I Need a Dodge: Joe Strummer on the Run: DVD

Feb 01, 2016

For nostalgia’s sake, my favorite Joe Strummer movie is Rude Boy. My brother bought a copy of a copy at a used record store in high school and we used to watch the concert scenes over and over. When I was a bit older—in my late twenties—I went to the theater to see Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. It was another side to one of the few people I am willing to call my “hero”: his childhood as a diplomat’s son, talking about the merits of smoking cigarettes, and how everyone would be better off if they had to sit around a campfire together every night. I love that movie and I love remembering the way it made me feel when I first saw it.

I Need a Dodge is a very different sort of Joe Strummer documentary. It paints a picture of Joe in 1985, having kicked Mick Jones out of the Clash, and follows the recording of Cut the Crap, the only Clash record I’ve never even bothered to listen to. Joe admits that he is depressed and takes off for Spain where he buys, drives, and loses a Dodge; hangs out in bars; visits the grave of writer Federico Garcia Lorca; gets involved helping a local band; and tries to get over the end of the Clash. A beautiful moment in the film comes when a group of young kids think they see Joe in a bar and, not being entirely sure, decide to play a Clash record on the jukebox. Those kids, now middle-aged men, retell the story with smiles on their face.

I Need a Dodge is plays like a folktale, told by people who might as well be telling about their encounter with Bigfoot or a vanishing hitchhiker.For me, Strummer is on par with Bob Marley or Fela Kuti. World music. Transcendence. This story is another side of a brilliant and fascinating figure. Throughout the film, director Nick Hall makes attempts to track down Joe’s beloved lost car—hence the title. This is a device that even the liner notes admit is a “McGuffin,” something used for the sole purpose of pushing the story along.

I suspect we all imagine that, beyond our everyday life, there is some small village with a tiny bar and a decent jukebox. There, stressors are at a minimum and the stars are easily seen without the city lights to get in the way. This film shows that even Joe Strummer needed to get away and look for that other life. In the end, in one way or another, everyone needs a Dodge.–John Mule (Cadiz Music, 2  Greenwich Quay, Clarence Road, London, United Kingdom, SE8 3EY cadizmusic.co.uk)