Joe Strummer's pub rockers the 101ers recall their frontman...
“I noticed some people hanging around the gig,” Richard recalls, “and when Joe disappeared with them, I had a feeling something odd was going on. I think that was two nights before he told me it was all over. I was in bed at the squat in Orsett Terrace. I remember Joe shaking me awake, saying, ‘Wake up, Snakes. I’ve got something really important to tell you. This is the end. We’ve got to talk about it.’ I said, ‘In the morning, Joe. We’ll talk about it then.’ I’d had this feeling something was up. He’d been very taciturn since the Golden Lion gig. Anyway, I went downstairs the next morning and there was Bernie, who I remembered from the Golden Lion. He started spewing out all this stuff about how crap The 101’ers were and how punk was going to happen. It was a totally one-way conversation.
“Then he said he wanted me to be the drummer in the new band, to stick with Joe. Bernie was the main reason I didn’t join The Clash. If there’d been a different manager, I might have thought about it. But there was no way I was going to have this guy telling me what to do.
“I went to see The Clash at The Roxy and I couldn’t believe how Joe had changed. He wasn’t Joe anymore. He was someone else. His identity had changed entirely. I just thought, ‘What happened to this guy?’
“Some of the things he went on to say about The 101’ers were very hurtful. And some of it was just rubbish, like saying we’d taken our name from Room 101 in George Orwell’s 1984 to make it sound more political. That was ridiculous, a bit sad. But for that first year or two he was in The Clash, he was in another place.”
“I think that was Strummer’s way of interpreting the new narrative,” says Dan Kelleher. “Everything that had gone before was crap. So we became the fall guys for Strummer having been as it were led astray. It must have been especially hard for Clive and Richard because they’d been with him from the start. Mick Jones is supposed to have said that Strummer was brilliant but The 101’ers were crap, musically, which was rubbish. Clive went on to great success with The Passions and ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’. And within months, Richard was playing with Johnny Rotten, in PiL. The whole idea that The 101’ers were a crap band was ludicrous.”
The 101’ers play their last show at The Clare Halls, Hayward’s Heath, on June 5, with Clive appearing for “Gloria”, played one last time as their final encore.
“It was all very sad in the end,” Clive says, who sees Strummer for the last time at a benefit for Mole, who died in 1999, “but I always thought from very early on, Joe had an idea in his mind about where he was going to go and I don’t think there was much that would have stopped him, including breaking up The 101’ers. It was a shame, really, that we didn’t go on. I saw The Clash at The ICA and to be honest, I thought they were kind of rubbish. Musically, they weren’t as good as The 101’ers would have been if we’d stayed together.”
“It was like everything came to an end at once,” says Julian Yewdall of the band’s final days. “Joe announced the band was over, that he was leaving to join The Clash. At the same time, the whole street where we had our last squat in Orsett Terrace was given its eviction notice. So the band was falling apart, the house was falling apart. Previously, we’d always moved as a group. We moved from one squat to another, always together, as a unit. Now it was every man for himself. Joe had already made his move. He knew The 101’ers were going to be left behind and he got on the punk bandwagon. However agonising it was for him, he knew what he had to do and he did it.”