Bell St, NW1 – Ground zero for Punk rock

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As part of Punk.London, the year-long festival commemorating forty years of punk in London, Seymour Housing Co-op Ltd unveiled a plaque last week on one of its properties, 33 Daventry Street NW1, the squatting location where Joe Strummer lived during a pinnacle creative period between 1978-79.

So it was fitting to hear Don Lett’s, Film Director, DJ & Musician saying “Strummer didn’t need nor did he seek society’s blessing – this comes live and direct from the people!”  A message which was further reinforced by Joe’s wive, Lucinda message on the day of the unveiling in an interview with the local paper, the West End Extra  that “….Joe would have be overwhelmed to have this recognition, and just so happy that the spirit of squatting is still alive via the Co-op….” 

Where the 101ers and The Clash musician, wordsmith and punk icon was honoured with a permanent testament in an area on and off Bell Street, NW1, should also now be acknowledged also as an epicentre of London’s punk scene. 

Everyone knows Kings Road was the fashion Hub of punks forty years ago but what is less known is how the Bell Street NW1 area was the punk HQ of the UK scene. This claim for being London’s punk ground zero has been firmly established by my neighbour Robert Gordon McHarg III excellent research aided by access to Joe’s Strummers archives, in his capacity as their curator.  

In 1976 Malcolm McLaren was living at 93 Bell St with his art school friend Helen Wellington-Lloyd, the “Helen of Troy” character in Julian Temple’s film The Great Rock’n Roll Swindle. The first Sex Pistols press release bears 93 Bell St as the official address. Steve Jones and Paul Cook also lived in Bell Street. The Damned’s Captain Sensible recalled how the band used to rehearse in a church in Bell St. NW1.  43 Daventry Street, off Bell St. was where The Slits hung out and rehearsed, something Viv Albertine mentions in her 2014 book “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.” Julian Temple filmed Sid Vicious’s “C’mon everybody” and “Something Else” videos in 33 Daventry St. where Joe Strummer squatted from late ’78 until mid-1979. The Clash used the Edgware Road Ice Cream parlour as their office and were interviewed there by then local student Gary Crowley. The infamous story of Mick and Paul spotting Joe in the Dole office, took place in Lisson Grove Jobcentre (still there to this day).  I am sure we will hear more punk rock stories from Gordon’s research in the years to come 

Its incredible to know that one of the icons of Punk Rock – Joe Strummer – lived in a squat along my street when he and the Clash were holding high gigs in the UK, Europe and the US. I’m really proud to see the acknowledgement of how this enclave of Marylebone ( Bell Street ) was a sanctuary to punk rock when it needed space to flourish, showing the importance of providing creative spaces still in Central London. 

 

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