Current Issue | Archives | Eternal Thunder

TWO HEROES GONE

Rudies can't fail

Fate dealt music fans a sucker punch when the great Joe Strummer died of a heart attack just before Christmas last year. For more than 10 years after the break up of The Clash, Strummer kept a low profile and then came back in a big way with the excellent 1999 album Rock Art And The X-Ray Style. After the release of Global A Go Go (2001), you could hardly pick up any music magazine without seeing an article on Joe. He and his new band The Mescaleros toured the world, thrilling old Clash fans and making plenty of new ones along the way.

While it sounds like a complete cliché, Strummer was quite literally the voice of a generation. As the voice of The Clash, Strummer ignited imaginations around the world. In more recent years, Strummer's "angry young punk" image gave way to a more laid back but still passionate "elder statesman of rock" vibe. And while his death was completely tragic, ultimately it’s good that it happened when it did and not a few years ago, before he had made his comeback.

Shortly before his death, we got the news that The Clash were going to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame; despite lucrative offers and numerous rumours of a Clash reunion over the years, the band stubbornly refused to reunite except for that occasion. Strummer's death cheated us of that reunion, but shortly before he headed up to that great big jam session in the sky, his old band mate Mick Jones joined Strummer on stage in London at a benefit gig to stomp through some old Clash numbers. In a bittersweet way, that was perhaps the best point to say "the end" and run the final credits.

Strummer was always a huge reggae fan, and loved Lee Perry's work. In 1977, when The Clash decided to record "Police And Thieves" for their debut album, Strummer hesitated, fearing that there was no way he and the band could do the song justice. "What a bold, brass neck we had!" he would later comment. Years later, as a DJ on the BBC World Service, Strummer enjoyed spinning tunes like "Public Enemy Number One" by Max Romeo and "Freedom Fighter" by Ricky & Bunny on his London Calling radio show. He was one of the rare few that deserve the title "legend", and he will be missed greatly.

Less famous than Strummer but nevertheless a major mover and shaker in reggae, Vincent Chin, founder of VP Records, died of natural causes on February 2nd, 2003.

Born in 1937, Chin ventured into the record distribution business in the 1950s as a record salesman. In 1958, the success of his jukebox record ventures led to the opening of a retail store, Randy's Records, in downtown Kingston. In 1968, Chin, along with his sons Clive and Randy, opened the legendary Randy's Studio, which quickly became a focal point for most of the music being recorded in Jamaica. Young Clive Chin quickly became a producer, and along with the talented engineer Errol Thompson, was responsible for many classic productions. Such was Clive's passion for music that Randy's more or less operated 24/7, with Clive overseeing many experimental jam sessions after hours. Some of the most exciting and crucial music ever recorded in Jamaica happened while the tapes rolled at Randy's. The studio also became a focal point for many independent producers, most notably Lee Perry, who recorded many of his late 60s hits at Randy's, including the groundbreaking Wailers sessions.

Randy's also became a focal point for many independent producers, most notably Lee Perry.

Randy's Studio flourished throughout the late 60s and early 70s, but then began to fade as more modern studios were built. It ceased operating in 1977 as Chin and his wife Patricia moved to New York and established VP Records, which eventually grew to become the largest independent label and distributor of Caribbean music in the world. Chin's legacy lives on with not only the success of VP, but with all of the incredible music recorded by his sons at Randy's Studio.

Links:
Strummerville
Clive Chin interview

February 2003 (additional material July 2006)