Remembering Joe Strummer’s Newport Years

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PUNK rock legend Joe Strummer, who spent time in Newport in the early 1970s, would have turned 70 on August 21.

And to commemorate this, an exhibition with a special touch is organized in the city.

Strummer, aged 20 and calling himself Woody, arrived in Newport in 1972 after dropping out of art school in London and deciding that being a cartoonist was not his future.

Committing to become a rock and roll, he had given himself a year to “get into the guitar”. He had arrived with a guitar and lacked confidence, having only been able to play a few simple songs – including Johnny B. Goode- learned how to earn a few bobs while playing in the London Underground.

By the time he left Newport, he was full of confidence onstage. He had a perfect command of the guitar and had played live with a band, The Vultures. He had achieved what he had planned to do in 1972.

Arriving as Woody, he left town in April 1974 as the nascent Joe Strummer.

While in Newport he had a job as a gravedigger at St Woolos Cemetery and was photographed leaning on a shovel one day while at work.

This now iconic photograph inspired Richard Frame, who was an art school student and also lived in the same ramshackle house as Strummer behind the station, to team up with photographer Ian Agland to take a series of photographs recreating the image, but with musicians associated with Newport over the past 50 years.

The photographs are due to be displayed on what would have been Strummer’s 70th birthday at 88 Stow Hill in the hall where he gave his first concert in October 1973. At that time it was the Students‘ Union.

The exhibition will be open to the public for one week from Sunday 21 August.

While Strummer was in town, art student Nigel Talbot met his future wife in the Student Union, resulting in a son, Joe, who now runs Idles.

South Wales Argus: Students' Union Dance.  1972. Pictured: Terry Evans

Dancing at the Student Union in 1972. Photo: Terry Evans

Allan Jones, former editor of melody maker and Uncut, shared a studio at the art school with Micky Foote, producer of The Clash’s debut album. It was Mr Jones’ little piece in melody maker which gave Strummer’s first band in London, The 101ers, a head start.

And Linda Keith, former girlfriend of Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards, who also discovered Jimi Hendrix, was studying photography in college at the same time.

The exhibition will feature photographs by:

  • Alan Jones, Amen Corner;
  • Lyndon Needs, Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers;

South Wales Argus: Crazy Cavan and rhythm rockers at the Students' Union.  1973. Photo: Richard Frame

Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers at the Students Union in 1973. Photo: Richard Frame

  • Richard Frame, Gaydogs;
  • Jon Langford, Mekons;
  • Ken Moore, Ralph and the Ponytails;
  • Ray Ennis, racing cars;
  • Big Mac’s Wholly Soul band Mike MacNamara;
  • Richard Glover, Dub War;
  • Benji Webbe, Skindred;
  • Richard Parfitt, 60 foot dolls;
  • Andrea Lewis, DarlingBuds;

South Wales Argus: Andrea Lewis.  Dear buds.  Photo: Ian Agland

Andrea Lewis, DarlingBuds. Photo: Ian Agland

  • Sam Dabb, Disco;
  • Matt Gray, Give Me Memphis;
  • Julian Hayman, The Men of Gwent;
  • Danni Munroe, Dirty Youth;
  • Joe Talbot, Idles;
  • Dave Cox, Calamity;
  • Meg Cox, ADVANCED.
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