Joe Strummer’s recording career isn’t likely to end with this week’s Hellcat/Epitaph release of “Streetcore,” his posthumously completed third album with the Mescaleros. According to his former Mescaleros bandmate Martin Slattery, the ex-Clash frontman left behind reels upon reels of homemade recordings, some of which date back several years.
Slattery tells Billboard.com that Strummer left behind a slew of eight-track recordings captured in his home studio in Plymouth, England. “There’s loads of reels that haven’t been listened to properly yet, all these tapes that he kind of doodled around on,” he says. “We’ve listened to bits of it and found some kind of stuff that relates to what [the Mescaleros] were doing, but nothing totally new. But I’m not sure whether they’ve all been completely listened to.”
Because the recordings were done on tape — and because some predate the formation of the Mescaleros in the late-’90s — they are being copied and archived by a Strummer family friend. The studio where these recordings were made is pictured in the “Streetcore” liner notes.
In addition, there are a number of unreleased Clash recordings that now stand a better chance than ever of seeing daylight. According to a source, when the Legacy label reissued the Clash catalog in the late-’90s, Strummer opposed the inclusion of any extras and rarities on the various albums. The singer apparently didn’t like the idea of his fans having to buy the albums twice in order to score the new material.
In addition, Hellcat has in its vaults various live recordings captured on Strummer’s tours with the Mescaleros, says label chief Chris LaSalle.
Released today (Oct. 21), “Streetcore” was pieced together earlier this year by Slattery and fellow Mescalero Scott Shields under the guidance of Strummer’s widow, Lucinda. The album features two songs Strummer recorded while sitting in on the making of Johnny Cash’s final studio effort, “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”
Those tracks, a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and “Long Shadow” (a country tune written for Cash), were recorded by noted producer Rick Rubin. They were added to the fruits of a session finished just days before Strummer’s December 2002 death of a heart attack.
A few tracks, Slattery says, were pieced together from various sources. On one, “Midnight Jam,” Slattery lays bits of dialogue from Strummer’s radio show on the BBC over the band playing. It was the last track recorded before the band split for the Christmas season last year, and Strummer’s passing.
Slattery recalls Strummer remarking, “F***in’ great!” while the band recorded the track. “He didn’t really come up with any vocal ideas at the time, but he was going to work on it over Christmas, or maybe even just leave it as an instrumental,” Slattery says.
As expected, “Streetcore” marks the end of the Mescaleros as a band, Slattery says. “We’ve talked about [continuing], but unfortunately, we can’t really make it make sense without Joe,” he says. “It just doesn’t seem right. Joe was the spirit behind the whole thing.”