Home » Duff McKagan Reveals the Valuable Lesson Joe Strummer Imparted to Him

Duff McKagan Reveals the Valuable Lesson Joe Strummer Imparted to Him

While discussing his third solo studio album, ‘Lighthouse,’ in a video call with Forbes, Duff McKagan reminisced about a valuable lesson he learned from The Clash’s Joe Strummer at a 1979 concert:

“Well, some guy – the yellow-coated security guy – punched one of our friends. He broke his nose because he was pogoing. This was so early on in punk that the yellow-coated security guy thought pogoing meant they were starting a riot. So, he broke this guy’s nose – blood everywhere. And The Clash stopped the show.” Describing the band members’ reactions to the incident at the Paramount Theater, the Guns N’ Roses bassist shared:

“[Clash bassist] Paul Simonon went and grabbed an ax off the side of the stage – like the firefighting ax. Well, Joe Strummer gets on and goes, ‘We’ll chop down this barrier! Because there’s no difference between you and I. We’re all in this together!’ I was like, ‘Wow. That’s what it is! That’s what this all is!'” McKagan explained how Strummer’s words left a lasting impact on him:

“The Clash… That changed everything, man – that moment and that gig. And that’s how I started approaching life. We’re all in this together. Relationships. My wife and I. Guns N’ Roses. All of the punk bands I was in. Everything. We’re all in this together.”

The Impact of the Incident on McKagan’s Career

The encounter with Joe Strummer significantly shaped McKagan’s approach to his career, particularly in terms of his connection with the audience. Reflecting on his ‘Tenderness’ album in a 2019 discussion with Ticketmaster UK, he remarked:

“That connection with the audience that I get to experience, that’s my church. It’s not about ego or the stage lights. It’s simply this connection, and it has always been that way for me.” Recalling the 1979 concert once more, the bassist added:

“That’s what has informed how I approach music, approach the live show—approach life in many ways, too. You always envision the sparkle dust on your show, like, ‘This is how I really picture it to be’; this essence of unity, happiness, and celebration. And that’s it.”

The Impact of The Clash on His Musical Style

Apart from the influence of Strummer’s words, McKagan openly acknowledged the profound impact of The Clash and other punk bands on his musical journey. He acknowledged the evolution of his musical style from his punk roots, as discussed in a 2012 interview with The Quietus.

Reflecting on the band’s self-titled debut album, the bassist elaborated: “Looking back, it was a natural progression. Guns was a blend of various influences – punk rock, seventies rock – and it was about doing something different. Maybe that’s what punk rock sounded like at that point, I don’t know. [Laughs]” Continuing the discussion, he added:

“I mean, Guns was as DIY as it got; we would hitchhike 1,200 miles to get to a gig, but we just elevated to the next level by securing a major label deal; that was the significant change. However, I carried that DIY ethic with me, echoing Strummer’s sentiments. I don’t know any different. I feel honored to be playing gigs, and I’ve always paid tribute to that way of thinking.”

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