Run! Punk Run!
IN CONVERSATION WITH STEVE RAPPORT
This is my recollection: I got a call from the Rolling Stone and they said, "Joe Strummer of The Clash is running the London Marathon this weekend. Can you go and get a picture for us?" But that was it. There was no, you know, "Here's Bernie Rhodes' phone number," or "Here's Kosmo Vinyl's phone number," or "Here's his record company, they're expecting you. We called and set it up. You're going to meet him at this time." No! It was just, "Can you get a picture Joe Strummer running the London Marathon?"
On April 17, 1983, Steve Rapport was tasked by the Rolling Stone to capture images of Joe Strummer running the London Marathon. Given no further assistance or information, Steve set off into the job blind and drove to Blackheath Common, the starting point of the event. He parked his car and stepped out into the cold and rainy morning, hoping to somehow find Joe in the sea of 25,000 people. Ten yards from his vehicle, he noticed a crowd formed around a runner warming up, rocking a mohawk and wearing a DIY thrashed cotton singlet and a pair of shorts. The crowd watched in mesmerization while maintaining a curious distance, as if simultaneously magnetically drawn and kept at bay by the boundaries of his undeniable aura. By a stroke of incredible luck or what some might call destiny, it was Joe Strummer. Baffled and relieved, Steve quickly approached and asked him if he could get some shots for the magazine, only one of which was ultimately used in the Rolling Stone.
When Steve relocated from the UK to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992, he left his photographic archive behind in the garage of a close friend where it sat forgotten, collecting mold and dust for the better part of 25 years, along with the memories of a closed chapter of his life. After much care and labor, we have assisted in helping Steve recover his massive archive, which includes a vast array of never before seen images of Joe Strummer running the 1983 London Marathon. A selection of these images serve as the driving force of this drop, Run! Punk Run!
A few months ago, around April or May after lockdown, I started trying to get ahold of some pictures from my old syndication agency. All I wanted was for them to find what they had of mine and give it back to me. I said I'd pay, so they found two full boxes worth of original transparencies, color transparencies, and I paid for them to ship them here. And they did such a shitty job. They were in bashed up storage boxes, not even proper shipping boxes—no packaging, no bubble wrap, just threw all the sheets of transparencies in these boxes. The boxes got crushed and mangled. Pictures fell out everywhere. I was really upset when I saw the state of them.
So when they arrive I get the knife and I open the boxes and I start looking. It's just a mess. And I pick up a sheet and realize there's color pictures of Joe running the London Marathon. I had absolutely no idea that I'd taken color.
In the weeks leading up to marathon, Joe Strummer joked that the biggest temptation would be "to run into a pub along the route." Perhaps due in part to a misinterpretation of this as well as the misconceptions about what it means to be a "punk," there is a mythology surrounding Joe's marathon effort. People say he didn't train at all and got hammered off beers the night before. In reality, he took his training seriously and actually gave up alcohol in preparation. Speaking about the marathon, Joe said, "I like the madness of getting up and running all those miles on a Sunday morning, when normally I would be fast asleep in bed." He also used the time it took him to finish the race to raise money for a leukemia-research foundation.
I always tell people: it was raining, right? And everyone's got rain jackets and hoods and umbrellas and there's just this kind of semicircle of space around Joe. And he's just standing there in his Clash t-shirt. There's just this light and he's smiling. There's this light around him. It's not like he's here and everyone's crowded in around him but there's 20-25,000 people there and there's Joe, and then there's just this space around him.
When Steve saw Joe in the crowd of people, he said it was like he was in his own ethereal world where it wasn't raining or cold and he didn't need a jacket. It was just Joe. Joe embodied the essence of punk, and it went much deeper than just his mohawk and thrashed singlet. When people are called punks or call themselves punks, rarely is it acknowledged that there is a mental, intellectual and spiritual disposition that sets them apart. Joe imbued passionate belief into everything he did—his music, his politics, and his running. The three of these were interrelated for him, as he would often compose songs as he ran, and use both his music and running as vehicles for his activism and beliefs.
In addition to the story of Steve Rapport and Joe Strummer, Run! Punk Run! tells the stories of three runners—three punks—who utilize running as a vehicle for their activism and beliefs. While the images may be of Joe Strummer, the designs of this drop are fully inspired by the lives led by Jordan Marie Daniel, Tayler Ayers, and Thai Richards and what it means to be punk in 2020.