Blowing up Boston: (left to right) Paul Simonon and his P bass, Topper Headon, Joe Strummer, and a Paul-toting Mick Jones detonate Bean Town, circa 1979.
both live and in the studio, for everything
from light flanging effects to deep echo.
Joe Strummer, the Clash’s chief lyricist, lead
singer, and rhythm guitar player, is one of
the world’s best-known Telecaster players.
He favored Teles for their simplicity, durability, and American working-musician vibe.
He also liked the cutting bite of their bridge
pickup, a sound well matched to his brutal
playing style—the surname Strummer was no
accident (though it was perhaps a bit understated). Strummer’s main Tele—the subject
of a recent Fender signature reissue—was a
’ 66 model with a sunburst finish and a rosewood fretboard. He acquired the guitar in a
typically cheeky manner: Short on cash, he
married a woman looking for UK citizenship
in return for the money needed to buy a the
Telecaster. Not quite selling your soul, but
certifiably punk, that’s for sure. Strummer
banged away on this ax during his years
with the infamous 101ers, the hardscrabble
outfit of roots rockers who came to dominate London’s mid-’70s pub rock scene that
preceded its punk outbreak. When the latter
came around, Strummer packed up his Tele
and joined the Clash. In the spirit of the times,
he had friends in an automotive shop spray his
sunburst Tele black (with a hearty coat of grey
primer). Strummer played this guitar until his
death in 2002, although he also had a backup
Tele that sported a metal pickguard and had
been stripped and refinished in a natural coat.
Between 1979 and 1981, Strummer’s main
stage guitar was a white-blonde, mid-’50s
Fender Esquire with a slab fretboard. In typical
Strummer fashion, this guitar would soon sport
a number of decals and a black racing stripe.
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Strummer’s tone could be summed up in
one word—clean. After dabbling with a
number of heads and combos, everything
from a Vox AC30 to a Marshall SLP, Strummer
settled on a silverface 1970s Fender Twin
Reverb. He used this until the end of 1979,
when he switched to a Music Man HD- 150
212. His famous quote on the subject, from
a 1981 Musician magazine interview, was,
“I don’t have time to search for those old
Fender tube amps. The Music Man is the