Under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (1a), squatting in residential buildings is now a criminal offence.
“What does this have to do with 70s music?!” – You would ask, right?
If you know anything about Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and The Clash, then you know that squatting allowed the birth of what today is still called
The only band that matters
The numer 101 might be familiar to anyone who, just like me, lives in the very obsession of the legend who is Joe Strummer. Walterton Road was not only home, but also creative and recording studio of The 101ers, Joe’s early band (he still had long hair!). On their album “Algine Avenue Breakdown”, you can hear a very early live version of “Junco Partner“, mostly similar to the early recording by James Waynes. A later version on “Sandinista!” became one of the best executed takes of The Clash at raggae.
In 1976, Joe Strummer left his occupied house in Maida Vale (and the 101ers) to move just 2 miles South, to 33 Daventry Street, where he was neighbour to Mick Jones. Many other artists were squatting those buildings, dedicating themselves to music and community living so rarely seen today across London and England (for one of the last examples, you can visit Freedom Press here in Shoreditch). Just one year later, the original formation of The Clash (Strumer, Jones, Simonon and Headon), was sharing the stage with Sex Pistols at the famous concert at Nashville’s Room. As Joe Strummer himself said, recorded in Don Letts’ latest “Westway to the World”:
“5 seconds into their first song, I knew we were like yesterday’s paper, we were over”
Of course, Joe didn’t mean to give up on The Clash, but he was foreseeing the first step to the musical change that costed the band much critics from their fans in the upcoming years. The Clash have always been pioneers and foreseers, not only anticipating music trends by decades, they also read into the society they lived in like no other artist has ever done.
Paul Simonon, South Londoner born and raised, wrote “Guns of Brixton” in 1979, speaking to the struggle of the working class, and especially Black Caribbean community struggle with the economy, and more importantly witht the local, and mostly white, police. Not even a year later, the 1980 Brixton Riots happened, remaining the most notorious event in Brixton, until gentrification reached it.
Today, Brixton still tries to resist this change (That famous Green-Mermaid coffee chain at the station is now closed!), but spaces like the squatted buildings that allowed for The Clash to become the generation-changing phenomena that they’ve been (and still are) are nowhere to be found, not only in the neighbourhood, but throughout England. No wonder music has fallen slave to money and market.
Worry not, artists resisting late capitalism! Under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (1b), squatting in commercial buildings is still not a criminal offence.
Joe Strumme Plaque pic available at: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/joe-strummer-squat .
Black Market Clash Abum Cover pic available at: https://twitter.com/theclash/status/421674134737661952 (featuring a young Don Letts facing the police at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival Riots).