I was always told that you should never meet your heroes, lest you be disappointed. It's better to have them live larger than life in your head, rather than realize the grounded reality. Provisionally throwing conventional wisdom to the wolves, I accepted an assignment in 2006 that required I interview a hero. We were to meet at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The Cleveland appearance was to coincide with a new exhibit debuting at the Rock Hall: Revolution Rock: The Story of the Clash. I was to pen a feature for a national music magazine. It was to focus on my interview with Mick Jones.
Like many, my first exposure to The Clash came courtesy of Combat Rock, specifically "Rock the Casbah". I thought it was kosher. It opened an engaging if initially enigmatic Pandora's box, from which came "Janie Jones", "Career Opportunities", "Complete Control", "Tommy Gun", "Safe European Home", "The Guns of Brixton" (with lyrics You see, he feels like Ivan/born under the Brixton sun), "Clampdown", "The Call Up", "Ivan Meets GI Joe", "Train in Vain". I knew neither the songs nor the lyrics were about me – far from it – but they literally spoke my name at times. Two decades later, they still do. I still want to play in Garageland, with Mick Jones as my guitar hero.
The day of the interview I decided to forgo breakfast and lunch, fearful the butterflies in my stomach would revolt. I'd never been nervous for an interview before, and I've never been since. This was a hero, though. My enthusiasm meant I arrived at the Rock Hall nearly an hour ahead of schedule. I checked in as media, briefly wandered through the hall, and took a seat in the waiting area, reviewing my notes and checking my tape recorders. Other journalists from around the country trickled in, and we exchanged pleasantries. The three journalists next to me sat guessing whether Jones had recently "done anything besides Big Audio Dynamite". He had, and they were curiously unprepared. After a half hour, Jones and a small entourage brushed by the waiting media, not so much as glancing at us, leaving the faint trail of recently smoked cigarettes. I wondered whether this cold reception would be echoed in the one-on-one interview. A Rock Hall marketing exec explained that we would each have a strictly enforced 10 minutes with Jones. I was first.