To say that the ultimate punk, Joe Strummer was a fan of Bruce Springsteen would be putting it lightly, to say the least. The Boss was a surprising influence on the seminal punk outfit The Clash and Strummer’s later work. The singer even wrote a letter of appreciation about his fellow telecaster shredding troubadour, back in 1995 which was somewhat appropriately titled ‘Bruce is great’.
According to Pat Gilbert’s book Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story Of The Clash, Springsteen greatly impacted a young impressionable strummer who was playing with his pub rock band The 101ers at the time. But, after seeing The Boss at Hammersmith Odeon in November 1975, this all changed and a few months later The Clash would be formed, and with a burning passion for sticking up for the working man continuing to grow, Strummer’s mission became clear.
The respect was mutual, Springsteen later paying tribute to Strummer following the iconic frontman’s death in 2002 when he took to the stage at the next Grammy’s to blitz through a ferocious rendition of ‘London Calling’ where he was joined by Steven Van Zandt from The E Street Band, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Strummer’s old friend Elvis Costello.
Springsteen would yet again pay tribute to the late Clash frontman in 2009 when he opened his headline set on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage with a cover of Joe Strummer’s ‘Coma Girl’, which featured on Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros third album Streetcore that was released shortly after his death.
It’s a left-field choice to start a headline set at Glastonbury with, but Springsteen is never one to follow the handbook step-by-step, just like Strummer. The connection between the two is straightforward to see, and Springsteen has always reciprocally cited Strummer as a huge influence on his own career.
In 1995, Mark Hagen from Mojo asked Strummer if he could contribute a few words about a piece they were conducting about Bruce Springsteen because they knew how much of a fan he was of his contemporary.
Unsurprisingly, Strummer happily obliged and declared all the reasons why The Boss is great, which you can read in full below.
“ATTN: MARK HAGEN
“Dear Mark – here’s my contribution
“BRUCE IS GREAT… IF YOU DONT AGREE WITH THAT YOU’RE A PRETENTIOUS MARTIAN FROM VENUS. BRUCE LOOKS GREAT… LIKE HE’S ABOUT TO CRAWL UNDERNEATH THE CHORDS WITH A SPANNER & SOCK THE STARTER MOTOR ONE TIME SO THAT A ENGINE STARTS UP – HUMMING & READY TO TAKE US ON A GOLDEN RIDE WAY OUT SOMEWHERE IN THE YONDER… BRUCE IS GREAT… BECAUSE HE’LL NEVER LAY DOWN & BE CONQUERED BY HIS PROBLEMS HE’S ALLWAYS READY TO BUST OUT the SHACK & HIT THE TRACK… HIS MUSIC IS GREAT ON A DARK & RAINY MORNING IN ENGLAND, JUST WHEN YOU NEED SOME SPIRIT & SOME PROOF THAT THE BIG WIDE WORLD EXISTS, THE D.J. PUTS ON “RACING IN THE STREETS” & LIFE SEEMS WORTH LIVING AGAIN… LIFE SEEMS TO BE IN CINEMASCOPE AGAIN. BRUCE IS NOT ON AN EGO TRIP… BRUCE IS ACTUALLY INTO THE MUSIC… WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE THIS… A LOT OF RECORDS TODAY ARE MADE BY PEOPLE JUST TO FEED THEIR FAME. BRUCE IS GREAT… THERE AINT NO WHINGING WHINING OR COMPLAINING.. THERE’S ONLY GREAT MUSIC, LYRICS & AN OCEAN OF TALENT. ME? I LOVE SPRINGSTEEN!!!
“(Signed, ‘Joe Strummer’):