Music from Joe Strummer's pre-Clash days to be released

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The Independent Culture

They were there at the birth of punk and gave the soon-to-be music icon Joe Strummer a chance to cut his teeth as a songwriter, though few outside a London clique had a chance to hear them.

They were there at the birth of punk and gave the soon-to-be music icon Joe Strummer a chance to cut his teeth as a songwriter, though few outside a London clique had a chance to hear them.

Now unreleased tracks by the former Clash front man, recorded during his stint with his band the 101ers, are to be heard for the first time with an album of material to be issued next month.

It was 29 years ago today that a gig by the band helped to change the musical direction of the 1970s and forged punk as a movement. The show in question, at London's Nashville Rooms, saw the 101ers supported by brash young upstarts the Sex Pistols - a performance that convinced Strummer he needed to pursue a new musical direction, adopting the less-is-more approach of punk.

"After I saw the Sex Pistols I realised we were yesterday's papers," Strummer once said of his decision to leave the "pub rock" scene of which the 101ers had been a part. It was with the formation of Strummer's next band the Clash that, along with the Sex Pistols, punk became a fully fledged movement.

Yet despite the 101ers importance as a springboard for Strummer - the man who put politics into punk and who died in 2002 - they left little in the way of a recorded legacy, just one single and a posthumous compilation given only a limited release in 1981. His widow Lucinda has been keen to make all his recordings available, and as a result EMI is to issue the entire studio sessions and a number of live songs, several of which had been lost until now, on the CD Elgin Avenue Breakdown (Revisited).

The 101ers rose from the west London squatting scene, and the band's name was derived from the number of the house in which they camped out. Their live set consisted of raw primal versions of R&B classics, but gradually gave way to their own compositions. It was not until the tail-end of the band's life that they began to attract record company attention. There was just one single issued, "Keys to Your Heart", before Strummer moved on.

Micky Foote, the 101ers' sound engineer, remembers the effect that the first show with the Sex Pistols had on the musician.

"There was a much younger audience than we were used to and he realised there was obviously something stirring outside squat city," he said. "It opened Joe's eyes to the situation."

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