Uncle Joe ‘Strummer’ Biden v. Donnie Rotten – how the 2020 American election mirrors the 1977 battle for the soul of punkAs I watched John Lydon come out for Donald Trump in the current US election my punk rock soul yawned. Surely that’s the path of celebrity – what was once so thrilling and vital will alway end up somewhere else. People can change and do what they do ands day what they say – it doesnt really matter any more but the art will always remain breath taking and for those brief flickers of excitement that meant so much once they will remain part of our lives.

These are familiar battle lines – left versus right – positive versus negative – just amplified and distorted by the madness of the Twitter age and the starving 24 hour media looking for quick fix but we have been here before. Punk played out the same themes in its messy discourse back in the seventies. Like the 2020 American election the battle for the soul of punk itself was equally polarised.

In the blue corner was Mr. Joe ‘Biden’ Strummer – the establishment man of the people and in the red corner the maverick spirit of Donnie ‘Rotten’ Trump. For decades they both represented the polar positions of punk rock from their first titanic struggle in the year that the two sevens clashed – 1977 to the titanic struggle of the American presidential elections of 2020. Donnie was acerbic about Joe from day one and if twitter had been around in 1977 would have machine gunned the Clash frontman with venomous snark AND ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

Joe ‘Strummer’ Biden spent that incendiary year of punk fronting the beat combo known as the Clash – even their very name summed up the polarised portions of life and culture back then and then fierce battle to define what punk was. For ‘uncle’ Joe – already critiqued by his opponent for being a few years older than the rest of the pack – it was a postive empowering movement – a stance that was not with out its own flaws in the newly cynical environment  whilst for Donnie Rotten it was a nihilistic anarchy in the USA ride and all about ‘I am an individual’.

Could both of them been right at the same time!

What seemed so innocent and even fun back in the heady days has become played out as a Sid Vicious struggle for the whole planet with the world’s biggest country and the eve of deciding between the school of Strummer and the snark of Rotten…

Wisened old vets and punk rock warlords have argued about this for 44 years now ands smile through thousands yard stare eyes at the battle being played out in the USA whilst battling it out on Facebook over the same old row…the question is will anyone ever win this row? and how do The Stranglers fit into all of this!

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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