Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Baker's review in The Daily Swarm

This is an extract from The Baker's online review of Squat City Rocks. The full article can be read at:    http://www.thedailyswarm.com/swarm/dudanksi-strummer/

The 101'ers & friends outside "That Tea Room"...Great Western Rd...

By The Baker (Barry Auguste)

"Do you like roller coasters? Of course you do. Then you’re in for a delicious treat with Richard Dudanski’s spanking new autobiography, ‘Squat City Rocks.’ As the permanent drummer for the 101’ers, the book follows Richard’s rip-roaring, roller coaster life from his early squatting days, through the initial inception of the 101’ers until their untimely demise, and beyond. In it, he fully explores his musical journey, pounding the drum skins with the likes of 'The Raincoats,' 'Pil,' 'The Soul Vendors,' 'Basement 5,' and many other cutting-edge bands of the day. He also details his 28-year camaraderie with Joe Strummer, a close friend throughout his life throughout his life. His memories of the ups-and-downs of their friendship makes captivating analysis as Richard observed sides of Joe that only he was witness to. He probably knew him better and more intimately than the majority of his friends, and viewed the evolution from a self-conscious, untested 'Woody Mellor,' into the forceful and dynamic 'Joe Strummer' that I knew later with The Clash.

But Richard’s life was not so benignly unproblematic - far from it! Instead, it was filled with dramatic adventures that fueled his playing and shaped his politics. Richard charted his own course through life, and rarely deviated from his path to follow fashion or trends. His altruistic nature made for a very colorful, dramatic past, alternating between some remarkable musical highlights down to the very depths of despair! As Richard admits early on, he was “always looking for something else.” It was the earliest theme of his life.

The book itself reads like ‘A Clockwork Orange' meets 'Steptoe and Son,' replete with stories of ‘biker-boy’ revelry, police raids, electrical fires, stolen equipment and hair-raising escapades. It also serves as a fascinating examination of survival as a squatter back in England's generally perceived ‘dismal and dirty' 70’s with it's dire housing shortages, trade union agitation and general economic strife (although as Richard pointed out to me, things are far worse today in many ways, making his memories that much more significant.) Richard explains in detail the squatting community that existed in the ruins of West London, as almost gang-like, they went from squat to squat - breaking in, occupying, and making themselves at home. The poverty they chose makes compelling reading as they survived without hot water or electricity, drank tea from jam jars, and were forced to search for fruit and vegetables lying in the street after the local market closed. It is a testament of their will to triumph through adversity as well as a sobering glimpse of life for a sizeable section of the population back in the 70's. Despite the bleakness of the landscape, Richard manages to find something like grace in violence and hardship, and succeeds brilliantly, thanks in no small part to his self-assured, incandescent prose.

 Of greatest interest are Richard’s vibrant memories of the trials and tribulations of getting the 101’ers up and running. His crude reminiscences of ‘stuffing mattresses in windows for sound-proofing, using 'broomsticks for mike stands' and 'trundling the drum kit and amps in an old pram,' provide vivid examples of the band’s hubristic attempts to succeed. His insights into Woody's gradual development from rhythm guitarist into Joe Strummer - 'band leader,' are priceless, and he describes with unbridled enthusiasm the topsy-turvy earliest days of the ‘101 All Stars’ at the impromptu 'Squat-Bops,' and the spit-and-sawdust pubs and clubs, complete with 'burst blisters and bloodied knuckles.' Anger never sounded so righteous nor so proudly optimistic as when Joe spat out the words to his earliest songs. As Richard remarks, “It was extremely high-octane rock’n’roll that hurtled along at a speed and intensity that would leave most ‘Teds’ aghast at our sacrilegious versions,” then contrasts those passionate 'helter-skelter R'n'B nights' with their daytime nightmare of dangling, rain-soaked electricity cables, dodging holes in floorboards, and the frequent break-ins and fights with intruders. Notwithstanding the hardships and pressures, Richard paints a picture of an indissoluble troupe of derelict outlaws.".......................................

Saturday, 8 June 2013





Squat City Rocks has been available for a week or so now in its Kindle English version at Amazon.
It can also be read on an I-pad with a simple Kindle App, although shortly it will be available through Smashwords that will  distribute it to Barnes & Noble, Fnac, Apple I-book store, Kobo etc.

Here is an extract from the book where I describe the first  gig we had at Wandsworth Prison. The 101'ers were to return to the "venue" again in the future....for me just about the most memorable of our outings...

"Wandsworth prison in South London is a top security establishment catering for long term guests of Her Majesty.  One thousand three hundred male inmates incarcerated in a state-of-the-art prison:  state-of-the-art, that is,  in 1850 when it was built. We piled into Dave the VD’s Bedford and rattled off south of the river not knowing really what to expect. First stop was a small door in a huge stone turreted wall, towering above us like the battlements of Macbeth’s castle. A sneering officer answered our ring at the bell with a not too friendly welcome. Yes, they were expecting a musical ensemble that morning, but:
"Sorry gentlemen, definitely no dogs or females allowed in ‘ere, thank you very much."

Jeannie and the Piranha sisters had to turn on their heels and take the Pig Dog for a long walk on Wandsworth common.

"…Order restored, they now remained seated, straining at their shackles and casting furtive glances at their keepers…"

The gates cranked open, we were directed to a door for unloading, and we proceeded to hump the gear under the very attentive eyes of a couple of screws and their inquisitive hound. It was just as well Trouble hadn’t been allowed in: the police dog looked as though he’d have eaten him alive. A couple of oldish boys in prison greys and with ready smiles appeared from nowhere and helped us with the equipment. We learnt by degrees that the red arm-bands they wore designated them as “reliable inmates”. From then on, all our contacts with officialdom were through them, and this included a continuous supply of weak tea and moldy biscuits.
We were led into a large circular domed chapel.  Trust the Victorians to have endowed their institution with an enormous place of worship, so very concerned they would have been with the spiritual health of the condemned. So this was to be the site for our musical offering, and lo and behold – where else to erect the stage but over the altar on a raised dais at one end of the church. The sacristy, where the priest would have donned his vestments, was our dressing room, and the ironies were beginning to leave a wry smile on my face. As a ten year old I had seriously considered embracing a vocation to the priesthood, to devote myself to a life in the service of the Lord. Here I was pulling on my stage gear to partake in a very different kind of ritual. We had come prepared with a special liturgy for this particular ceremony, and our sacrificial offering contained as many prison-related songs as we could manage: Jailhouse Rock, Out of Time, Junco Partner, and a special rendition of Riot in Cell Block Number 9. Truth is, I think we were more nervous than we had ever been as we filed out on to the stage not knowing what kind of reception we would receive.
A complete and utter stony silence greeted us as we took to our instruments and Joe introduced the first song. I looked out from my drum stool and saw the chapel full to the brim, a sea of intent faces, five hundred or so inmates seated in their pews, the first row not two yards from us, with a ring of uniformed warders leaning nonchalantly against the back wall.  It’s a fact that we would give our all  every time we performed, but at this gig we were determined to unload at least 101 per cent.  After all, here we were a bunch of fresh-faced, squatter musos with all the freedom life could offer, playing to an audience some of whom had before them the stark reality of twenty years or more behind  prison bars. How could we compare them to our normal college student punter, or Speakeasy sycophant? We tore into the first song like there was no tomorrow, and sure enough at its end the place erupted. They loved it, but there was something not quite right. As quickly as the clapping and cheering had started, it stopped. It dawned on me that of course here as well, the inmates were all very much under strict orders. The screws around the perimeter of the hall would suddenly make their presence felt after a minute’s applause, and silence would once again descend on the chapel. No standing up either.
The set continued. Joe was in great form, and making the most of a continual battle with an unstable mike stand, he quickly established a rapport with the audience. I’ll never forget the expressions on the faces in front of us. It’s no exaggeration to describe most of them as ecstatic. Imagine being cooped up in that place day in and day out for years, and then suddenly being in front of a hot rock band firing on all cylinders.  As song followed song some of the men became bolder. I don’t know if it was because the keener rock fanatics had managed to get seats at the front, or because they were the furthest away from the guards mostly situated at the back, but the first rows were getting carried away, and you could see them unable to remain seated, hanging on every word, and not missing the smallest detail of what was happening. Towards the end of the set my bass drum pedal broke, which for Joe was yet another opportunity to have a chat. A repartee built up, and I remember  shouts of “keep taking the tablets!” and other witticisms in response to Joe’s quips, yet another mistaken assumption as to the source of our energy! At one point a couple of warders came down near to the front and made it clear what the limits were. Order restored, they now remained seated, straining at their shackles and casting furtive glances at their keepers when, maybe at the end of a song, they remembered where they were.  A couple of encores and that was that. We would have carried on playing all day if it had been up to us, but the men in red arm bands made it clear that our time was up. I’m not sure at what point it was, but a suspicion gradually formed about these “trusted ones”. Though prisoners, it was clear that they had special privileges, and you started to wonder exactly what they would have done to get them! By the time we had cooled off and changed, accompanied by yet more gallons of tea, rightly or wrongly, these willing helpers appeared in a different light. An unjust deduction perhaps, as of course we knew nothing of the inner workings of the place.
 We loaded the van, again under the close observation of the guards – maybe they thought we could have had a prisoner hidden in the bass drum, or perhaps a pair of candlestick-holders in a guitar case, and trundled out of the main gate. As Clive was later to observe:
“There’s nothing like a captive audience." 

True indeed. For me it was the most enjoyable gig we ever performed. "

The illustration, as with all the 30-odd drawings in the tale are by Esperanza Romero

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Finally I am more or less happy with the conversion process to get the book up on line with Kindle, so in the next few days it should be up there in the ether!! This is the cover....drawn and designed by Esperanza, with help from Ximena Hidalgo.

The Spanish translation is well under way, and should be finished by mid-summer 2013.

This is the "back-cover" blurb:

Richard "Snakehips" Dudanski. Real name Richard Nother, b. 1952, Isle of Sheppey, U.K. Finishing a degree in zoology at Chelsea College in 1974, was invited by his friends to occupy the  vacant drum stool of a fledgling rock band rehearsing in the basement of a neighbouring squat…

This musical memoir traces the author’s life in the corrugated-iron clad ruins of West London’s Squat Land during the two years immediately prior to the Punk Explosion of ’76, playing with Joe Strummer’s seminal garage band “The 101’ers” in the spit-and-sawdust music bars of the capital. The thrills and spills of a crazy, quirky, hand-to-mouth existence gives way to relative disenchantment with the oncoming of the Punk Uprising, which for the author represents, at least partly,  a sell-out to the Machiavellian Managers, as much as  the vaunted revolution in British popular culture.
After an aborted venture with the iconoclastic “Tymon Dogg and the Fools”, a stint with Lydon’s Metal Box period “Public Image Limited”, a term with the Dantesque-dub of “Basement Five”, Dudanski’s tale relates the ups and downs of his involvement in a myriad of bands forming part of a fringe underground London scene through the late 70's and 80’s   - “Bank of Dresden”, “The Raincoats”, “The Tesco Bombers”, "Vincent Units", “The Decomposers”, and his eventual move from London to Granada... 

Esperanza Romero (b. 1956, Melilla, Spain). Aged 17 travelled independently from Malaga to London.  A multi-faceted artist, studied Ceramics (B.A.) at Camberwell School of Art (1977-81), and obtained an M.A. from the Royal College of Art, London (1982-85).  From her own workshops first in London, later in Granada, has  created a continually evolving  body of work encompasing  the disciplines of Ceramics, Painting, Drawing and Engraving. Has exhibited in the galleries and museums of many european countries, the U.S., China, India and Japan. Partner of Richard since 1974 and mother of their two children.  Many of the drawings included in this book were sketches made “in situ” 30 odd years ago.

                                                                      Richard & Esperanza, London 1977

Friday, 5 April 2013


My Tale starts in the summer of 1974. I had come back to live in a squat in Maida Hill, W9. A bit of a West London No-Man's Land, between Kensington and Maida Vale, and in the mid-70's full of short-let housing and empty properties...
This is an extract from the 1st Chapter:

"The squat had been opened up by the Prowlers some months before I arrived. It wasn’t the first time that I’d lived in the neighbourhood. The previous year I had been staying in another squat around the corner in Walterton Rd.  It had been in  the last year of a degree course I was taking, but for the final three months I had to make a temporary move; study was impossible for me in that house. Far too many distractions. So, with the exams finished, I had come back to the area,   looking to reinstall myself.  Over a half of bitter one night in the Chippenham Arms I had met Nick of the Prowlers, and he’d offered me a room in their house. I didn’t know him or the mate he was with: a very large, hairy, fat, bearded biker with a blotchy red face, and an incoherent mutter, but Nick seemed ok. Housing problem solved. Back in the neighbourhood and with my friends up the street in number 23, and round the corner in 101 Walterton Rd. I soon discovered that Nick had other strange acquaintances living with him apart from the Bear.  B.S.A.’s and Bonnevilles, benzedrine and booze were their loves. The entrance flight of ten steps was no problem for a befuddled biker with repairs  to do on his machine. A couple of planks leading from the pavement to the front door had apparently solved the problem. I never saw their entrance, but the proof was there. Two semi stripped down 750’s in the ground floor front room.

 "…as if throwing cats out of first floor windows was  normal practice…"

The only real problem I ever had with them was over a cat. It was before I’d met Esperanza and I was  living alone in my fine, first floor, front room. I didn’t know exactly how or from where it came, but occasionally a young cat would trip in through one of the front bay windows from an outside balcony. With a disconcerting assurance it would twine itself around my legs and settle down on a vacant cushion. Flattered by such a display of confidence in me, and happy to share my space with this part-time pet, I looked forward to these sporadic feline visits. One afternoon a friend of Nick came in to my room for something or other. He saw the cat and in one swift move picked it up and threw it out of the open window. I hit the roof as the cat hit the pavement, and all he did was stare at me in amazement, as if throwing cats out of first floor windows was  normal practice. I went down to the front of the house expecting to find, if not a mangled corpse, at least traces of the mishap, but there were none. Life in this neighbourhood, for cats and humans, required the full quota of lives.
There were few dull moments in 86 Chippenham Road, although generally the day was more peaceful than the night. It was usually after the pubs had shut that my companions would start to enjoy themselves. One night I spent trying to sleep as they fine - tuned a spluttering carburettor on the Bonneville, and another night of crashing and banging had given rise to the sorry state of the stairs. I had come down one morning with the banisters in a mangled heap in the hallway. But what was amusing was their own subsequent reaction to this their latest antic. When I came back later the same day it was all sheepish grins and “sorry ‘bout last night”. There they were, hammer and nails in hand, attempting to repair their previous night’s excesses.
Most of their escapades were harmless, but occasionally things did get a bit out of hand. I was in my room going about my business. A knock on the door. For some reason I never quite understood, the prowlers maintained a respectful distance from my area in the house.  It was Nick:
“Rich. Come up on to the roof. Have a butchers at this.”

We climbed out onto the roof and saw, ducked down behind a parapet, the Bear, as usual the front of his tee-shirt soaked with sweat and booze,  a couple of other Prowlers, a carton of wine, and a couple of joints on the go. A right regular little party, with everyone in a strange and overly happy  mood. There was an expectancy in the air, the reason for which I was soon to discover.
“Get yer ‘ead down and look out over there!”

Next to our abode at number 86, there was an empty plot and beyond it a derelict house looking as if it had not been touched since the London Blitz. It wasn’t really squatted but I knew that from time to time it was used as a doss-house by tramps. Suddenly, a shadowy figure sneaks out from the front garden, and within seconds a flash of fire erupts from a window. The basement  is ablaze in no time at all. My companions on the roof also erupt – in a cackle of mirth, heightened by the arrival of police and fire-brigade….  suppressed giggles like ten year old  kids. I confess that for me the arrival of the law is a relief ….what if the winos had been in there sleeping off their sorrows?? I should  have been down there to make sure they were safe, instead I’m dumbstruck on the roof like a courtier on Nero’s balcony..."

Monday, 1 April 2013


From the book's title it is pretty obvious that the "squatting movement" forms an important part of the tale.....especially that part devoted to The 101'ers. The band was actually named after the house number of the squat where we lived: 101 Walterton Road, and the group would be described at times as a "Squat Rock" band.
The tale doesn't aspire to being a detailed treatise on Squatting, but the reality of our living conditions, or should I say "way of life", formed an undeniable backdrop to the band's existence.

Extract from Chapter 1,  of  "SQUAT CITY ROCKS".
"Maida Hill, west London, summer 1974.  The area mostly dilapidated with rows of corrugated iron–clad houses awaiting an uncertain future. Streets of empty council houses mingling with boarded-up shops, a half empty hospital and the inevitable abandoned cinema, but it had a couple of good Irish pubs, while the sizeable West Indian immigrant population added a spice that the drab and drizzly Harrow Rd couldn’t quite douse… My house had known better times, but still retained traces of its former grandeur.  Number 86 Chippenham road, between Shirland road and Elgin Avenue. Squatted, but definitely classy. A flight of ten or so broad stone steps leading between a pair of Doric columns to the front door. On entering, your first impressions might begin to waver. A strong smell of petrol. No door to the first room on your left, and what was left of its door frame splintered and hanging off the broken plaster. Black oil marks on the floor led the way to a partially destroyed staircase.
The squat had been opened up by the Prowlers some months before I arrived......

Almost every central London borough back in the mid-70's would have its squatting community, and "community" is the relevant word. The fact that often a whole row or street of houses would be squatted, often (but not always) would result in a strong sense of community between the "occupìers". There was no doubt, in my mind at least, that the simple act of squatting was a "political" statement in itself. Maida Hill in 1974 had various "self-help" groups. The main political shove came from the brilliant Piers Corbyn who apart from editing the local EASY magazine organized multitudinous demos & events to further  local squatters' rights, and at the end galvanized a united opposition to the GLC's attempts at  mass-eviction of Elgin Avenue. There was the infamous squatting Estate Agents: "The Rough Tough Cream Puff Estate Agency"; the "Release" legal aid office up the road from us; but without doubt, socially the most important institution was "That Tea Room", the perfect place for a cuppa, a natter, and some good music...

                                                                                               ...That Tea Room....

As for the band, we would never refuse the offer to play a "Squat Bop", our affectionate term for the many parties/benefits/happenings that were regularly organized by the various London squatting groups. We wouldn't get paid, but apart from the opportunity to strut our stuff, it was a natural expression of solidarity with the broad squatting community.

Extract from Chapter 1 "SQUAT CITY ROCKS"

"...The houses that we took over came from various sources. The great majority belonged to the GLC, London’s municipal corporation. There were hundreds of houses, often a whole street, left empty for years awaiting re-development. Another landowner of note, especially in our area of west London, was the Church commission. Goodness knows how the gentlemen members of the commission rationalized their flagrant disregard for their Founder’s commandments, but there they were sitting on the deeds of millions of pounds worth of prime west London real estate, and most of the time quite happy to remain sitting on it while house prices rocketed hand in hand with the numbers of London’s homeless.

As I’ve mentioned the houses could be in an awful state of repair, so anyone who did decide to squat would usually have to put up with, putting it lightly, a  pretty basic standard of living.  Often the GLC would send in workers to trash the installations so that they couldn’t be squatted. Obviously this could be more or less of a problem for us, depending on the assiduity of the council labourers.  We quickly learned the basics of plumbing and even the electrics became less of an unknown. However, few squats in our Maida Hill neighbourhood had a bath, some were without a cooker, no carpets, no washing machine, dodgy wiring,  security of tenure just didn’t enter into the equation..."

In general terms, I suppose the relevance of the Squatting movement to the book  is that it represents the maximum expression of the "DO  IT  YOURSELF" ethos. 
The 101'ers were never a "PUNK" band  per se (i.e. in terms of style of music and image), yet in the run up to the Punk explosion of 1976, they were most definitely strong espousers of that Do it Yourself attitude that would become for me the most important aspect of the Punk phenomenon.

                                        Taken from "Squatters' Handbook, Dec'75".  Author unknown

Fellow occupant of 101 was photographer Julian Yewdall. Here is a link to an interesting photographic record of those times that he has recently published:

Thursday, 21 March 2013


"Squat City Rocks" is a book I hope to have out very soon, first as an ebook edition in English, followed by a version translated in to Spanish. The paper-printed editions in both languages won't be too long in coming..... I hope!!

                                                                                             Walterton Road, W 9,  1974

 It seems reasonable that  I should give a few clues as to what the book is about, and how the idea of writing it originated. For that I must take you back to the summer of 1974........... 

I had just finished a degree course in Zoology at London University, and was living in a squat in Maida Hill, west London. 
My brother Pat and our friend Woody, came to see me one afternoon and suggested I sat in on the drums at a rehearsal they had organized for that evening in the basement of their squat, around the corner from mine, at 101 Walterton Road. 
It was a bit of an odd suggestion. I had never before played drums with anyone, though they had probably heard me bashing around on my own a couple of times in their band room. 
The "band" was a rudimentary notion at that time. Occupants of the squat they inhabited had been playing together for a few weeks.... a couple of saxes, bass, drums and guitar. The drummer had just left for a  temporary visit to Germany.....inopportunely as it happened , because the "band" were suddenly offered their first gig at a Chilean benefit down in Brixton.....   

With more than a little surprize on my behalf, I was offered the drum stool!! I had just a week to sort out my chops. We did the gig, and that was to be the start of my musical journey, at first with this proto-punk/garage/squat rock band "The 101'ers". The group would later be chiefly remembered in the annals of Rock History as the band that Woody, later to become Joe Strummer, honed his trade before bursting on to the consciousness of British youth as punk warlord leader of the Clash. There is a story to be told here, however, and half of this book is devoted to that Tale..... at least my vision of it!!

                                                                                                Mole, Joe & Richard, 1975

My original aim, back in 2001, was to create a "101'ers" web page, as Joe and I were looking in to the possibilities of re-editing the deleted 101'ers L.P. "Elgin Avenue Breakdown". This led me to start writing an introduction to the site, which then developed in to the idea of writing the whole story. Having started the project, I mentioned the fact to Joe and his immediate reaction was typical and encouraging:
    "Yea... go for it Snakes.... you've got to do it!!

I was still with the 101'ers period at the time of Joe's sudden death in 2002. This knocked me of course for some years, but when I came back to it and subsequently finished the chapters on the 101'ers, it seemed only natural to continue the story with my other bands.... Tymon Dogg & The Fools, Bank of Dresden, Pil, Basement Five, The Raincoats, The Decomposers, El Doghouse,  etc....

The unfinished draft was still knocking about the recesses of my hard disc, when in January of 2013 I received the brilliantly written travel diaries from our daughter, Luna,  studying in Colombia (here's  a link to her blog...http://lunanother.blogspot.com.es/ ) 
This was the impetus I needed!!.... and this is nearly the result!!!

I must mention that all the illustrations  I am including, unless otherwise stated, are the work of my partner Esperanza Romero ( www.esperanzaromero.com ) some of them drawn back in the 70's & 80's. For their use (and much, much besides), muchisimas gracias, Esperanza!