Buddy to trakmarx, Smiley of One Iota, recently agreed to submit a few choice words on his time serving Unkle Joe for Issue 4 of trakmarx.com - ever wondered what it would be like to drum for a punk rock icon. Read on
When asked to describe my time as Joe Strummer's drummer I found myself immediately thinking back to 2 years that will stay with me for the rest of my life - 2 years that opened my eyes to feelings, emotions and experiences that have shaped my resolve as a person and a musician. I remember standing backstage, waiting to go onstage at V2000 with a Mr N Gallager, pissing himself as he shouted at his mates; "Im with Joe's drummer!!!" Oh how we laughed as I took the stage with NG, Paul Weller and Mani - the Primal Scream Team watching 10 yards away - that was the kind of experience I was to become accustomed to during my spell as Joes drummer!
It all started bizarly enough - I was about to embark on a world tour with The Eurythmics. Dates were confirmed, passport details sorted and money negotiated. Then, the dreaded musicians call - the no real explanation, confidence sapping call, that only a session musician can experience - in this case the Youre not black enough experience - mmm. So as I leaned back on my crutch-like Silk Cut to take in the news, the phone rang - a man wanted me to go and play some drums for a Mr Strummer. Now this will probably offend all the borderline fanatic Strummer fans who would give their right hand to have that call but, at that precise time, JS meant practically nothing to me. He used to play for The Clash, who apart from "Rock the Casbah" being in my Top 10 faves, hadnt really changed my life in any way - now he was going out with his Mescaleros.
I rocked up to Willesden and sat waiting - as the gates to the studio opened, I pulled in to see Mr S walking towards me. I put out my hand and said, "Joe, Smiley ". He replied, "Just off to get a paper". What a Rock n Roll moment. Hours later I was playing next to the man, holding down a groove on a track called "Forbiden City", which I would later record for the X-Ray Style album. So, politics, blah blah, I got the job to play as a Mescalero. Now the adventure was about to begin.
About 3 months later, the world of Mr Srummer hit me smack in the mouth in front of 25,000 hippies in a field in Glastonbury at 4.30 on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone there watching and the celebrity gathering backstage were in awe of our beloved leader, all subscribing to this myth I was picking up on that Joe Strummer was the reason that the majority of these Manic, Primal, Red Hot Foo Fighting bands were there. He was a God, a Legend, The man! He was JOE STRUMMER and I was JOE'S DRUMMER!
What followed was a rather enjoyable jaunt around the globe. More American cities than I can name, the whole of Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Europe and of course GB. The common bond between these places was the astounding worship that this man receives. - from celebrities and the general public. I got quite used to the aftershow get together with punters, gripping their vinal copy of London Calling & staring like a 12 year old who had just bumped into Gareth Gates, developed a stutter whenever they got within 10 yards of Joe. Now the great thing about Joe, unless you are the bus driver or the tour manager, is that he likes nothing better than to talk to the people. Whether backstage, as they stare like dumbstruck school kids, or in backstreet bars in the mid-west of America (where there now hangs a picture of Joe, me and about 20 strange looking Americans who had an evening with Strummer). He really is a man of the people, he thrives on chaos and madness, he hates organized, civilized and normality - he really is the ultimate living punk rocker. Music is his delivery van and he will be driving till he croaks. I saw every side of him during 2 years, 100 gigs, 100s of bus journeys/rehearsals/aftershows/bars/planes and quiet one on ones. I shared all that time with the same person. Always. There is no middle ground in Strummerville. Just the one man - just the one face (99% of the time) - the Ace face.
It was a pleasure Sir, a pleasure and a privilage. Whatever happens now, I will always be the geezer who made a Gallager giggle. Rock the Casbah!
Smiley has since formed a new band, one*iota, that also features ex Rialto keyboardist, Toby Hounsham. Catch them at forthcoming gigs. Details for all the juice on this project, along with mp3's of their new material, check out their website - see below.