For the first time ever the four sides the 101’ers released on Chiswick are gathered together on one handy extended-play 7-inch vinyl record.
The first time I saw the 101’ers was at the Hope & Anchor, the basement venue that was a centre for pub rock then punk. On a good night, its walls ran with sweat. This was a very, very good night.
The 101’ers had emerged, amateurishly, out of the West London squat scene – muddy waters of Latin American exiles, White Panthers, junkies, trainee accountants and would-be stars. At times, there had been more people in the band than the audience. At the Hope, it was the best – and last – 101’ers line-up. Loud as a jet engine, wild and tough, full-hearted.
On drums was “Snakehips” Dudanski, elbows wide, arms thin as spaghetti, bashing out a lopsided beat. Dan Kelleher, half-bearded, was studiously hunched over his semi-acoustic bass. Clive Timperley was a guitar ace in a cowboy shirt. And there was Joe Strummer in a grubby pinkish zoot suit, shouting as much as singing. He finished the show high on top of his amp, screaming and preaching and thrashing on his distressed Telecaster.
I was at the Hope to see Joe – or Woody, as he was known in our teenage years in Sussex. I had recently started writing about pop for the US fanzine Trouser Press. I wanted to write about a new, young band. A friend said: what about Joe’s?
And so, in an Islington cellar bar, I was transfixed by a band who played like their lives depended on it – and the sight of an old friend transformed into a future star.
I can’t remember exactly where or when Joe told me that he’d left the 101’ers. It was certainly just before the release of their only single, ‘Keys To Your Heart’ – a centrepiece of their live shows.
Along with ‘Keys’, here are three of the best of the tracks they recorded. ‘5 Star Rock’n’Roll Petrol’ has pub rock roots, enthusiastic harmonies and Gloria-like recitative. ‘Sweet Revenge’ sways down South America way, echoing the music of those squatland exiles. ‘Rabies (From The Dogs Of Love)’ marries freakbeat guitar to a tale of big city venery.
And then the 101’ers were broken and gone, leaving behind them no more than that wondrous Chiswick single, a poster or two, memories of Joe’s suit and a scant few recordings – which made barely a ripple at the time but finally got the love and warm attention they always deserved. Enjoy.