Tom Morello Reveals How The Clash's Joe Strummer Changed His Life

By Eliot Hill

November 23, 2020

All musicians have that one gig that changed their life forever, and for Tom Morello, that show was the Clash on the Combat Rock tour.

While Morello had already been deeply in love with rock 'n' roll since he was young, it was the introduction of punk that had a lasting impact on him as he explained in a new interview with Pitchfork

In the interview, he recalled a Sex Pistols cassette was the catalyst for him picking up a guitar but that the Clash's gig “hammered home the foundation of punk” for him.

“From the time I was 16 years old, I self-identified as a radical and a political activist. But the subject matter of music that I was a fan of revolved mostly around the devil and groupies,” he said. “There was a real disconnect. So when the Clash came along, it was like a cultural meteor.”

He recalls that the show “was absolutely life-changing” and that was mostly due to Joe Strummer's stage setup. He explained that the amp Strummer used was a driving point for him to realize he could also one day be up on stage playing music for fans around the world. 

“Previously, all of my rock heroes had owned $10,000 Les Pauls… and all I had was a little Music Man amp on a chair in my mom’s basement,” he said. “But when I saw the Clash, Joe Strummer had the same Music Man amp that I had. I couldn’t believe it. The wall came down. It wasn’t like, 'Oh, one day, if I practice a lot, and if things fall the right way, and if I have the right haircut…' It’s like, 'He’s doing it, I’m doing it, we’re just both doing it. We’re all in bands. No experience required.'”

Photos: Getty Images

Tom MorelloRage Against the MachineThe Clash

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