Extract from: Driving Big Davie


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Everyone worth knowing knows exactly where they were when they heard Joe Strummer was dead.

I know exactly where I was. I was sitting in a private room in a private hospital, trying to wank into a cup. This probably needs some explaining. Not everyone knows who Joe Strummer is. Or was. Joe was rock'n'roll. He was The Clash. For my generation, he was the man. He sang 'White Riot' and 'Garageland' and 'London Call- ing' and 'Know Your Rights'. He ran the tightest, wildest, most exciting beat combo in history . He made music important. He changed lives in a way that Spandau Ballet or The Hollies never could. He was my Elvis, my Beatles, and he never got fat, or bland, or shot.

The world is indeed cruel. I know that more than most people. And I take refuge from that cruelty in the music of my youth. Joe was dead and he was only fifty years old, yet Elton John was still alive. Chris de Burgh was still breathing while Joe, the man who Fought the Law and stood for everything that was good and lush about rock'n'roll was pushing up daisies. Cliff Richard was still giving power to all his friends, for Christ's sake.

But Joe was dead.

It had already been a miserable few years for the punk generation. Johnny Thunders had succumbed in a seedy New Orleans hotel, Ian Dury had lost a battle with cancer. Two of The Ramones had snuffed it, and the other two were touring as The Remains. But Joe -it wasn't even a rock'n'roll death. He had taken his dog out for a walk in the countryside, then dropped dead from a heart attack. It was frightening.

Still, wanking into a cup. The hospital was in Belfast West, that part of the city once known as West Belfast, until a 3m EC-funded tourism think-tank came up with a re-branding idea which was destined to fool all of the people none of the time. So we now had Belfast West, Belfast South, Belfast East and the Shankill Road, because they knew better than to mess with those boys.

I know a bit about tourism now, because it's kind of what I do. What I'm reduced to doing. Sad. I was about six months into my pipe and slippers years, with the exception of the pipe. I was happily reunited with my wife, I lived in a nice house in a nice suburb close enough to enjoy Belfast's many and varied shopping facilities but far enough away that we wouldn't be overly put out if things went all to hell, which they still did from time to time. I was for many years a journalist of some repute, mostly ill, reporting mainly on the troubles - usually my own -but for the past six months I had endured journalism of the last resort, commonly known as public relations. Now I was working in a small operation