In the mid 1970s, there were many examples of London’s once proud Victorian housing stock that had fallen into disrepair and disuse. Streets of forgotten buildings, or parts of once grand terraces, lay empty awaiting attention or redevelopment by the Greater London Council. Inevitably, some of these shabby but spacious properties became squats, and were occupied by whoever decided to find the easiest way to get in and change the locks. These casual, often temporary living arrangements, were the perfect pre-punk breeding ground for a self-reliant, co-operative, thrifty system of living, perfectly in synch with the forthcoming cultural storm of 1976.
101 Walterton Road, Liz, Ana, Rocco and Charlie the Dog. Photo theclash.org.uk
Naturally, this brand of co-operative lifestyle appealed to artists, activists and musicians, and far from being drop-outs, they used the opportunities of a rent-free existence to hone their craft and mix with like-minded individuals – freed up from the 9-5 by the rent-free living arrangements.
One such established squat, was located at 101 Walterton Road in London’s Maida Vale, the end part of a Victorian terrace, it contained multiple rooms and even a basement, already set up for rehearsals.
In the summer of 1974, John “Woody” Mellor and his friend Tymon Dogg left their previous squat and moved into 101, and immediately set about forming a band with the other residents. Named after their collective address, The 101ers, played their rockabilly tinged debut on 7 September 1974 at the Telegraph pub in Brixton, under the name ‘El Huaso and the 101 All Stars’. The name would later be shortened to the ‘101 All Stars’ and then finally just the ‘101ers’. The group continued playing clubs and free festivals and by 1976 had begun to establish themselves on the London pub rock circuit.
Along with Tymon, Woody and his Spanish girlfriend Paloma Romero, the other residents included drummer Richard Dudanski, guitarist Clive Timperley, Dan Kelleher, Simon Cassell, Alvaro Peña-Rojas, Antonio Narvaez, Julian Yewdall, Marwood “Mole” Chesterton, Martin Stone and a dog called Charlie.
In April 1976, the 101-ers found themselves sharing a bill with a support band called the Sex Pistols at West London’s Nashville Room, Woody, now calling himself Joe Strummer recounts the night in Don Letts film Westway To The World, by saying, “5 seconds into their (the Pistols’) first song, I knew we were like yesterday’s paper, we were over.”
Joe Strummer went onto join a fledgling Clash, with near neighbours Mick Jones and Paul Simenon. Paloma changed her name to Palmolive co-founded The Slits as their drummer and went to join The Raincoats. Richard Dudanski went onto play with The Raincoats, PiL and The Basement 5. Clive Timperley formed British New Wave band The Passions, and multi instrumentalist Tymon Dogg continued to collaborate with Strummer and was a member of The Mescaleros.
All photos from Clash history at theclash.org.uk
On 1 September 2012, under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, squatting in residential property was criminalised by the Government. However, squatting in a commercial building is still not a criminal offence.