'Joe Strummer - I Need A Dodge! On The Run'
(Joe Strummer, et al / DVD / NR / 2015 / MVD Visual)
Overview: It's 1997 and Joe Strummer is interviewed on Spanish radio. He mentions the Dodge he bought in Madrid 12 years earlier but later lost. He puts out a call to the Spanish people to look for his car. The rest, as they say, is pure, delightful history!
DVD Verdict: Regardless of putting out a call on Spanish radio for the discovering, let alone return of his beloved Dodge, the film discovers what Joe Strummer was actually doing in Spain in 1985. In truth, The Clash were falling apart, arguments both private and public started to seep into the media (papers) at the time, and so 'Joe Strummer - I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run' looks at the production of the Cut The Crap LP in post-dictatorship Madrid; while the director goes in search of Joe's Dodge!
Taking it from the top, for those unaware, although quite how that could be in this business is beyond me, but doing my due diligence, the late Joe Strummer (actually born John Graham Mellor) was a British musician, singer, actor and songwriter who was the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of The Clash; a punk rock band that formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk.
Continuing that thread of "discovery," The Clash were one of the most prominent of the emerging bands in the UK punk rock scene, with their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978) reaching number 2 on the UK charts. Soon after, they began achieving success in the US, starting with London Calling (1979), and peaking with 1982's Combat Rock, reaching number 7 on the US charts and being certified x2 platinum there.
The Clash's politicized lyrics, musical experimentation, and rebellious attitude had a far-reaching influence on rock, and alternative rock in particular. Back full circle, and with Strummer in Spain, looking for a Dodge, the rest of the band was trying to record what would be their sixth, and final studio album, Cut the Crap (finally released on November 4th, 1985).
Now, don't expect anything short of this being as low-budget of a film as they come, but that shouldn't distract you from the fact it is also one of the most engrossing, insightful documentaries that you will see in a long, long time also, believe me. Being a Clash fan, and counting Joe's Glasgow Barrowlands gig with his later band The Mescaleros as one of the best I've ever seen, I was glad to hang around and catch this quirky little film which takes as its jumping-off point the Clash main-man's adventures in Spain.
Sure, most people you talk to will say he actually "escaped" there after the critical and commercial failure of the Mick Jones-less Cut The Crap album, but it has much more to do with Strummer's own journey; more than any form of "escape." Basically, Director, writer Nick Hall tries to track down a Dodge car that Strummer abandoned in a hurry to fly back home to attend the birth of his daughter in London.
If you haven't caught on by now, the car-make provides a convenient double-meaning for Strummer's journey to Spain, a place where he then immersed himself in the punk music scene of Spain. I mean, despite being feted as a hero, he nevertheless easily mixed with the Spanish people he met, musicians and non-musicians alike.
It matters little in the end that the car-search, doomed from the start, leads Nick nowhere, what we get is an interesting snapshot of a major rock star's reaction to pressure when his band is falling apart but in the end celebrates far more Strummer's apparently well-deserved man-of-the-people get-along reputation.
Strummer, of course, is represented only by archive footage, pictures and also some taped radio interviews, heard on cassette, while we get filmed interviews with the people surrounding him at the time, both in the UK (the mother of his child, two members of Clash Mk 2) and the various Spaniards he met in Andalucia, mostly fellow-musicians.
Still, there's one nice humorous touch as everyone joyfully remembers Joe's Dodge being a different color! Oh, and I particularly enjoyed the conversations with the Spaniards, initially in awe of one of their idols, but later thrilled to be actually working with him, as he ends up producing one group's debut album! In closing, sure, it's a documentary that doesn't go anywhere, but it's also a documentary about the one, the only Joe-F**kin'-Strummer ... so, how about them apples! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.