of some alternate-reality girl group. Strummer’s band, the Clash, was more cerebral, more worldly, more political, and angrier, infusing their left-wing sentiments with reggae, rockabilly and latin rhythms, and ending the punk era with their break-up in 1982.
One of the biggest disappointments of my concert-going life was my inability to get tickets to see the Clash at their 17-date Bond’s Casino stand in New York City 1981. When the fire inspectors closed the show for overcrowding, the band decided to extend their stay long enough so that every ticket-holder would get a chance to see the show. I wasn’t one of them.
Ramone died last year of lymphoma, and Strummer died yesterday of an apparent heart attack. Unlike the Who and the Stones, both Ramone and Strummer died before their times, before they got old.