The 101ers

"Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited " CD

Bio-courtesy of

Before The Clash, Joe Strummer was the lead vocalist/guitarist in a gritty, R&B-styled London pub band called the 101ers. The 101ers, named after the number of the squat where they were living at North-West London (101 Walterton Road), mark a key point in the development both of Joe Strummer's own musical sensibilities and also of the burgeoning punk scene.

When the 101ers formed, the mid-70s the music scene had become stagnant, overblown, laser-filled stadium extravaganzas. In reaction to this excess, the pub circuit sprouted, giving bands the chance to play on the same floor where their fans danced. "Dr. Feelgood were the undisputed kings of that scene," noted Joe Strummer, "we were the latecomers, more like the dirty cousins, because we were squat-rockers and a bit younger and a bit more incapable. We didn't know our chops, as well. Eventually we got skilled enough to be probably the second-best rhythm and blues group in west London after Feelgood, but it took a year and a half to get there."

Despite Strummer humble estimation, the 101ers became one of the most exciting live acts in London thanks to their brand of full-tilt rock'n'roll. "The thrill of discovering old blues numbers and playing them to people and making them groove - to us it was new and exciting," remarked Strummer. Word soon spread so that at whatever pub the 101ers played they were guaranteed huge crowds without having to even print the usual gig flyers.

However, it was the rumblings of a new musical movement that would change the musical direction of Strummer as well as a generation of many other musicians. One night while waiting to go on, Strummer caught the opening act, a band of unknowns called the Sex Pistols. "I knew something was up," said Strummer, "so I went out in the crowd which was fairly sparse. And I saw the future - with a snotty handkerchief - right in front of me." Within a year Strummer had been poached from the 101ers to join a new band, The Clash, while 101ers drummer Richard Nother eventually joined Public Image Ltd.

Interestingly enough Joe Strummer's move from cover song singer to composer for the 101ers came about as a result of his relationship with a girl who would also become swept up by the punk movement. Palmolive, who later became the drummer for The Slits was the inspiration for Strummer composing "Keys To Your Heart" which became the 101ers first single.

Released years after the break-up of the band, 101er's only album Elgin Avenue Breakdown originally had a pressing of just 2,000 vinyl copies quickly becoming a cult rarity, frequently being bootlegged. At the time, the 101ers stood in marked contrast to the edginess and attitude of the punk movement that immediately followed them. But while many bands burnt themselves out by trying to take punk where its limitations wouldn't let them, Strummer consciously drew upon on his 101ers' rock'n'roll roots to record London Calling, taking The Clash to a whole new, higher level. However, the influence of the 101ers on The Clash was to appear even earlier. Mick Jones had always liked song "Lonely Mother's Son," a staple from the 101ers' live shows, and he eventually persuaded Strummer that The Clash should record it with different lyrics. So "Lonely Mother's Son" (track #14 on Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited) became "Jail Guitar Doors," the B-side of the "Clash City Rockers" single and later, in the US, a key track on the Black Market Clash album. Also appearing here is the 101ers' cover version of "Junco Partner" which The Clash would later record for Sandinista.

Over the years Strummer was frequently asked about the 101ers and re-releasing this material was always in the back of his mind. In an interview with Music Monitor several years ago when Strummer was confronted with the question if any label was planning to re-release Elgin Avenue Breakdown again, Strummer replied: "I am! Honestly, you wouldn't believe. Seattle, Portland, Anaheim, I talk to a lot of people and they ask, 'What about that track? What about that album?' Sometimes guys come up to get it signed. Last night in Denver, coincidentally, the promoter of the show said there was a bit of a 101ers groundswell going on! There's guys in that town bootlegging Elgin Avenue Breakdown themselves because you can't get it."

Now in cooperation with Joe Strummer's widow and former 101ers drummer Richard Norther this classic material now gets its first ever official CD release, expanded to include 8 never before released live and studio recordings. Here now is every studio track the band ever recorded as well as doses of bristling, never before released live tracks that made them crowd favorites. One listen will make it clear that it was with the 101ers that Strummer honed the skills later used in The Clash.

Tracks Include:
01 Letsagetabitarockin
02 Silent Telephone
03 Keys To Your Heart (version 1)
04 Rabies (From The Dogs Of Love)
05 Sweet Revenge
06 Motor Boys Motor
07 Steamgauge '99*
08 5 Star R'n'R
09 Surf City
10 Keys To Your Heart (version 2)
11 Sweety Of The St Moritz
12 Hideaway*
13 Shake Your Hips (Live)*
14 Lonely Mother's Son (Live)*
15 Don't Let It Go (Live)
16 Keep Taking The Tablets (Live)*
17 Junco Partner (Live)*
18 Out Of Time (Live)*
19 Maybelline (Live)*
20 Gloria (Live)*

Click here for complete Track Notes: