Joe Strummer mural
East 7th Street, New York City, New York
The charismatic co-frontman of British punk pioneers The Clash, Joe Strummer is one of the most celebrated and beloved personalities to have emerged from that back-to-basics movement.
The son of a travelling British foreign service diplomat, Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey on 21 August 1952. He got into music whilst he was at boarding school, falling in love with The Beach Boys, Little Richard and folk hero Woody Guthrie (whose first name he would adopt in his early band years).
Strummer co-founded The Clash with Mick Jones in 1976 and they quickly became one of the flagship bands of England’s punk movement, along with The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and The Damned.
Their self-titled debut and double-album London Calling won both critical and commercial acclaim, and the band evolved musically from their early aggressive punk style to incorporate elements of dub, reggae and funk into their sound.
The mural on East 7th Street outside the Niagara bar in tribute to Joe Strummer was originally completed in November 2003, around 11 months on from his death from a heart attack on 22 December 2002. It features the proclamation ‘Know Your Rights!’ from the eponymous opening track of their fifth studio album, Combat Rock. It was repainted 10 years later in November 2013 after construction work on the building, with Mick Jones attending its re-unveiling.
Eerily, Strummer died on exactly the same day (17 years later) as fellow punk legend D. Boon of the Minutemen, a man who he had greatly inspired in both his music and left-wing ethics. Boon and the Minutemen documented their love of Strummer and The Clash on the song ‘History Lesson, Part II’.
The “Figure 8″ wall
Silver Lake, California
A modest record company store’s wall in the Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles, this distinctive and brightly coloured wall first rose to prominence when it featured on the cover of Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 album, released in April 2000.
Sadly, just over three years later from the release of the Beatlesque Figure 8 album it would become the most prominent tribute site to Smith, following his tragic death in October 2003.
Though Smith has considerable links with the Portland music scene and resided there and New York for many years before moving to LA, the “figure 8 wall” became the undisputed site of pilgrimage for fans of his music, and those wishing to leave tributes and mourn their lost hero.
It is estimated that thousands have visited in the years since the singer’s death, leaving floral and written tributes, inscribing his lyrics on the wall, and taking photographic mementos recreating the album cover.
Unfortunately the wall is now no longer what is was after a controversial bar opened on the site of it in early 2017 (insensitively called Bar Angeles), removing a large section of the mural with a large window and a door, much to the chagrin of many Smith fans. Throughout the wall’s existence it has been the victim of graffiti as well as heartfelt written tributes, and was been repainted several times in attempt to restore it to its former glory. Nonetheless, the wall – well what is left of it – is still a popular place for fans to gather and reflect on a much-loved and missed artist.
“Jeremiah the Innocent” wall
Corner of 21st and Guadalupe, Austin, Texas
Painted by a cult hero of the local music scene, singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, this wall has become a landmark in the city, near the University of Texas campus.
A renowned bi-polar sufferer, Johnston became a local – then a worldwide – curiosity after creating a slew of homemade, low-fidelity cassettes in the early 1980s, which he handed out to intrigued locals.
MTV soon caught wind of the Johnston phenomenon, and he was featured on a 1985 Cutting Edge feature on the Austin music scene.
The wall painting is similar to the one featured on the cover of Johnston’s celebrated 1983 recording, Hi, How Are You, which he says he recorded whilst having a nervous breakdown.
Johnston was commissioned to paint the mural of the frog (also known as “Jeremiah the Innocent”) on the side of the Sound Exchange record store in 1993, at the height of his fame. The painting occurred a year after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain famously wore the T-shirt bearing the design to the 1992 MTV video music awards. In 2004 caring locals successfully endeavoured to preserve the much loved design when the building changed ownership.
Ian Curtis mural
Wellington, New Zealand
This mural in the Mount Cook area of Wellington, New Zealand has been a noted memorial to the late Joy Division singer since 1981.
Less than a year after Curtis committed suicide following years of worsening epilepsy and depression, the words “Ian Curtis Lives” were painted on a Wallace Street wall, and eventually a wall nearby was painted with Ian Curtis RIP Walk In Silence.
However, the Curtis tribute site has endured a turbulent history of its own, having been a target of indiscriminate taggers and Wellington City Council throughout its existence. The mural has had to be repainted and campaigned for by defiant fans on several occasions.
Indeed, Wellington City Council’s anti-graffiti team’s paint-over in September 2009 caused enough of an outcry among locals for them to allow the wall to be restored once again. The council subsequently seemed to note the popularity of the wall and took no action on the re-chalking days later.
Local artist Maurice Bennett was the last person to restore the wall in February 2013, adding a new and improved design, Curtis’s correct birth/death dates and the original “Walk In Silence” motto (itself a nod to the 1980 posthumous single ‘Atmosphere’).
Curtis and Joy Division have proved to be remarkably popular in New Zealand, with their classic single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ hitting number 1 in the NZ charts in 1981, and entering them on two other occasions.
5th and Hennepin, Minneapolis, Minnesota
This ginormous and colourful mural in Bob Dylan’s home state of Minnesota is surely one of the best ever created of the legendary folk, rock and blues troubadour.
The epic, kaleidoscopic mural – that is a mind-boggling 160 feet wide, and five stories tall – was designed by noted Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra, and he and his dedicated team of 5 painters eventually finished the unmissable new landmark by late summer/early fall of 2015.
Kobra fittingly titled his masterpiece ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’; both in reference to the classic song and the fact that his work of art features Dylan’s gradual metamorphis from fresh faced folk troubadour to rock icon and ageing bluesman in a white cowboy hat.
The mural is located at the corner of 5th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis and is well worth taking a few minutes to admire if you’re in town.
This eye-catching mural of David Bowie – in his iconic Aladdin Sane guise – was painted on the wall of a department store in Brixton by Australian artist James Cochran, and was finished in 2013.
The mural is located in Brixton, the district of London where Bowie was born on 8th January 1947, at his childhood home of 40 Stansfield Road.
The mural became a de facto shrine to the musician after his death from cancer in January 2016, with thousands of Bowie fanatics leaving flowers and tributes to the Thin White Duke, and months later was listed by the local council to ensure its long-term protection.
The mural is easily reachable by taking the London Underground to Brixton station and is a must for Bowie nuts who happen to be in England’s capital.
Forest Hills, New York City
This impressive mural of the legendary punk rock group the Ramones is situated in the Forest Hills area of New York where it all began for them.
The multi-coloured mural of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy and Marky – all donning their trademark black leather jackets and skinny jeans – can be found on the wall under the 71st Avenue Long Island Rail Road overpass, near the Station Square area in Forest Hills. was painted by artists Crisp and Praxis Graff. It was unveiled in June 2016.
There is also a black-and-white mural of the Ramones at Thorneycroft Ramp nearby that was painted by artist collective Ori Carino. The mural depicts a black and white photograph of the band and is labelled ‘The Birthplace of Punk’ (most music historians agree that the Ramones were the first outright punk rock act).
This location is known to be where the original band members – who all went to the same school in the area – used to hang out as unruly teens in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and where they would go on to form their hugely influential punk rock band that shook the world.
Johnny Cash mural
353 Molloy Street, Nashville, Tennessee
The ‘Man In Black’ has a large number of murals painted in his honour across the world, which should not be surprising given his seismic impact on country music and popular culture in general.
However, the one in Nashville, Tennessee has become something of a landmark since the country legend’s death in September 2003.
A trio of local Nashville graffiti artists (known collectively as The Thoughts Manifested) designed the impressive mural close to the honky tonk bars and The Country Music Hall of Fame in the same month as his death.
The design features iconic images from Cash’s lengthy career (including the cover shot for At Folsom Prison), along with the printing of his second name.
A decade after first painting it in Music City, the original artists recreated the weathered mural for the 10th anniversary of Johnny’s death, using free-handed and stencil techniques.
Mark E. Smith mural
8 Clifton Road, Prestwich
This impressive mural of the mercurial frontman of The Fall was painted by graffiti artist Akse P19 as part of the Prestwich Art Festival in 2018.
The mural was painted 9 months after the underground rock icon died aged 60 after a battle with lung and kidney cancer, and features Smith smoking a cigarette in typically nonchalant fashion, alongside the quote ‘Fear is something I try not to absorb’, from an interview he gave to the Guardian newspaper in 2011.
Smith – who was born in Broughton, Salford in 1957 – founded The Fall were founded in Prestwich in 1976, and lived in the area for most of his life.
The Fall were one of the most prolific and acclaimed post-punk bands to emerge in the UK, and retained a large cult following right until Smith’s death. He was the only constant member of the group that notoriously had a high turnover of members. Smith once wittily remarked “if it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s the Fall.”
The mural is on the side of the fish and chip shop Chips @ No.8 on Clifton Road.