We’re digging into the Far Out vault to bring you quite possibly our favourite story of Joe Strummer and The Clash we’ve ever heard.
It turns out that for Joe Strummer, being the uncompromising pioneering person of the original wave of British punk rock and frontman of The Clash wasn’t enough. He was also one of the finest unsuspecting marathon runners.
Strummer’s family, who spent a lot of time moving from place to place in his early youth following his father’s career as a diplomat, resulted in the future Clash frontman himself spending chunks of his early childhood living in Cairo and Mexico City before being sent to boarding school at the age of nine.
“At the age of nine I had to say good-bye to them [his family] because they went abroad to Africa or something,” Strummer once said. “I went to boarding school and only saw them once a year after that,” he added before clarifying it was because the Government paid for him to see his parents.
“I was left on my own, and went to this school where thick rich people sent their thick rich kids,” he added. It was during this time, it would seem, that Strummer developed the skill to run like the wind. Using the exercise for his mental wellbeing as well as burning his unbridled physical energy.
In 1982, rumour has it that the Clash’s management orchestrated a plan to make Strummer “disappear” in an organised bid to combat the slow ticket sales of the band’s gig in Scotland. It was a bold move, to say the least, but punk had become famed for its PR stunts. “It was the eve of the tour and the tickets weren’t selling,” remembers Strummer in the below interview.
“So Bernie Rhodes,” continues the Clash frontman, “he came to me at night and said ‘Look, you gotta disappear’, I said if you think I’ve got to disappear, I will.” Strummer was ordered to hide out with a close Joe Ely in Texas, a move that would ramp up some media attention. However, the plan didn’t sit well with Strummer who instead “took the boat train to Paris instead.”
The disappearing act ended up seeing him genuinely go missing, his whereabouts unknown to the public, the band’s management and even his bandmates. Still, as you can tell from the below interview, Strummer seemed pleased with his joke.
The ‘Bank Robber’ singer later revealed that he had “dicked around” in France and the result caused significant tension among the ranks of the Clash. Strummer would go on to admit that his disappearing act was a mistake but added that you “have to have some regrets” as the band began to fall to pieces despite its success.
His six weeks in France with girlfriend Gaby Salter also resulted in Strummer’s spontaneous plan to run the Paris Marathon. In the documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (2007), directed by the brilliant Julian Temple, the frontman discusses his marathon abilities, which are apparently more extensive than first thought.
But the real revelation comes from Strummer sharing his pre-marathon routine, or at least his pre-Paris routine: “Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race,” he said.
With the lager rolling around his gut, Strummer went on to record a supremely impressive time of completion in just under three and a half hours. Considering the situation and being wholly under-prepared it is a truly sensational time.
A few years would pass and Strummer would follow the same routine to complete the London Marathon twice. Later, In 1999, Strummer discussed his exploits with with American magazine Steppin’ Out.
Steppin’ Out: Didn’t you once run in the Paris Marathon?
Joe Strummer: Yep. I ran three of them.
SO: Correct me if I’m wrong but is it also true that you never trained for any of them?
JS: You shouldn’t really ask me about my training regime, you know.
JS: Because it’s not good and I wouldn’t want people to copy it.
SO: Don’t make me beat it out of you.
JS: Okay, you want it, here it is. Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.
SO: No running at all?
JS: No, none at all. And don’t forget the 10 pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, “Do not try this at home.” I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.
Below is a picture from Joe Strummer runnig the London Marathon the previous year.