Tag Archives: joe strummer



You may have noticed a predilection towards rap magazines here before, and finding a stack of 20-year old publications a few weeks back I thought I’d lost had me feeling a little nostalgic for the days when WH Smiths had at least a few homegrown publications of worth on the shelf. Mainly because, with my Medusa touch, I managed to make every single UK rap magazine I’ve ever written for fold within a few months of publishing my work. Hip-hop magazines are a hard sell when you can log on and get something more up to date or catch something long form on Unkut or Complex.com, but there’s room for something created with care that captures the current state of the industry. Those with a long memory will recall an underrated British ‘zine called The Downlow that ran for four or so years (1992-1996) with an over designed, occasionally unintelligible layout with a ton of electronic typefaces that recalled David Carson’s work on Ray Gun around the same time or Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft’s FUSE. It favoured words over pictures. 1992’s BLAG (which is, admirably, still standing) and 1995’s shortly-lived True (which switched to Trace after True folded) united hip-hop culture with style well, bringing some spirit seen in America’s Vibe and The Fader. I’m interested to see BRICK, a new British hip-hop publication, in the flesh — especially after enjoying the second issue of another London-based project, Viper. Founded and creatively directed by photographer Hayley Louisa Brown, designed by POST — and edited by RWD’s Grant Brydon, the careful approach to the all important look — complete with custom typefaces — is both evocative of the more sincere locally created mags of old and hip-hop’s current aesthetic (despite, bar honourable exceptions, a dip in the quality of album cover art during the last decade). Neil Bedford’s shots of Supreme-hating, Cobain swag jacking stoner Wiz Khalifa for one of BRICK’s cover stories made the Daily Mail (we’ve come a long way since that Snoop “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUTDaily Star cover) and hopefully that attention will turn into sales. Shouts to the team for making it happen. Go check out this fine It’s Nice That feature on the making of issue #1 and visit the official site here.


On the subject of rap and typography, the Heated Words crew are studiously examining the history and legacy of the mysterious but influential b-boy font seen on Dynamic Rockers, RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, Mick Jones, Biz Markie, Malcolm McLaren and Joe Strummer that defined 1982-era hip-hop style. Supreme have used a replica of this classic heat pressed typeface several times and Alex Olsen’s Bianca Chandon recently homaged a Paradise Garage tee with it on from back in the day. It’s integral to UK street style too — imported by intrepid tourists who hit up the Albee Square Mall to get a custom creation and the Heated Words: Initial Research exhibition to set off the project opens on the 27th of this month for a couple of weeks at London’s House of Vans. Videos, photographs by Martha Cooper, Mike Laye, Michael Markos and several others, old ads and some of the clothing in question. If you like some of the nonsense I link to here, you’re liable to really enjoy this one.

While we’re talking old magazines and Neville Brody, this Gilded Words piece is great: Jamie Morgan talking about a contact sheet from a classic Buffalo shoot for with Felix Howard for the March 1985 issue of The Face and the moment when every person started calling themselves a stylist.



I like using holiday time to catch up on the pile of DVDs that I never mustered the inclination to watch since they were impulse purchased. It’s not that I never had time — rather that I knew I’d be disappointed on a repeat viewing of each film. 1987’s ‘Straight to Hell’ is a perfect example of a film I want to like. I really, really, really want to like it. I remember the murmurings around it on its release and I recall the critical savaging it got. For every extremely negative critical reaction there’s a cult following in the making.

Surely a western that boasts a cast that includes Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and Shane MacGowan and Jim Jarmusch must be an under-appreciated gem? There’s certain seafood I try to will myself to enjoy. It’s not quite disgusting, but they make for a joyless anti-feast. I feel I should like it. Other people enjoy it, so why don’t I?

I don’t want to spit it out, much as I didn’t hit eject when I put the new ‘Straight to Hell’ redux, ‘Straight to Hell Returns’ in the player. Just as I find myself chewing the fishy offering into a joyless mush that dries out and won’t disappear, this remastered edition’s 90 minute duration feels at least 300% longer than other films. That episodic, willingly madcap narrative is oddly paced enough to evoke one of director Alex Cox’s old favourites, ‘Django, Kill,’ and just as all the king’s horses can’t put that film into an entirely comprehensible cut, the extra CGI blood, wandering skeletons and frugal handful of extra running time still leaves me cold.

The acting can occasionally resemble some kind of enforced young offender’s amateur performance (though Sy Richardson is amazing), but I still respect Mr. Cox’s decision to make it over the ‘Three Amigos.’ He even turned down ‘The Running Man’ to make ‘Walker.’

It’s the backstory, from Cox’s passion for the spaghetti western that makes him an authority on the subject to the aborted Nicaragua benefit that led to the excess of musicians in the cast that draws me back to ‘Straight to Hell.’ The documentary — ‘Back to Hell’ and the DVD’s commentary tell that story enough to make it worth picking up. When Alex is talking over it, this is a far, far better film.

It’s also worth noting that Alex Cox is my guru when it comes to films. He (alongside Kim Newman’s ‘Nightmare Movies’ and Danny Peary’s ‘Cult Movies’ trilogy) put me onto a number of under appreciated films as part of his run on BBC2’s ‘Moviedrome’ spot for several summers between 1988 and 1994. Cox presented double bills, dragged moaning from the BBC library, frequently themed, with comprehensive introductions and a genuine passion for the topic.

Post-Tarantino, everything’s a fucking “cult” film, but for weeks on end, sunday nights from 10am, which would now be filled with a ‘Gavin & Stacey’ re-run, or something equally shit, we got ‘Alligator,’ ‘The Great Silence,’ ‘Dead of Night,’ Two-Lane Blacktop,’ ‘The Hill,’ ‘Assault on Precinct 13,’ ‘One From the Heart,’ ‘Rabid,’ ‘The Parallax View,’ ‘Trancers,’ ‘Q – The Winged Serpent,’ ‘Lenny,’ ‘Grim Prairie Tales,’ ‘Day of the Locust,’ ‘Mishima’ and much more.

Each film made a substantial impact on me, supplementing a prolific diet of the era’s costlier productions. What could be perceived as trash cinema was lovingly contextualized to the point where its scheduling in the same slot as more cerebral, established masterpieces made utter sense. America got the Z Channel from 1974 to 1989 (as documented in the terrific ‘Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession’) and Jerry Harvey’s careful curation. We got Alex Cox — and for that reason I was happy to blindly shell out the coins to grab a DVD I knew I probably couldn’t make myself love.

Moviedrome came back in 1997 with Mark Cousins on presentation duties. The selection seemed to be significantly less obscure (though he gets props for screening ‘The Devil Thumbs a Ride’ and ‘Target), and while I enjoy Mark’s writing and critique, his eerie presentation style made me put my hand over my drink, in case he reached out the screen and slipped something into it. Alex was more of an infectiously enthusiastic oddball. I sent my £4 and got one of the lovingly made Moviedrome guides, which I promptly lost. I respected Mr. Cox’s humility in reprinting a particularly scathing ‘Walker’ review.

The fact Alex has upped guides 1 & 2 as PDFs on his site quells the gloom caused by my mislaid pamphlet and still holds up as a strong collection of must-see cinema. There might be some established favourites in the lounge TV festival’s lineups, but ‘To Sleep with Anger’ and ‘Tracks’ remain depressingly obscure and well worthy of revival. These are mediocre times televisually, and Film4 cannot and will never compete with what Moviedrome gave an entire generation on a weekly basis.

Salute the UK’s champion of the cinematic underdog — himself an underdog (albeit one of his own creation). I recommend everything on the ‘Straight to Hell’ DVD, bar the actual film in its unaccompanied form…

Not even the most fleeting mention of ‘The Parallax View’ can pass without including this video.