Crass – Not always clad in black

Before Crass got themselves looking and sounding in the way we now ‘view’ or ‘hear’ them in our ‘minds eye’ the band played a few sporadic gigs in London. This is a snippet of one of the gigs filmed by Mike Duffield at Action Space Drill Hall in November 1977. Interestingly Crass are not all dressed in black.

Below is a list of other gigs that Crass played from the bands formation until the end of 1978, around the time when the band decided to get decked out in grey / black military type clothing. There is also some information about the early period of Crass from that Wikipeedear!

The 1977 Action Space Drill Hall flyer (with guests Dead Fingers Talk and The Nipple Erectors!) from Tony D’s collection the other flyers are from Toby Mott’s collection.

CRASS LIVE:

??/??/77 Huntley Street, London

27+??/08/77 Roxy Club, London (the photograph above shows The Roxy club at that point long shut down in the summer of 1978 but still a place for Crass graffiti and posters to be shown)

16/11/77 Action Space Drill Hall, London

25/04/78 White Lion, Puntey Bridge, London

07/05/78 Rock against Racism, Action Space, London

Summer 78 New York

Summer 78 Small Theatre, New York

Summer 78 Quando’s, New York

Summer 78 Gee’s friends loft, New York

13/09/78 The Film Co-Op, Prince of Wales Crescent, London

29/09/78 Acklam Hall, London

25/10/78 Moonlight Club, London

22/11/78 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland

The band was based around Dial House, an open-house community near Epping, Essex, and formed when Dial House founder Penny Rimbaud began jamming with Steve Ignorant (who lived in the house at the time). Ignorant was inspired to form a band after seeing The Clash perform at Colston Hall in Bristol, whilst Rimbaud was working on his book Reality Asylum. They produced “So What?” and “Do They Owe Us A Living?” as a drum-and-vocal duo. They briefly called themselves Stormtrooper before choosing Crass in reference to a line “The kids was just crass” in the David Bowie song “Ziggy Stardust”.

Other friends and household members joined (including Gee Vaucher, Pete Wright, N. A. Palmer and Steve Herman), and Crass played their first live gig at a squatted street festival in Huntley Street, North London. They planned to play five songs, but a neighbour “pulled the plug” after three. Guitarist Steve Herman left the band soon afterwards, and was replaced by Phil Free. Joy De Vivre and Eve Libertine also joined around this time.

Crass played two gigs at the Roxy Club in Covent Garden, London. According to Rimbaud, the band arrived drunk at the second show and were ejected from the stage; this inspired their song, “Banned from the Roxy”, and Rimbaud’s essay for Crass’ self-published magazine International Anthem, “Crass at the Roxy”.

Other early Crass performances included a four-date tour of New York City, a festival gig in Covent Garden and regular appearances with the U.K. Subs at the White Lion in Putney and Action Space in central London. The latter performances were often poorly-attended: “The audience consisted mostly of us when the Subs played and the Subs when we played”.

During this period the band took themselves more seriously, avoiding alcohol and cannabis before shows and wearing black, military surplus-style clothing on and offstage.

They introduced their stage backdrop, a logo designed by Rimbaud’s friend Dave King. This gave the band a militaristic image, which led to accusations of fascism. Crass countered that their uniform appearance was intended to be a statement against the “cult of personality”, so (in contrast to many rock bands) no member would be identified as the “leader”.

Conceived and intended as cover artwork for a self-published pamphlet version of Rimbaud’s Christ’s Reality Asylum, the Crass logo was an amalgam of several “icons of authority” including the Christian cross, the swastika, the Union Jack and a two-headed Ouroboros (symbolising the idea that power will eventually destroy itself). Using such deliberately-mixed messages was part of Crass’ strategy of presenting themselves as a “barrage of contradictions”, challenging audiences to (in Rimbaud’s words) “make your own fucking minds up”. This included using loud, aggressive music to promote a pacifist message, a reference to their Dadaist, performance-art backgrounds and situationist ideas.

The band eschewed elaborate stage lighting during live sets, preferring to play under 40-watt household light bulbs; the technical difficulties of filming under such lighting conditions partly explains why there is little live footage of Crass. They pioneered multimedia presentation, using video technology (back-projected films and video collages by Mick Duffield and Gee Vaucher) to enhance their performances, and also distributed Samizdat style literature such as leaflets and hand outs explaining anarchist ideas to their audiences.

Andy ‘B A Nana’ Palmer of Crass and Tony Puppy of this realm meet up again recently, after thirty years of being estranged, at Andy’s garage sale in North London. Of course after Andy had left Dial House he was part of the Islington based Black Sheep housing co-operative along with a host of other notables. Myself, other Kill Your Pet Puppies and gentle Mob folk included.

Interestingly similarly to the footage of Crass from 1977, neither of us are dressed in black in 2013.

Mickey ‘Penguin’ kindly took a photograph or two of myself alongside Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine at the Vortex in Dalston. Although the photographs are in black and white, both were not dressed in black either! I had a wonderful chat with both of them, again similar to Andy ‘B A Nana’, for the first time in thirty years!

Kill Your Pet Puppy issue 2 – February / March 1980

Just realized that the second issue of KYPP came out about this time, checked it out and indeed it was – thirty three years ago. Here’s a few memories from me of that time.

After awhile of KYPP1 being released/published/onsale/whatever people started to ask about the next one. The reply given was that the next one would come when there was something relevant to say. I wanted to avoid the production-line conveyor-belt problem of producing issues at regular intervals because it was expected. I’d been through all that with Ripped & Torn. When the time was right it would happen, that was the Puppy party line.

Except there was a constant personal worry that I wouldn’t be able to match the first one, and this procrastination wasn’t helping the paranoia. Then a few things happened at once; Leigh and myself went to see Crass at Dial House to discuss our views about their pacifist stance, which was printed in the first issue (pro-Crass-tination). A few days later we received a letter from Penny Rimbaud, a long review of their philosophy. This has to go into the next ssue I thought, which meant creating a new issue and not faffing about.

Then there was the Sid Vicious memorial march; which brought together a lot of people and strands of thought: and also brought a lot of things to a head. I wrote about those things, and then I wrote about why I thought those things – and the two pieces became the mainstay of KYPP2: appearing as the pieces ‘Apocalypse Now, Part 1’ and ‘Pet Puppies In Theory and Practice, Part 2’.

AL Puppy then wrote one of his best and most sustained pieces of work, a six-page essay. This was also too important to not put in, and another sign that an issue had to be put out.

So all of those things went into the pot. When I went to Joly of Better Badges with this idea, assuming the same deal would be on as for the last issue and he would front the money for it’s publication, he was not impressed. To cap it all I went mad on the idea of printing coloured images then overprinting them with black text, which meant basically, as every page was being printed twice the costs would be of printing two fanzines for the price of one.

Even worse, commercially, was not having ‘a band’ on the cover: the picture incidentally is a photobooth photograph of Val Puppy and Brett Puppy.

Luckily Joly went with the flow. The issue was written, laid out and finished between the 4th and 7th of February 1980: and by the next week it was in the shops.

My lasting regret with KYPP2 is that I didn’t get a new typewriter ribbon for the final drafts of my writings. Without getting too technical this is why the pages (reproduced in our photo gallery) are hard to read. Don’t blame Joly – I gave him poor image quality pages to work from.

Another regret is not charging Virgin Records an arm and a leg for their advert promoting the Pistols’ ‘Flogging A Dead Horse’ album. They paid the same as Vinyl Solution and the Last Words. I was a fool.

Interestingly the back page is an oblique review of Bauhaus, who we’d seen play at the Rock Garden. Brett Puppy was the one who dragged us all there; and seeing Pete Murphy do his mime act stuff with the bright light in the box with the churning riffs of the band driving it on – it was like seeing the Ants at the Man In The Moon all over again. And just as good: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ was, to me, their ‘Plastic Surgery’ moment.

So there we were, Anarcho-punk’s fragile community under threat from the far-right and a new band dawning with all the flash and dangerous excitement of the Ants.

At the end of the last page there is the line ‘WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?’  We meant that, man.

Visuals of Bauhaus a couple of years later doing the light in the box thing.

And here is some audio of them performing ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ live in 1980 HERE

And the released single version can be heard on this KYPP post HERE

There’s also a great live version at the beginning of the film ‘The Hunger’  which can be found on youtube and many other outlets.

Memories of the producing Kill Your Pet Puppy issue 1 can be read HERE

Eighties Punk stories in ebook news

We have been alerted to the news of punk fiction relating to the nineteen eighties being released in ebook form, available for free. We have been alerted to this by the writer of said works.

Marcus Blakeston, the author and self-proclaimed ‘shouting poet’, says the work is “Nine interlinked slice of life dramas set in and around a small Yorkshire town in the early 1980s. They are populated by an assortment of punks, skinheads, yobs and hooligans. Not suitable for yuppies.”

As far as I can gather you get the books for free HERE

And there’s more about it all HERE , where for some reason it asks for £2.50. but you can read it all anyway.

A biography of sorts and the subject matter within the books:

“I was 13 in year zero. Like most of the people in these stories, I was too young for the first wave and only really got to be a part of it for the second, though my older brother did sneak me in to the local night club to see a few of the original bands.

I left school the year Thatcher first started to fuck the country up, and other than a few brief periods in dead-end jobs, I spent most of her reign on the dole, just like most of the people I knew.

In the 80s I started writing poetry. Spurred on by people around me, I used to dive on stage uninvited at local gigs and shout poetry at the audience while the band tuned up, until I either ran out of poems or got shoved off the stage by the band. I was approached by Marcus Featherby once, who said he was looking for a poet to put on a compilation album he was putting together for PAX Records, but I turned it down.

Domesticity called in the late 80s, with children arriving soon after, and all my childhood interests were put to one side. I still went to gigs, but only as a member of the audience. I stopped writing, and the dole forced me onto various training schemes that I hated intensely until one day I said I was interested in computers and they sent me on a computer training course. I found I had a flair for desktop publishing, and landed a job with a local training company who had bought the software but struggled to do anything worthwhile with it. They paid me through college on day release, I got myself a degree in graphic design, and then they made me redundant.

Back on the dole again, everything was completely different. Now you had to actually prove you were applying for jobs before they would give you anything, and they treated you like scum. I couldn’t really handle that, so I set up my own business, designing leaflets (and later websites) for anyone who would pay me. I also buy and sell on Ebay, mostly books and old games consoles, but also anything else I think might turn a modest profit”.

This is the blurb for the full book:

Nine interlinked slice of life dramas set in and around a small Yorkshire town in the early 1980s. Written by shouting poet Marcus Blakeston, they are populated by an assortment of punks, skinheads, yobs and hooligans. Not suitable for yuppies.

Punk and Disorderly: Punk rocker Colin Baxter was looking for a good night out, getting as drunk as possible to escape the tedium of his life on the dole. He certainly wasn’t looking for a fight with one of the local skinheads.

Yob Culture: Skinhead Trog was in a foul mood when he pushed through the door to The Black Bull, and the rowdy sounds of his favourite band The Cockney Upstarts playing on the jukebox did little to calm him. It was bad enough having his bird yelling and screaming at him and then stamping off in a sulk without having some gobby student call him a ‘rotter’.

Bored Teenagers: Four short vignettes in which nothing much happens.

Warrior in Woolworths: Woolworths security guard John Taylor doesn’t like punks. If he had his way they would all be shipped off to the Falklands to fight the Argies. Management might say he has to let scum like that in the shop, but that doesn’t mean he has to put up with any nonsense from them.

Gothic Rooms: “Come back to my bedsit,” Stiggy said, “we’ll play some records and stuff.” But when Colin gets there he finds out Stiggy has other plans.

It’s All Done by Mirrors: Colin and Brian had it all planned out, a romantic night out with a couple of punk birds – go and see a band, ply the birds with drinks all night, then see how it goes. But then glue sniffer and social misfit Stiggy decides to tag along.

Sniffin Glue: There’s only one thing worse than having some kid yapping in your ear while you’re trying to enjoy a good bag of glue in peace, and that’s having the coppers turn up while you’re off your head and unable to defend yourself.

I’m an Upstart: Top oi band The Cockney Upstarts, much loved by both punks and skinheads alike, are playing in nearby Shefferham. Unfortunately they chose to play at a time when tensions between punks and skinheads are running high. Life Moves On. An announcement is made.

Discuss – should some future puppy madness be disseminated this way?

Didn’t You Used To Be Tony D?

September went a bit mad for my old Ripped & Torn past, as two events dusted it down and included it in their various retrospectives of punk and DIY culture.

The events were the launch of a book called ‘Fanzines’, authored by Teal Triggs and an exhibition of punk memorabilia – Loud Flash: British Punk On Paper –  at a Mayfair art gallery curated by the fashion designer Toby Mott.

Press interest in the exhibition led to covers of Ripped & Torn being published in such mainstream papers as The Observer and Shortlist magazine (plus honourable mentions in many more). See these pages by clicking here or go to our photobucket gallery on your own steam and look in the ‘Nowadays’ album.

The book launch was held in the bowels of the London College of Communication at Elephant & Castle, and was well attended by a large crowd of mainly young and enthusiastic writers / designers / self-publishers.

 

I spoke with the author who told me that the art of fanzines is flourishing as new writers are reverting to the printed page more and more and she has never seen so much interest in the fanzine culture: both looking at the old and writing the new.

This KYPP site is mentioned in the book and Teal said, “the book shows how important your zine has been both in terms of content and also graphically. I certainly have enjoyed   keeping up with things from your website”.

This event is written about here by Jeremy Leslie at Magculture.com, he also took the picture of Teal and myself.

Three days later was the private view of Loud Flash: British Punk On Paper, and after the LCC I wasn’t prepared for how posh was the Haunch Of Venison art gallery where the exhibition was being held: or how many people would be attending this event.

It was heaving, and heaving with the most significant people. We formed a punk corner with people like Spizz Oil and other fanzine writers, venturing out into the mass only to run into Adam Ant!

There’s an enormous amount of stuff on display – interestingly there are walls of both National Front and Rock Against Racism stuff showing that young Toby Mott had a grasp of the bigger picture of punk – well worth a visit. It’s free and on till 30th October, address: 6 Burlington Gardens W1S 3ET.

I behaved myself well enough at the private view to be invited to join a roundtable discussion about punk to be held the next week.

The roundtable discussion held on Wednesday 29th September at the Haunch of Venison Gallery turned out to be very interesting for those of us on the panel but not so sure what the invited audience made of it.

Photo by Heather Blockley

The panel consisted of Toby Mott, Ray Gange (actor from the Clash film ‘Rude Boy’), Teal Triggs, myself and a literary hero, who turned out to be my nemesis on the night, Peter York.

Peter, who wrote about punk in 1977 for Harpers and Queen and some of these pieces are in his book Style Wars, gave a picture of punk as middle class kids posturing as a form of art. “It was never working class kids from tower blocks”, was his view, and he coloured this in with several stories and anecdotes. Even worse his version of punk was that the first wave was the only wave and that soon these kids found something else to do which allowed them to dress up and be pretty.

I gave the continuing story, that 1977 and the emergence of bands such as The Lurkers, 999 and The Ants was when punk really began to mean something; how 1978 was the year of the Ant and the beginning of mass punk squatting; then the galvanisation of Crass and the evolution of anarcho punk through the eighties.

If I hadn’t been there it would have been the Peter York vision that was propounded, as Toby and the Haunch of Venison MC – Mark ? – were from that side of society and comfortable with that revisionist history. Indeed, toward the end the three of them eagerly supported the proposition put to the panel that Thatcher was a punk rocker as she supported the entrepreneur and the ‘little guy’!

If this site / blog hadn’t existed I would have instigated it at that moment.

Made me realise why Puppy is more important than Ripped & Torn, because what we did at the time – and are doing now – is to show in a positive manner that punk didn’t neatly ‘die’ when New Romantics came along. And no matter how people like Toby Mott show the wider picture  – vis a vis the fascist / RAR stuff and materials up to and including Crass covers – punk is still too easily compartmentalized and stored away in Sex Pistol shaped boxes.

The discussion was filmed and it is hoped to have it available on either Youtube or Vimeo in the near future.

At the end a smartly dressed lady came over and introduced herself. It turned out she’d been to gigs at St John’s Church on Pentonville Road at the beginnings of anarcho. Which just goes to show something, she was of the Mayfair set and pally with the Tobys and the Peters yet she knew exactly where I was coming from and congratulated me on saying what I did. She too felt that this part of punk history was unfairly swept under the carpet. Goes to show something, but what I still can’t express.

The story continues. Housman’s bookshop have been given an evening at the ICA on October 21st and have asked me to do a bit of a talk there about punk and all that. Penguin should be there too. The acclaimed writer Stewart Home will also be on the stage, whether at the same time it’s hard to say. But it should be good.

Tony posing with R&T cover at Fanzines book launch

No Doves Fly Here – Kalashnikov Collective

Kalashnikov Collective cover The Mob’s No Doves Fly Here with haunting turned up to eleven.

From the Kalashnikov collective’s album “Living in a psycho-caos era” (DIY 2010).

 

Kalashnikov were born in 1996 on the dirty floor of a squat in Milan, to give vent to the adolescent restlessness of three guys with their ears clogged by Wretched, Bad Religion and Clash. Under the drunkenness of the heavenly libertarian nectar and rejecting the ruling alternative thrash music, Kalashnikov are created with the wish to put together their own utopias and passion. Through the years there were many changes either in the line-up, or in our music and our lyrics, but anyway some features have lasted: Kalashnikov have always played a concentration of melodic and fast music with high libertarian spirit, following the path of DIY.

More details on the official website HERE

Brigandage live at the Bull And Gate, 1986

Richard Kick has just put up some new clips on his youtube channel, rcabutx.

This is the first of the six parts of Brigandage live at the Bull And Gate, 1986. Enjoy.

Warning – there’s a lot of smoking going on in this clip.

Campbell Buildings on film

Infamous punk squat Campbell Buildings was used as a location for the TV show, Hammer House of Horror episode Rude Awakening. Here are the clips from that show – some may enjoy the wrecking ball scene in Part 4.


Arrival at the buildings


Inside, possibly not filmed in Campbell Buildings


On the roof


The wrecking ball scene


An earlier sequence in the espisode with actress Lucy Gutteridge playing a punk.

The deathplace of Aleister Crowley

Tony Puppy outside Netherwood, Hastings, 6th December 2008

On Saturday 6th December I was in Hastings, and decided to see the place where Aleister Crowley spent his last year, and indeed died. The place, Netherwood, was demolished some time ago and all that remains of the original building is this coach house and the East Wing of the main building, now a pub.

So far so touristy. Later I read up about Crowley’s time at Netherwood and found he died there on 1st December 1947, and was cremated in Brighton on the 5th December; so my chance visit was very nearly on his anniversary. That made it a bit more spooky, had forces conspired to send me to Hastings this weekend for this purpose?

Anyway hope you like the pictures. They can also be viewed in the photo album, under the album ‘Nowadays’.

Some history of the last day’s of The Beast 666 ripped from 21stcenturyradio.com below:

In 1975, while staying at Hastings, England, with my aunt, I was fortunate enough to be introduced by her to Kathleen (or ‘Johnny’) Symonds, a charming widow in her 60s, who had not only been Aleister Crowley’s last landlady but who was with him when he died in 1947.

Mrs Symonds and I soon established a pleasing rapport, which was sufficient to prompt her to reminisce about her former guest — a man made notorious by the popular press for the practice of ‘sex magick’ and other supposedly shocking occult activities — which she had refused to do with journalists. I met with her again on later visits to the South Coast resort, when she allowed me to tape-record her recollections.

Johnny had owned and run, with her husband Vernon, a large, gabled Victorian guest house named Netherwood. The property stood in its extensive 4-acre grounds, wherein were outbuildings, a lawn tennis court, a large garden, shrubbery and many trees, on The Ridge, a road running across the flank of the upland area behind Hastings, about 500 feet above sea level. Netherwood’s situation afforded extensive views of the town, its Norman castle, Beachy Head and the sea, which were doubtless part of its albeit wind-blown attraction to visitors.

Keeping Netherwood going during the Second World War, when there was food, fuel and petrol rationing, had been hard for the couple, but business started picking up in the second half of 1945, once the conflict was over.

Vernon Symonds’ disposition helped in this regard. He was a sociable ‘arty type’, keen on amateur dramatics, good conversation and on mingling with those well-known in the arts and sciences. He used his contacts to tempt down intellectual luminaries like Professor C.E.M. Joad, J.B.S. Haldane, Edith Bone, and Professor Jacob Bronowski to Netherwood, on the understanding that in return for a free stay they gave a talk about their work and ideas to the other guests. Vernon also provided the best cuisine possible in that difficult period and a relaxed atmosphere.

The intellectual and gustatory attractions of Netherwood were made clear by him in the handbook: ‘So long as I am here,’ he wrote, ‘this house will never be a guest house in the ordinary sense of the term. Those seeking a conventional establishment will be able to find better accommodation elsewhere, for my friends care more for fine food than for the ritual of dressing for dinner, and more for culture and the arts than for bridge and poker.’

Netherwood even featured significantly in the musical development of one young prodigy. ‘A couple called Caplan,’ explained Mrs Symonds, ‘frequently brought down a boy named Julian Bream who would play the guitar for the guests. After his recital we would pass the hat around and the money collected would pay for his next lesson. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.’

It was in this unusual and somewhat snobbish milieu that Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast 666, found his final haven.

At the end of the war Crowley was lodging in cold, cheerless, uncomfortable digs in Surrey, which had acerbated his chronic asthma and depressed his spirits. Finding somewhere else to live was proving difficult, for he was not only a victim of his own notoriety but he lacked a regular income. Worried about him, his old friend Louis Wilkinson, having heard about Netherwood and its eccentric proprietors from Oliver Marlow, who acted with Vernon Symonds in the Hastings Court Players, asked Marlow to enquire if the Symondses would be prepared to take on such an infamous old reprobate.’So my husband came home and asked me, “Do you mind if Aleister Crowley comes and stay with us?”‘ related his wife. ‘So I said, “Whoever is he?” And he said, “He’s the wickedest man in the world.” “Oh,” I said, “I don’t care!”‘

But if Johnny had never heard of Crowley before, his dramatic arrival soon alerted her to the fact that he was no ordinary mortal.

She explained: ‘Eventually we received a telegram which said, “Expect consignment of frozen meat on such-and-such a day and at such-and-such a time,” when meat was still on ration — so the Post Office handed (a copy of) this telegram to the Food Ministry.

‘We were somewhat perplexed by this because we hadn’t ordered any meat and we were even more surprised when the day arrived and two food inspectors turned up in anticipation of the delivery. While we were talking to them an ambulance suddenly came down the drive, the door opened, and out jumped Aleister Crowley with about 40 or 50 paper parcels (containing) all his books. My husband said, “Well, there you are: that’s the frozen meat!” ‘

That day, she recalled, Crowley looked rather pale and wan, and his hair was cut very short. He was wearing ‘rather wide knickerbockers’ with stockings, and shoes with big silver buckles. Augustus John’s portrait of him, which was drawn earlier in the year, shows him with the same gaunt, somewhat startled appearance possessed by many elderly people. Johnny could not remember the exact date of his arrival, and when we looked in the Netherwood guest book of the period, we found that its first page had been torn out, presumably by someone intent on stealing Crowley’s signature. However, as the next date in the book was 8 September 1945, it suggested that he had come to stay at Netherwood either in late August or very early September, about six weeks before his 70th birthday.

There was a choice of rooms and Crowley opted for number 13, which was at the front of the house. ‘He wanted to go into that one,’ she remembered. ‘It was furnished in the same way as most of the other rooms. There was a large wardrobe, a writing table, a bookshelf and a single bed, as well as a bathroom and toilet. He put up quite a lot of pictures, including several he had painted in the Himalayas.’

Crowley brought with him some special gold coins, which he claimed had magic powers and was anxious about keeping safe, and a ‘box of (I Ching) sticks’. He made frequent use of the latter. ‘When he had an appointment for the dentist, for instance, he threw the sticks in the air. And once he called me and said, “Phone the dentist immediately! The sticks have told me not to go.” The dentist was very amazed.’

The Great Beast soon settled into a regular daily routine. At nine each morning the housekeeper Miss Clarke took him his breakfast, and at ten, if the weather was fine, he would take a stroll in the garden, where Johnny kept some beautiful plump white rabbits, which he nicknamed ‘The Chrysanthemums’ and would love to watch. When the sun shone he would often sit with his hands held heavenwards.

Crowley then spent most of the rest of the day sleeping in his room, where he also took his other meals. His favourite snack was sardines sprinkled with curry powder. He roused himself as darkness fell, and sat up all night either writing letters, reading or indulging in his heroin drug habit.

‘He had a ration of heroin which was allowed him,’ Mrs Symonds said. ‘It used to come down from a chemist called Heppel’s in London. But the police knew about it. I’ve often watched him stick a needle in his arm. He didn’t mind.’

The housekeeper Miss Clarke was not very fond of Crowley, whom he teased by calling her a witch and by claiming he had seen her flying past his window at night on a broomstick. Crowley’s raillery may have resulted from her clumsiness in nearly losing one of his precious gold coins, which she shook out of the window along with the crumbs from his tablecloth. It fell into the bushes below, where it lay for several hours, much to its owner’s consternation, before finally being found.

An amusing incident involving Miss Clarke occurred when Johnny asked Crowley to do her horoscope, but could only tell him that she had been born in the night.

‘When he got round to starting the horoscope, he wrote me a little note which he placed on his breakfast tray. The housekeeper peeped at it, and when she saw that it said “Before or after midnight?” she showed it to my husband, thinking that I was planning a nocturnal escapade with Mr Crowley. We all had a good laugh about that.’

Despite his unenviable reputation and the fact that he insisted on greeting everyone with injunction ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’, the Great Beast proved a popular addition to the Netherwood household. He had considerable charm, a pleasing personality and was very erudite, which helped make him a good companion and a stimulating talker. He had many long conversations about all manner of subjects with Vernon Symonds.

Crowley joined Hastings Chess Club, where ‘nobody ever beat him’, and he also took the time to tutor the Symonds’s nephew Roland, who later became a priest, in Latin. He sometimes went for walks along The Ridge, where on sunny days he would often stop and lean against a lamp post and hold his hands palms upwards to the sun, and he patronised a health hydro there named Riposo.

‘He had many visitors,’ Mrs Symonds disclosed. ‘He had some people over from Germany who used to bring him lovely wine. And he had somebody who was in the army in Germany, who went afterwards to America.’

Crowley’s English visitors included Kenneth Grant, author of Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, Michael Houghton, the owner of the Atlantis Bookshop, John Symonds, who wrote The Magic of Aleister Crowley, and of course Louis Wilkinson.

‘He had many parcels from America with boxes of chocolates (in them) when they were rationed here, and at one time he had boxes of chocolates stacked from floor to ceiling. And he had this very strong (peluke) tobacco made with molasses; and the smell of that tobacco stayed in the room for a long time after Crowley was gone. He also made friends with a local grocer named Mr Watson, who took him out for drives and would come and look after him.’

As far as Johnny was aware, Crowley did not practise any magic, let alone ‘sex-magick’, at Netherwood, although this was probably because he was by then sexually impotent and physically ailing.

Yet she poignantly recalled that ‘there was a film in Hastings called The Wizard of Oz, and he told me he would very much like to see it. But I said, “It wouldn’t interest you at all, it’s a children’s thing.” So he didn’t go!’

Aleister Crowley’s health began seriously to deteriorate towards the end of 1947 — ‘He had a very bad chest, a sort of bronchitis’ — and despite the administrations of Dr Charnock-Smith and the efforts of Mrs Symonds ‘he got worse and worse and I think he died of pneumonia’, an event which happened on Monday, 1 December. He was cremated at Brighton on the following Friday.

‘Mrs Thorne-Drury and myself followed the coffin from Hastings to Brighton. At the crematorium we found only a few mourners, perhaps two or three. I remember that a German lady placed some red roses on his coffin. There was no service. Louis Wilkinson, who had a beautiful voice, read his poem Pan and something else that Mr Crowley had written. When we got back to Netherwood in the taxi there was a tremendous thunderstorm with lightning, which continued for the whole of the night. Louis Wilkinson, who travelled back with us, said: “That’s just what Crowley would have liked”!’

According to Johnny, Aleister Crowley was an easy-going, trouble-free resident, who not only spent much of his time in his room, but who rubbed along well with the other visitors and with her and her husband. Indeed, her feelings about him were entirely positive: ‘I liked him,’ she said. ‘He was great fun.’

‘Codeine’ and ‘Ghost On The Highway’ – Jeremy Gluck and the Yohawks