Joe Strummer's pub rockers the 101ers recall their frontman...
What’s happened is that by now Joe has seen The Sex Pistols, who support The 101’ers on April 3 and 23 at The Nashville Rooms. What looks like a blatantly put-up scrap at the second gig ends up with the Pistols and manager Malcolm McLaren in mid-brawl on the cover of Melody Maker, with no mention of The 101’ers. I’m standing at the bar with Joe, Clive and Dr Feelgoods’ Lee Brilleaux when the Pistols appear the first night. None of us really get what’s happening, apart from Joe, who looks like he’s seen a future he desperately wants to be part of.
“The Sex Pistols were getting the kind of attention Strummer was craving at that time,” Dan Kelleher tells Uncut from his home in Shaftesbury, the picturesque Dorset village made famous by a 1973 Hovis TV ad. “He’d been thrashing his arse off for the last couple of years and he’d had very little recognition. Things were happening for The 101’ers, but obviously not fast enough for Strummer. He could see the way the wind was blowing.”
Strummer is smitten with the Pistols, but Clive and Richard are less impressed.
“I remember standing with you at the bar of The Nashville, the night of the so-called fight, at the second show,” Clive says, “and we looked at each other as if to say, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I liked the Pistols a lot as people, but the whole scene around them seemed totally fake.”
“Joe was getting more and more uncomfortable,” Richard recalls. “Things weren’t going well in rehearsals between Joe and Clive and Dan. Joe wasn’t very happy. He’d be out a lot, drinking heavily, spending a lot of time down the 100 Club when the Pistols played there. Then Clive got the boot because Joe off his own bat thought that Clive should be moving around more on stage and should sharpen up his image. That wasn’t Clive at all. Maybe if we’d said to him, ‘Look, cut your bloody hair and put on some drainpipes’, maybe he would have done that. But he wouldn’t have moved around more, that’s for sure.”
“I didn’t leave The 101’ers,” Clive says, able to laugh about it now. “I was urged to resign. He came around to my squat and he kept going on about ‘Maximum Impact’, which sounded like a phrase he’d picked up from someone, probably Bernie Rhodes, who’d started appearing at gigs. He wanted me to perform me, to come out of myself. But that’s just not me. There as no way I was going to start wearing crazy clothes, get a spiky haircut and going bonkers. So it was like, ‘OK, we’ll wrap it up then.’ Dan always maintained Bernie Rhodes had already stolen Joe from The 101’ers in order to manufacture his version of The Sex Pistols.”
Rhodes, one-time Malcolm McLaren lieutenant, has already in fact made an approach to Joe, on May 25, at a Pistols show at The 100 Club, inviting him to meet Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Keith Levene, his future band mates in what becomes the first line-up of The Clash. On May 30, Bernie turns up at The Golden Lion in Fulham where The 101’ers are playing and gives Joe an ultimatum, 48 hours to decide whether he’s going to join or stay with The 101’ers.