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.".......................................

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