In 1976 The Sex Pistols and The Clash pulled rock ‘n’ roll out of prog rocks arse and handed it back to a new generation of kids with nothing better to do than start a punk band. The Clash said ‘The Future Is Unwritten’ the Sex Pistols screamed ‘Your future dream is a shopping spree’ and Crass sang ‘Do you wanna be a prisoner in the boundaries they set you?’ The scene moved fast from a feeling of damnation in the current system, to a fight for something better through building a punk rock family which is stronger than ever today and felt at Rebellion festival and all over the world.
In the amassing punk culture of ‘76, Steve Ignorant visited his friend Penny Rimbaud with a vision to start a punk band. Penny lived at Dial House, an ‘open door’ home he had fixed up from an abandoned barn and established as a place for creatives to stay and write, paint, contribute to without having to pay rent since ‘67. Squatting was a massive part of the punk movement but this place was another level, influenced by hippy and anarchist values and still open today. They formed a 2-piece punk band and began writing and rehearsing. “We never thought it would go further than the garden gate.” Ignorant recalls. Gradually more members joined and over the next year they started playing small gigs, festivals and squat parties. Penny said, “We were great at emptying halls initially. People thought we were crap and they were off. We fought hard.”
Ignorant named the new band Crass after a David Bowie lyric ‘The kids were just crass’. The band released the EP ‘Feeding of the 5000’ in 1978. They hoped to sell one hundred copies initially but the pressing plant used would only print a minimum of five thousand, hence the title. They decided to go against the consumerism mentality by sell their album at just above cost price, writing ‘Pay no more than £2’ on the cover, to ensure fans weren’t ripped off. They were astonished to sell all five thousand independently and go to a second pressing. Quickly the band gained a following so vast, that they became leaders of their own splinter genre of punk, labelled anarcho-punk. Since, Feeding of the 5000 has hit gold status and Crass’ legacy has gone on to influence hundreds of other bands as well as a profusion of protest movements from animal rights to feminism to the Stop The City Marches.
Because of their anarchist stance, the band and movement were hit with a media blackout and were airbrushed out of punk histories. Despite their success and significance, Crass’ work and the anarcho-punk movement as a whole, is often overlooked. Huge credit goes to George Berger, writer of ‘The Story of Crass’ and Ian Glasper author of ‘The Day the Country Died’ who have shone a light on the bands story in recent years. In this issue of Vive Le Rock we salute Crass and the anarcho punk movement.
Gee Vaucher – Artwork / Radio / Piano/ Vocals
Penny Rimbaud – Drums / Kettle
Eve Libertine – Vocals
Pete Wright – Bass Guitar
Mick Duffield – Films and Filming
Phil Free – Lead Guitar
Joy De Vive – Vocals
Steve Ignorant – Vocals
Andy Palmer – Rhythm Guitar