Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Kris Needs review in January edition of "SHINDIG MAGAZINE"

“ SQUAT CITY ROCKS: proto-punk and beyond. a musical memoir from the margins.

Having experienced punk’s hurricane (particularly The Clash) at very close range, I find most stuff trotted out about it and them in recent years superficial and irritating, but this is one of the good ones, guaranteed to raise a smile. Richard Dudanski was drummer with The 101ers, the high-octane London pub-rock band fronted by Joe Strummer, so obviously his book is of special interest to Clash fans. But it’s much more than that, particularly the accounts of life they shared in Maida Vale’s pre-gentrification squat land, with all the characters, DIY electrics, survival techniques and sinister Special Patrol Group elevated into the realms of fascinating historical document by his acute eye for detail.
          Crucially writing without bitterness or self-aggrandisement, Dudanski gives a fascinating account of Woody Mellor’s transformation into Joe Strummer and the full-blown conversion to punk’s manifesto which broke The 101ers and drove him to become the movement’s most revered figurehead. Dudanski’s colourful life after The 101ers provides further engrossing reading as he goes on to play with Metal Box-era PiL, doomed punky reggae pioneers Basement Five, Tymon Dogg, The Raincoats and assorted subterranean London underground outfits, before locating to Granada with long-time partner Esperanza       

Concluding with reuniting with Strummer before his still-shocking death in 2002, the book stands as a rare glimpse into a little-documented aspect of a lost London and a poignant tribute to his old friend Joe, further enlivened by Esperanza’s illustrations, often executed back then.
Kris Needs

Friday, 19 December 2014

Page 38 of UNCUT

Page 38 of UNCUT

Chosen as one of TOP TEN books of 2014 by UK music monthly "UNCUT" in current edition.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


      Flyer for the 1st 101'ers gig.....supporting "Matumbi" in a benefit gig for the Chilean Solidarity campaign

Extract from Chapter 3, "SQUAT CITY ROCKS"  All pics....Ray Eagle

".....I have talked about the obsession with music that gripped the original occupants of 101.  Simon was learning the alto sax and Pat had got hold of a bass. This was furthered by the arrival of Antonio who had experience with the drums, and then of Woody, who at a previous stage had learned chords from Tymon Dogg on various busking expeditions and had later gained some experience in a band or two down in South Wales before coming to London. Earlier that summer, Antonio had managed to borrow a drum kit from a squat up the road which he installed in the basement of 101. Similarly, the other equipment was assembled from various sources until finally there was enough gear for a group rehearsal. As Simon Cassell was later to comment:
    -   “I can remember the first band session in the basement of 101, with Pat, Woody, Antonio and me …… I can’t remember what we played, some rock’n’roll tune, but it had real energy and I remember afterwards we all thought, yeah we’ve got a band here.”

                                Rehearsal in the basement, 101 Walterton Rd (Drawn by Esperanza Romero)

Over the next few weeks the rehearsal room was “conditioned” as much to deaden the sound as to stop the sound from leaking outside. This entailed stuffing a mattress in front of the window and nailing a carpet or two to the walls. Broomsticks as mike stands  and beaten up old amps with their valves open to the air were the order of the day. By the end of August, Alvaro who was a tenor sax and piano player and who had in fact had success with a pop-rock band back in Chile had also started playing with the fledgling group, and apart from adding an element of musical experience to the proceedings, it was he who came up trumps with the offer of a possible gig at a Chilean Solidarity Campaign concert in South London. There was a problem though. Antonio had just left the country on a visit to friends in Germany. The band was without a drummer.

                                               Woody (Joe) and Pat on the bass. 1st gig The Telegraph, Brixton

Meanwhile, my musical endeavours with the clarinet had been supplemented by the acquisition of an old pair of bongos, which in turn had led me to the occasional solitary bash-around on the drums once they had been installed in 101. With little to lose by trying, I  accepted the suggestion to sit in on a rehearsal, I suppose you could say an audition. With  no small element of surprise I was subsequently offered the drum stool, which can only lead you to imagine the rudimentary nature of our music. Shock horror when suddenly we were informed the gig had been brought forward a week! I had less than a week remaining to get my act together!
It was just as well that the music we played was basic to an extreme. For the gig we prepared six songs, all  of them R&B standards: “Bony Maronie” – Larry Williams, “No particular Place to Go” and “Roll Over Beethoven” – Chuck Berry, “Gloria” – Them, and “Hoy, Hoy, Hoy”, a lesser known song by Chicago blues man Little Johnny Jones. The sixth song I’m not certain of, but think probably it was Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” or maybe Berry’s “Around and Around”….. the mists of time are thick at times. I got hold of a pad, and for quick reference wrote the structure for each song in my own notation. Something like:
    -   Intro count Woody,  pause,  BANG, BANG, BANG, Side/side 1ST verse, Solo Alvaro, verse 2 &3. END change Up/down, 4 times riff, Kerplunk for dead END”.

                                         Richard on drums & the back of Woody.... 1st gig, The Telegraph, Brixton

Woody was my drumming mentor those days. Apart from having owned a kit before lending it out to a friend, he was a Chuck Berry/ Bo Diddley fanatic, and their music was to be the source for my crash course in drumming.  We had a very basic system for classifying the rhythmic feel, the songs being either “Up and Down” or “Side to Side”:  the former being a straight rock beat, the latter with more of a syncopated shuffle feel. This was hard and fast rock and roll with a BIG FAT snare-drum back beat interspersed usually with one or two  thuds on the bass drum in each bar. It was pretty obvious that what was essential was not to lose the beat, and usually the song ended faster than it had started. This of course was much more preferable than to it slowing down. For someone coming in to drum with no experience, this music was perfect. There was no finesse required, just energy and application, and I loved it.

                                   Alvaro (Sax) & Simon "Big John" Cassell (vocals). 1st gig @ The Telegraph.

Alvaro (billed for the gig as “El Huaso” – a Chilean term for Gaucho) took the solos on Tenor, Big John sung most of the songs (and took out his alto on some) while Pat, Woody and I concentrated on the rhythm, Woody also taking the mike on a couple of tunes.  “El Huaso and the 101 All Stars”  made their debut at the Telegraph pub in Brixton the following weekend. The poster I have says Friday, 6th September. I am pretty sure it was a Saturday - it had that Saturday afternoon pub feeling. Whatever, we turned up at the gig to  support the reggae band “Matumbi”, although we had an uncomfortable wait as they arrived  late having had problems with their van. El Huaso was appropriately dressed in poncho and wide brimmed sombrero. The rest of us kitted out in our normal attire – myself with a hat that was a fixture I virtually slept in, Woody with a very old leather jacket barely held together at the seams ….  “Image” was not a concern. When Matumbi did arrive we had to ask them if we could borrow their amps and drums for our set. No problem. Real cool bunch of geezers as they sat smiling through our set and barely had time to come on and do their own.

So we had done it! Our friends, naturally enough, were enthusiastic. A number had come down south of the river to hear us and the general feeling was – “when’s the next one?” For me though, things were complicated. I had only been with the group a week, drafted in as a stand in, and with other plans in mind. Increasingly attracted to things Hispanic, I had booked a flight to Barcelona with a vague arrangement to meet with friends of Antonio. Within a week of the gig I was on a plane to new climes and unknown adventures. A week after I had left, Esperanza was to head home to Malaga and her novio, and meanwhile the band awaited the return of Antonio before its next outing."   

Friday, 16 May 2014

Now available at Amazon

"SQUAT CITY ROCKS" also now available at AMAZON:

The Charlie Pigdog Club
This animated clip was created for Julien Temple's docu on Joe Strummer "The Future is Unwritten" with drawings by Esperanza Romero, music by The 101'ers, and voice overs by Joe & Esperanza — at Maida Hill, W.9. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Paper version just published!

                                                                                                           Liz, Trouble and Rocco

                                                     Walterton Road,February, 1975  Pic:Esperanza Romero

It has been a long time coming, but finally I have a paper version of "Squat City Rocks" published via "Create Space" and available now at or from Amazon as from 19th May 2014. This is an extract from the 1st chapter, a little snapshot of life in our west London squatland, back in 1974:

A dull thud. Another. A rhythmic thumping, which I at first confuse with my temple’s muffled pulse on pillow. Familiar forms become distinct as the early morning twilight filters in through meagre, makeshift curtains. Another sound – an alarmed blackbird screeches up the street. Again a banging from below. Of course. It’s them. It’s them and their night prowlings. A slow rhythmic thudding from below. Could be many things. Not to worry. Turnover, cuddle up, back to sleep … and … that … dream …It’s morning. The weekend, so no hurry. She’s gorgeous and she’s next to me, but she is a very slow waker. I bore from plying her with my unreturned attentions. Mattress on the floor, a draped-over suitcase as a bedside table. A threadbare mat covers part of the floorboards. Practically all my possessions picked out of a builder’s skip, or from a street market, more often than not left behind by an irate stallholder anxious to get home late on a Saturday afternoon. On a rickety table my records, a clarinet, some books … The daylight streaming in now. How I love this room. Two tall bay windows from floor to ceiling. A large, leafy sycamore outside, and little noise from the street. Ah…that noise last night, was it a dream or … a thudding downstairs…all night a dull thudding.- “Did you hear it?"- "Hear what?"- "The noise they were making. Our friends… I woke to a banging….." - "Something ..maybe…”We finally get up and stumble down a flight of broken stairs, no carpets of course and almost without banisters. The bathroom is basic. No bath but at least with a noisy old heater for hot water. The kitchen is stark. Cracked panes in the window looking out over a stretch of barren land. The muffled cries of a couple of kids kicking around a football. The gas stove is filthy. A week old heap of empty booze bottles in a corner, old fag ends rotting in their dregs. Dirty plates and cups piled in the sink, vying for space with a mass of tea leaves and other unidentifiable vegetable matter. No other movement in the house; our fellow occupants, the night Prowlers, are in their daylight land of dreams. Esperanza, my girlfriend, goes round to the corner shop while I put the kettle on. I pour the Shreddies into a couple of chipped bowls. Hang on. There’s something wrong here. It’s the cutlery. So that was the racket last night. All the spoons and all the forks, as flat as pennies. What a strange imagination! The Prowlers’ latest midnight amusement - banging out flat all our culinary utensils. The forks weren’t too much of a problem, but have you ever tried eating your cereal with a flat spoon?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 the remains of its splintered door frame 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. 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

"…as if throwing cats out of first floor windows was  normal practice…"
                                                                                                                                     Drawing: Esperanza Romero

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.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 to 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...