Anger? Depression? Is it Joe Strummer’s fault?

by Martin

in A Depression Blog

Joe Strummer, depression and anger

I’ve always liked anger.

Not ugly, violent, uncontrolled anger.

But the beautiful anger of the righteous, the anger of youth, anger with the establishment, anger (as John Lydon put it) as an energy.

This is the type of anger that spawned whole political and artistic movements that, in many ways, defined the latter part of the twentieth century.

It ended the Vietnam war and it brought down the Berlin Wall. Even as I write it’s sweeping away despots in Arab lands.

This anger has given us such pricelessness as:

  • Robert Johnson
  • On the Waterfront
  • The first Clash album
  • Easy Rider
  • John Lee Hooker
  • What’s Going on by Marvin Gaye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Searching for the Young Soul Rebels by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • Ball of Confusion by the Temptations
  • Joe Strummer
  • Billy Bragg
  • Gil Scott-Heron
  • Bob Marley
  • Curtis Mayfield
  • Ken Loach
  • George Orwell
  • Dennis Potter
  • and more and more and more.

These things have enriched my life beyond belief, instilling in me a questioning approach to all things and providing me with a finely tuned bullshit detector that may be my proudest possession.

In particular, I credit the late, great and much lamented Joe Strummer for helping a 16 year old boy in confusion and some despair see and understand the value of defiance.

And yet …

I wonder how much this world view accounts for my depression.

Anger of the ugly (but, I’m pleased to say, not violent) kind has certainly accompanied this less than delightful passage of my life. Indeed, there seems to be growing recognition of the significance of anger as an indicator of depression in men.

But I’m wondering whether my critical approach to the world, which started as a genuine reaction to life’s inequalities, mediocrities and untruths, has led me to this place of negative feedback loops and blaming bouts of bitterness.

I think maybe it has.

At some point the energy got misdirected and it is not easy to restore its settings.

Nevertheless, would I change anything?

Do I wish I’d taken my teenage cues from Queen instead of the Clash, Harold Robbins instead of George Orwell, Spielberg instead of Scorsese?

Do I wish I’d lived a life of blissful optimism and comfortable satisfaction?

Well, what do you think?

The only thing I would change is the effect my recent state of mind has had on others, my wife especially.

Apart from that … I’m just glad that I’m not sitting here writing about how Freddie Mercury changed my life.


US Readers
The first Clash album (U.K. Version)

Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer

UK Readers
The first Clash album

Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer

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Father, husband, writer and website publisher, discontented in his day-job, he writes here about depression - his own and in general. You can follow Too Depressed on Twitter. Please share the content on this site with all your friends, followers and contacts using the buttons above.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda September 30, 2011 at 11:27 pm

So I take it your not a Queen fan?!

Interesting take on anger, Martin. I used to be somewhat anger-addicted in my late teens and early twenties. Who knows–maybe even on the spectrum for Intermittent Explosive D/O?

My turning point came via therapy and recognizing the role anger played in our house growing up. Also, through taking responsibility for my actions. Perhaps the most crucial step in jumping off the Anger Express was a dear friend who commented one day, “Do you ever wonder why these situations keep happening? to you?” That one really stuck a chord.

Perhaps the deciding factor in delineating where anger ends and depression begins is the effects your moods have at home, at work, and in the community. Especially the home, as you mentioned.

Obviously our culture prides anger as manly and rebellious. On the flip side, people who don’t express anger have a huge issue and those unexpressed feelings go somewhere…If men don’t feel comfortable, supported, and safe when expressing the underlying issues of their sadness, then anger will continue to be the ugly stepbrother to depression. How sad that we have more respect for an angry person rather than a depressed one.

You stated your regret about how your anger has affected your wife. I think we all have guilt over this. As trite as it is, I like this quote from the link you provided: “Life is too short to spend our precious time in pain and treating our loved ones poorly.”

Thanks for a wonderful article, and some awesome cultural references. I love the Clash:).
Linda recently posted..The Zen of Anxiety: How to Identify and Express FeelingsMy Profile


Martin October 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

“How sad that we have more respect for an angry person rather than a depressed one”.
That’s a great truth, Linda.

I suppose the question for me is about when the outward facing anger – the righteous anger – turned inward. Or maybe they are just two entirely different things.

One answer, as you put it in your post about the Zen of Anxiety, is probably to try to get ‘out of my head’. In the sense of focusing less on what’s going on inside me and starting to care more about what’s happening around me again.

Thanks again for adding your insights.

And yes, although I didn’t mind the first Queen album when I was about 14, that viewpoint was swept away with the tide of punk.

I mean, which do you think had more meaning to 16 year old from South London:
“Fat bottom girls you make the rocking world go round”, or
“White riot, I wanna riot, white riot, a riot of my own.”


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