Another documentary about Joe Strummer is coming out on October 16th. I Need A Dodge: Joe Strummer On The Run is about Joe Strummer’s self-imposed exile in Granada in 1985-86. It will be released on DVD by MVD on October 16th and comes packaged with a cassette of a Spanish radio interview with Strummer, a postcard, sticker, and pin. The film was produced and directed by Nick Hall.
“This is Joe Strummer at a crossroads in his professional and personal life. Initially his trips to Spain seemed to be little more than an anecdote but this story says so much about Joe coming to terms with life after The Clash,” said Hall.
Johnny Green, The Clash’s legendary road manager said of the film, “I glowed – I felt uplifted. Once again, it was as if I had spent a little time with my dear lost friend, Joe Strummer. I was hooked all through – the story is compulsive. More to the point, you have perfectly captured the brooding melancholia, that shy underside, which was a compelling component of Ol’ Joe. I Need A Dodge is fabulous.” The film also received a special mention at the In-Edit Festival in Barcelona.
Heading to Spain in 1985 to flee the disaster that was the implosion of The Clash version two, the band formed in the wake of Strummer firing Mick Jones and aftre Topper Headon left the band. The new line-up’s Cut The Crap album had largely been shunned by both critics and the public alike and Strummer needed space. Telling a Diario De Granada interviewer that he had come “to feel the pain of the wound,” upon arrival in Granada, Strummer found himself firmly subsumed into the city’s musical and cultural fabric. He was welcomed with open arms by local acts 091 and bigger-fish Radio Fortuna, who all met up at the Silbar.
“When we met Joe it was like a miraculous apparition,” said Jose Ignacio Lapido, 091’s guitarist. It was Radio Fortuna who facilitated the purchase of a set of wheels for Strummer. Tracking down a Barreiros, essentially a European edition of the Dodge-Dart, became a mission. As Santiago Auseron, the Radio Fortuna singer said, “It looked cool, it just looked a bit mad. Which at that time suited Joe very well.”
Strummer was delighted with the huge car which he thrashed around the streets of Granada and Madrid. However, having parked the car in the capital when he flew back to the UK for the birth of his daughter Lola, he forgot where it was and never saw it again. I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run is partly the story of the search for the car, and partly the story of Strummer’s own search for meaning and redemption in those wilderness years.
Strummer launched an unsuccessful attempt to find the car, making an appeal for information on Spain’s Radio 3 in 1997. With witnesses disagreeing on the colour and style of the car – agreeing only that it was registered in Oviendo – and some claiming never to have seen it, filmmaker Nick Hall’s quest seems unlikely to succeed, yet his investigation does unearth the truth about this period of Strummer’s life that has largely been ignored.
Installing himself in the producer’s chair for the recording of 091’s album, Strummer’s micro-management led, rather than to the boost these star-struck musicians were hoping for, to a growing sense of disquiet and wasted studio time. The album eventually surfaced, having finished off to the record label’s specification rather than the band’s, and was disappointing.
The Dodge is an emblem for Strummer’s time in Spain, his ambition, personal style and, in a way, the nature of those troubled days in general. When he is pulled over by the police, it is revealed that he doesn’t even have a license to drive. Drawing on the recollections of his friends in London and in Spain, his partner Gaby Holford, and the members of 091 and Radio Fortuna, this a revealing story of a search for much more than just a car.
“It was an escape. He was a man on the run. He was getting away from the tension in London,” says Santiago Auseron.
Joe Strummer did, indeed, need a Dodge.