“The Ramones might be my Beatles, and The Clash would be my Rolling Stones,” says Jesse Malin, who will lead a tribute to The Clash’s Joe Strummer at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Aug. 19. (Aug. 21 would have been the 65th birthday of Strummer, who died in 2002).
Malin and his band will perform a short set of their own music at the event, titled “Summer Strummer.” The Vansaders and Matty Carlock also will perform sets, and then there will be an all-star Strummer tribute featuring Malin and his band backing Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Ted Leo, Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus, Richard Barone of The Bongos, Daniel Rey of The Dictators, Mike Montali of Hollis Brown, Doug Zambon of The Vansaders, Anthony D’Amato, Danny Clinch and possibly others.
Malin said the tribute set will be “fast and in people’s faces,” and that the songs won’t just be Clash classics but will also come from Strummer’s work with bands before and after The Clash (i.e., The 101ers and The Mescaleros).
Malin grew up in Queens, N.Y., “but The Ramones led me to (Manhattan),” he says, “and I bumped into some kids who said, ‘If you like The Ramones, The Clash are even better.’ And I said, ‘Really? Well, that’s a big statement.’ ”
He bought the U.S. version of the band’s self-titled debut album, “and it just blew my mind,” he says. “Stuff like ‘I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.’ and ‘White Riot.’ It just made me want to know a lot more about what they were singing about. It wasn’t just girls and cars and fun stuff. It was very pointed, and it felt smart, but it was cool. And I started to follow them all the way up through … around Sandanista!, I was very into hardcore (punk), and I couldn’t relate to all the funk and all the grooves and all that, so I kind of abandoned them.
“Years later, I realized that they were really ahead of the curve, and I was locked into my teenage hardcore angst box. But over the years, it was a band that I learned so much from, about different types of music, and things that were going on around the world. Different film people, novelists, poets. I mean, you name it, world history. But not in a preachy way.
“I think like Craig Finn says in a Hold Steady song (‘Constructive Summer’), ‘Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer/I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.’ Well, people like Jello Biafra and Billy Bragg, and definitely Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, were kind of like my professors growing up.”
Malin saw The Clash at The Palladium, in 1979, and The Pier, in 1982, and later got to hang out with Strummer a number of times. The first opportunity came when he was in the punk band, D Generation.
“We just went out with him, and drank, and he answered any question about any song. He’d answer it in depth, and spent many hours with us. I couldn’t believe it. It was wonderful. And through the years, I got to meet him, and hang out with him in New York, and go out. Bob Gruen, the photographer, says if you went out with Joe, you’d better bring your shades, because you’re gonna be out till 6 in the morning.
“He would just take over places, and start DJ-ing, and dancing on tables, and really giving so much of himself. In the late Mescaleros years, his dressing room, after a show, would be full of all kinds of friends and freaks and characters. He’d preach unity and accepting different kinds of people, and he really lived it.”
The concert, which is being co-presented by Malin and WBJB-FM (90.5 The Night) music director Jeff Raspe, will raise money for Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings music to the elderly or infirmed; and the Joe Strummer Foundation, whose mission is to”provide opportunities to musicians and support to projects around the world that create empowerment through music.” For information, visit stoneponyonline.com.