Things were happening but they were mainly happening in London. Dr Feelgood had vitalised the pub rock scene and in their wake new bands were springing up, from the East there were Eddie and the Hot Rods from Canvey Island, in the West of London the 101ers were playing a form of souped up squat rock.These were all fairly disparate elements, the P word had only just started to be used, mainly in relation to The Hot Rods, but these were all just new bands who traded in raw energy rather than musical ability.
One step closer to the heart of punk was a band that wasn’t really a band, they never made a record or even played a gig, in fact they didn’t even have a stabile line up. We are talking about the virtual band London SS.
The core of London SS were Mick Jones and Tony James, both intelligent, ambitious men about town. Jones was a massive Mott the Hoople fan travelling around the country to support his heroes. Mott had made the transition from being a lumpy traditional rock band to talented purveyors of glam rock singles (and lumpy album tracks).this was Jones’s template, a trashy kind of traditional rock band way before Hanoi Rocks made this a real possibility. James, on the other hand, had been to university to study mathematics which was still quite an achievement for ordinary kids mid 70’s.
And so Jones and James did what hundreds of other kids were doing up and down the country and tried to form a band. Despite being quite audibly not the best musicians on the block they did have several things going for them. They had energy and purpose, time spent not learning to play their instruments had been spent posing in front of the mirror, time seldom wasted if you aspire to being glam rock contenders. The band were based in London which helped no end, there were plenty of other musicians around and they had made the acquaintance of a certain Bernie Rhodes.
Rhodes was Malcolm McLaren’s mini me and determined to find a band all of his own. He identified Jones’s star quality and set out to make him a rock and roll contender. . Like McLaren he was prone to hyper intelligence, bullshit, luck and egomania but with Rhodes involved things did begin to happen.
In fact, as might be anticipated, Rhodes’s influence was as destructive as creative, in the early days a band did at least exist as seen below.
And so musicians that at least came into the London SS orbit were
Later to form the Clash with Joe Strummer then Big Audio Dynamite, Carbon /Silicon and the Gorillaz
Bass player for Chelsea then Generation X with Billy Idol. Then onto novelle glam rock one hit wonders Sigue Sigue Sputnik and The Sisters of Mercy and back to play with Jones In Carbon/Silicon.
Guitarist for The Dammed
Later to form The Rich Kids with Glen Matlock from the Pistols
Terry Chimes/Topper Headon
Both to be drummers with the Clash. Headon notaby quit London SS for a better paying gig with a touring soul outfit.
Drummer for The Dammed.
Had a woeful audition as vocalist but picked up bass to join the Clash
Matt Dangerfield/ Casio Steele
Both members of the Hollywood Bratts Glam pretenders but more significantly for our purposes were later members of The Boys, slightly forgotten early punk band.
These of course were the more renowned members, bear in mind that that this was a band in existence for only a few months and it becomes clear why they never even played a gig, they were too busy auditioning and rehearsing.
One would imagine that Bernie Rhodes did not exactly help keep the band together, his protégé was Mick Jones and in his inevitable rewriting of history he reported…
‘The London SS were 3 guys, Mick Jones, Tony James, and Brian James. I got them in a rehearsal room and watched them for two weeks, and I said “You can fuck off but Mick can stay”…at one time Rat Scabies was in too. The London SS was a load of bollocks’
And so the band came to an end, remembered not for what the band actually did but what the members later went on to. In London SS were the embryonic Clash and Dammed, two of the ‘big three’ (the other of course being The Sex Pistols)
Jones later attempted a fairly pathetic re writing of the band’s name (Strummer had already done the same thing claiming the 101ers were named after the torture room in George Orwell’s 1984 rather than the address of their rehearsal cellar) stating the SS stood for social security as they were ‘all on the dole’. It didn’t of course, it was supposed to sound edgy and exciting by flirting with the Nazis but soon Jones was due to be caught up in the flood of Punk and London SS would be old news.
The only musical legacy from the band are a couple of songs that were later adapted by the Clash
So here they are…
In the usual style of ‘ you couldn’t make this up’ London SS actually reformed, not with any of the talented people who went on to have musical careers of course, no one of the unfamous guitarists who passed through the band has reformed London SS Which is a bit like the washboard player with the Quarymen forming a band and passing themselves off as The Beatles.unfortunately the band spent as much denying they are nazis as playing gigs.