Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Ballad Of Joe Strummer (Part One). The 101'ers

Originally named John Graham Mellor and born in Ankara, Turkey on 21st Sugust 1952, Joe Strummer was the son of a British diplomat and spent his formative years travelling because of his father's job. Bonn, Cairo and Mexico City all made for temporary homes, before Joe settled in London in 1959.
During his schooldays in the UK, Joe quickly grew to love music, with the likes of Captain Beefheart and Chuck Berry amongst his early favourites, but it was a stint at the London School Of Art that really cemented his interest in music and also cinema.Joe had already changed his name once (from John to Woody), but another name change was on the horizon. In 1974, Joe's burgeoning passion for music saw him form the legendary band 'The 101'ers',and Joe Strummer was born.
The band made their live debut on 7th September at The Telegraph pub in Brixton as 'El Huaso And The 101 All Stars', with the name subsequently shortened to 'The 101'ers' after the number of the Maida Vale squat they lived at. The band played at various festivals and slowly began to make a name for themselves on the London Pub Rock circuit. Although relatively short-lived, Pub Rock was responsible for bringing live music back to smaller clubs, and the movement was graced by some wonderful bands such as Dr Feelgood, Kilburn And The High Roads, Roogalator and Ducks Deluxe.
The history of The 101'ers may have been short, but it got Joe up onstage and spawned some great vinyl, which included the excellent 'Keys To Your Heart' single. This was the first song Joe wrote and was about his girlfriend at the time, Palmolive.

The 101'ers were supported by an exciting new band called the Sex Pistols on 3rd April 1976, and this inspired Joe to get togther with younger, more yobbish musicians, feeling his his fellow band members were simply too old. So, The Clash were born, but this new venture did not mark the final chapter in The 101'ers as far as vinyl output was concerned. By 1981, The Clash were a vitally important band and interest grew in Joe's first group, leading to the release of a second single - 'Sweet Revenge' - which, like 'Keys' was released on the mighty Chiswick label. An album followed, titled 'Elgin Avenue Breakdown', which contained several live recordings. Right from the word go with 'Letsagetabitarockin' kicking things off, this album is a glorious slice of rabble-rousing rock with 12 tracks of high octane (sometimes subtle low-key) music and a wonderful 8 minute version of 'Gloria' ending the album in style. The album was re-released in May 2005, with the help of Joe's widow Lucinda, containing an additional eight tracks and was titled 'Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited'. Joe had always intended to give this album a very special re-release, but sadly passed away before he could do so. Looking back, The 101'ers were a very special, blink of the eye band, and I envy anyone who got to see them play live in some London pub where the fires of Pub Rock burned brightly.
Now the scene was set for The Clash to enter the fray, with a truly blistering debut album and a growing reputation as one of our very finest live bands.

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