Joe stole my mic!

This account is by a guy named Tim:

" It was in the summer of 1975 that I first encountered Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band, the 101'ers. I was booking gigs for my college in London, and the 101'ers were booked for a private party one weekend. They had used the college's newly acquired P.A., and it was my job to check in all the equipment after any such event. On discovering that one of our six new Shure mics was missing -- subbed out for one held together with electrical tape -- it was my responsibility to either get it back or replace it.

After several fruitless attempts to contact Strummer at his squat in North London, I decided on a more direct approach. I knew the band had a regular Tuesday gig in a pub north of the Thames, so I went to one of their shows to exchange mics. Waiting for a break between sets, I jumped onstage and made the swap. This went a lot smoother than I expected; the band had gone for beers, and nobody seemed concerned about my actions.

Mission accomplished, and feeling pretty pleased with myself, I stayed for a couple of pints. To this day, it's hard to describe my reactions to seeing Strummer play. I had never before seen such intensity and such unrestrained energy in a lead singer. At that time, their music was generically termed "pub rock." I remember the Chuck Berry covers at 90 mph, with Strummer literally spitting out the lyrics as the veins in his neck and forehead looked like they were about to burst. He could barely carry a tune, but that didn't matter. His performance was mesmerizing.

Despite my reason for being there, I was so impressed that I booked them for a Friday night gig at the student union that October. They weren't exactly a huge draw, with about 35 punters paying 30 pence (approximately 50 cents), but in my mind, the gig was a huge success; the whole audience danced like lunatics, and the band got at least three encores. As word of this event spread, I got more and more requests to rebook the band, so on March 26, 1976, they played the student union again. This time, the sold-out crowd went nuts for the whole show. The band was happy (they'd been paid 125 pounds) and didn't even try to leave with any of our P.A. equipment.

This was just the beginning of the punk movement. The 101'ers were like the missing link that connected pub rock to punk rock. I had already turned down a free gig from a guy called Malcolm McLaren, who wanted his band the Sex Pistols to get exposure at some smaller college venues. As their first gigs had already garnered a fair bit of publicity, I decided that booking a band that taunted, spat on, and picked fights with the audience was not my idea of a good gig. It still isn't.

At the end of that summer, I went into the Voluntary Service Overseas, the British equivalent of the Peace Corps. I spent two years in the Caribbean on the island of Dominica, where my only connection with the music scene was a subscription to NME. On my return to England, much had changed. Long hair was now very uncool, punk had transformed the fashion and music scene, and the Clash was one of the most popular bands in the country. Strummer's interest in dub and reggae had been absorbed into the band's music, and his lyrics had created a much-needed awareness of politics and racism in Margaret Thatcher's conservative government.

I remember my cousin from California visiting me in London sometime later. Wanting to give him the complete "British experience," I got tickets to see the Clash at Hammersmith. It was incredible. The audience was a throbbing mass, with the hard-core crowd at the front of the stage spitting into the air throughout the show. This created a haze of phlegm through which most of the audience viewed the band. This aggravated Strummer, and he told them so, but it didn't impair his performance, which was electrifying. I left feeling exhilarated. My cousin left speechless."



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