Crass – Digbeth Hall, Birmingham – 16/12/83

Statement / Yes Sir I Will

Major General Despair / Poison In A Pretty Pill / Bata Motel / Don’t Get Caught / Do They Owe Us A Living / Banned From The Roxy / Securicor / Shaved Women

Digging deep into my cassette collection I picked up this gem to upload today, a crisp mixing desk tape of an awe-inspiring Crass performance in Birmingham’s Digbeth Hall. A full seventy minutes of Crasstafarian reasonings to jump about to.

Thanks to Nic for a snippet of information in the text below and Sydney Psychokiller (?) for the ticket stub of this gig ripped off the Southern Crass forum site. Thanks also to Jim Wafford who supplied his live performance photographs above taken at Digbeth Hall at this gig.

Crass played at Digbeth Civic Hall seven times: twice in 1980, twice in 1981, once in 1982, once in 1983 and once in 1984.

I went to all of those dates: the first time I saw them was the February 1980 concert…I still have a ticket and poster for this somewhere!

They also played Birmingham before in 1979 at the Co-Op Festival Suite but I missed that one.

The early concerts were organised by people affiliated to the 021 Birmingham Anarchist group and the Peace Centre.

My memories of the concerts at Digbeth seem to be considerably different to other people, for example, I don’t really remember any aggro, although others do…

They were great concerts though, very inspiring, particularly for the way the evening was a ‘multi-media’ extravaganza which seemed to make it something special beyiond the usual rock ‘n’ roll concert…

Penny Rimbaud interview by Richie Unterberger

Q: Crass had to fight legal prosecution on a few occasions. What were the circumstances behind them?

P: Really, there was two major situations. One was very early on. We were still with Small Wonder Records in those days, who were the people who had put out our first 12-inch record. We had difficulty getting the first track pressed, the first track being called “Reality Asylum.” It was being pressed in Ireland. The actual people on the shop floor objected to the content of the first track. So we left a three-minute silence, or the length of the track silence, at the beginning of the album. So that the management of Small Wonder weren’t under any threat from it, we decided to press it ourselves as a single. We found someone who’d do it in England. Shortly after we released it, Small Wonder was raided by Scotland Yard’s vice squad, whose normal job is to sort of raid porn shops in Central London. They couldn’t really understand quite why they’d been sent out to a cottage in the Essex countryside to investigate the record. They were completely out of their depth, basically.

There had been a similar case several years earlier with the Gay News [which] was prosecuted under exactly the same thing they were writing up, which was criminal blasphemy. Which I don’t think exists in any other western country. So they were investigating us on a case of criminal blasphemy. Having interviewed us, they then said they were going to put it before the director of public prosecutions. About six months later, we actually heard that they had decided to drop the case. But we were given a very stern warning not to release any similar material, which naturally encouraged us to release more.

We then moved our material away from Small Wonder. When we released Feeding the 5000, we put the track back onto it. We did a new version for the single release, we did an extended version. Following that, obviously what the authorities had decided was that rather than prosecuting us and risking another sort of Pistols pantomime, we heard very soon after the case had been dropped that they were hassling shops, they were raiding shops throughout Britain, with no grounds whatsoever, they had no legal grounds to do so. But they were just harassing… mostly small shops, telling them that they were liable to prosecution if they sold our material. Which of course had no legal backup whatsoever, but it was sufficient to scare off a lot of the small shops from stocking our stuff.

The authorities, rather than making a big newspaper case out of it, just decided to harass people individually throughout the country. It clearly was a form of policy, which would have the same effect, or a better effect, than making us public names. That followed us right through, from that point on we were in constant, sort of having problems, always at third hand, from the authorities. We were never raided, we were never directly harassed. But anyone who was arranging gigs, selling our material, etc., was very liable to harassment.

Then basically we didn’t get threatened with any sort of prosecution until after the Falklands War. We released “How Does It Feel To Be Mother of a Thousand Dead,” which referred to Thatcher obviously. She was actually asked, in the prime minister’s question time, whether she’d listened to the record by a sympathetic left-wing member of Parliament, sympathetic to us, that is. [Someone] was sort of given the job of opening prosecution against us this time for obscenity. That completely failed. The newspapers picked up on that very quickly. Because we were quite hot news at the time, because we’d actually divulged quite a bit of official secrets about the Falklands War. We had a contact who was actually serving in the Falklands, so we actually got a lot of classified information sent to us by him, which we were able, one way or another, to sort of get out.

We ended up on the radio being confronted by [conservative] Tim Eggar. Basically, he was completely flattened by our arguments. At that point, the Tories withdrew proceedings, which hadn’t gotten any further than the director of public prosecutions looking at the case. That was the second near-skirmish.

The third one was a prosecution, where a shop in Manchester was raided. A large amount of material, including Dead Kennedys material, was taken by the police. They put together, again, an obscenity case against us. We lost the first round, and then we took it to appeal. We decided to fight it in Manchester. Having fought it in London, then it would have set a precedent. Which would have meant had we lost, that we wouldn’t have been allowed to sell our material anywhere in Britain. As it goes, we’re still not able to officially sell our material in the Chester area of Manchester.

We took it to appeal. We won the appeal, except on one count. They managed to [classify one] track obscene, which actually was a sort of feminist statement about Chinese foot binding, mostly. But obviously the magistrate sitting in the court probably reflected on his own sort of predilections. So he found us guilty of obscenity on that. We were fined peanuts for it. But the case actually had cost us a phenomenal amount of money in terms of, if ever there was a time at which we were very nearly buried by what we put money into, that probably was it.

We’d been promised money and support from quite a few of the underground distributors and the alternative music biz. But when it actually came to it, we got very little support, and certainly very very little finance. So it cost us a phenomenal amount. It was probably the first time that we were actually encountered financial difficulties, really. So maybe that story about the VAT thing stemmed from that. We certainly had a problem at that point with money, which we hadn’t had up until then. Mounting the case had cost us a phenomenal amount, and taking it to appeal had cost us a phenomenal amount. All the way through, there was sort of mild harassment. Those were the three sort of major situations, where the harassment was overt.

Q: What were the most important ways Crass’ music evolved over their career?

P: I don’t really think one can talk in those terms. I think after our first two albums, I think we responded. I don’t think we were involved in sort of any evolutionary process, in the sense that we weren’t a band for musical or lyrical reasons. We were a band for political reasons, and therefore increasingly, as the years wore on, we were producing stuff out of response social situations. Therefore, artistic or aesthetic considerations didn’t really come into it. I think we became increasingly angry, increasingly aware of our impotence, which makes our work increasingly more desperate. But it was desperate in response to what was happening in the country, or globally, at the time.

It’s almost an irrelevant question, ’cause I don’t think we were in the least bit involved in developing as a band. I don’t think that entered into the equation. I think we simply… our political analysis broadened, then narrowed, and broadened, or whatever it did. And what we produced as a band was a reflection of where we stood politically. Our response to things wasn’t a musical or a lyrical response, it was a political response. I think that we brought to our music a wide range of influences. But then they weren’t employed as musical influences, if you understand.

We weren’t a band. We never were a band. I don’t think we even saw ourselves as a band. I certainly never saw ourselves as a band. We certainly didn’t belong in the sort of pantomime of rock’n’roll, and probably even less in the pantomime of what became known as punk. It wasn’t our interest. I mean, we weren’t interested in making records. We were interested in making statements, and records happened to be a way of making statements.

It would have been nice to have had that time to think, it would nice to use a C sharp there. But it wasn’t like that. Maybe it was right at the beginning, where we were sort of consciously doing something. But as the sort of machinery sort of grew, it demanded this, or it demanded that. The machine demanded whatever response was necessary, particularly during and after the Falklands, where probably we lost our rag as a band. I think we’d probably blown it by then. We were no longer being particularly rational. I don’t think we ever were, particularly. But certain situations were just so appalling, it starts to become sort of absurd to try and deal with it through that medium. It’s sort of absurd to compare the Falklands with Vietnam, for example. But protest songs, protest rock’n’roll, can just be a joke against the real situation. I think, certainly from the Falklands, I felt that. And I think probably other members of the band did too. It’s too serious to be dealing with in this possibly superficial way. That was a big question for us over the last few years. Obviously, no musical consideration comes in. The considerations were, should we be doing this at all?

Q: Can you see Crass’ influence on contemporary music and culture?

P: We’re inseparable from the entire youth movement of the moment. What we contributed was so broad, and so powerful, so invasive, that I think it’s in everything. And I don’t think I’m being pompous in that. In everything alternative–from the road protest to class war to feminist cells, whatever, to the American hardcore movement to the Polish, whatever. It’s everywhere. I don’t think there’s any single, individual influence. I think that would be irrelevant.

Like the hippie movement. People say, oh, it was just people wandering around with sort of long hair. It wasn’t. If you look at any health food shop or book shop or la la la, you’ll find the sort of effects of that movement. Likewise with Crass and the sort of movement that it spawned. I certainly think without Crass, none of what has now looked back as the effects of punk… it would have had no effect at all. I mean, the Pistols and that group, those commercial people, lasted for about two years. They were just an extension of the usual music business tactics. They had no sort of political overview whatsoever.

It was us that introduced a meaningful overview into what was then called punk. And bands similar to us. It’s an untold… I don’t think you could even quantify it. It’s sort of like saying, well, what influence did Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir have? They wrote a few books that you might like or you might not like, but their influence is global. I think it’s likewise with us. I don’t think that’s pompous to compare ourselves with the sort of French existentialists. They were similarly sort of authentic movement who had this profound global effect in all sorts of untold ways, I think. I can see a bit of us in everything.

In a funny way, those things almost didn’t enter into the equation. As far as I was concerned, I was happiest about the fact that the young ‘uns came up well that year, or the cat wasn’t sick, or I was making love nicely. As far as Crass was concerned, we sacrificed those sorts of pleasures and pains for the common good. I would almost go as far as saying, we didn’t know what we felt on that sort of personal level. That wasn’t part of the equation, that wasn’t part of the agreement. It was a machine, an incredibly efficient machine, in which we could and did act as human beings. But I don’t think… I can’t recall any day thinking, that was a wonderful day, any more than I can recall thinking, that was a terrible day. We made mistakes and we had successes, and they all seemed to be one and the same thing in a way. ‘Cause we were what we were.

I’m sure other members of the band would say, well, I remember such and such. But I can’t do that, ’cause I wasn’t me, I was Crass. I think really we all were by degrees. We had an incredible sense of omnipotence, in the sense that because we were Crass and we weren’t individuals, there was this extraordinary sense we could take on anything. And we did. We were sort of relatively fearless in our attacks and our attempts to confront the authorities.

I suppose an awful lot of what we did was to test the boundaries all the time. We were constantly testing the boundaries-how fast can we go? It seemed we could go as far as we wanted. It seemed that we could do anything that we wanted to do, we were able to. The only limitation was our imagination, lack of political analysis, or whatever. But ultimately, we could do just what we wanted to do. And no one seemed to get in the way. And if they did get in the way, it didn’t matter, because they were getting in the way of a name, Crass. They weren’t getting in the way of me at all. I was still looking after the young ‘uns and stroking the cats.

Things only make you frustrated if you’ve got expectations. I don’t think we had any expectations. We didn’t start with any expectations, and we didn’t finish with any expectations. So you can’t really be frustrated if you haven’t got any expectations. I couldn’t now, and I didn’t then, care whether or not a record was at #10 in the charts or nowhere at all in the charts. It didn’t really interest me very much. I don’t think it interested anyone particularly. It didn’t mean anything. What meant something was that people were expanding their own consciousness. And if we were a part of that, that was all well and good. But again, we didn’t know that we were. We couldn’t know that. We saw that people were happy to be at our gigs. You can’t qualify all that, or quantify it. I think I was just happy to do it, ’cause it needed doing, I suppose, or I felt it needed doing.

I don’t think that we were a band in the conventional sense of the word. I don’t think we saw ourselves as individuals within a band. We stripped ourselves of that. We were the band-we were Crass. I think that’s why we were so strong, and why we were so impenetrable. That becomes an irrelevancy, because if you haven’t got individuals, then you can’t ask certain questions, they became meaningless. We’ve become individuals now, but we weren’t then. I think our greatest achievement was to manage for however many long years it was, seven years, to sort of put aside our own individual passions and needs and desires, for what we believed was the common good. And which some of us might no longer believe was the common good, but we certainly did at the time.

This post is respectably dedicated to Stewart (pictured above from 1979) whose birthday it is today – Have a nice day Stewey. Ohh…and also happy birthday to Lisa’s (ex of Blood And Roses) daughter who shares the same birth date as Stewey.

Witness Stewart’s short edited cini-film from 1979 of the Huntingdon Street squat that he used to abide in right HERE  It is well worth putting in ten minutes of your time to look at it.

Plenty more rare Crass material is uploaded onto this site if you care to search using the search function including another Digbeth Hall performance from 1982 with D.I.R.T. and Flux sets also included on the post.

  1. DavidM
    March 25, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Hey Stewart. That’s a great lil movie… a then brief snapshot of people’s lives. Birthday greetings to you.

  2. Phil R
    Phil R
    March 25, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Big hug Birthday boy xxx

  3. Stewart
    March 25, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Aww, thanks Pengy! Happy Birthday to me! Who’d have thought I’d get to this great age?!?! :-0 Love to all former and current comrades-in-arms! xxx

  4. Andy T
    Andy T
    March 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Happy Bithday Stewart x

    Pengs do you know where the two photos at the end are from? That low ceiling looks very familiar, could it be at Truck’s in Wigan.

  5. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    March 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Andy, I know exactly where they were taken…Certainly not Wigan mate…The answer is (drum roll) the Triad in Bishops Stortford.

  6. Andy T
    Andy T
    March 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Ah Ha, I knew I recognized the place. I just mistook the beams of the Triad for the low ceiling of the stage at Trucks. It all becomes very blurred at times.

  7. back2front
    March 28, 2010 at 8:57 am

    That’s one of the best quality Crass live sets I’ve heard and an especially spirted performance of Yes Sir I Will, hats off Penguin!

  8. Stefan M—
    Stefan M—
    March 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Searing stuff, and that first half is very different to the cliched 1-2-3-4 image fostered by “Owe Us a Living” etc. Saw them maybe five times 80 through 83, mostly Northampton and London, and they were never less than incredible. Such a shame the tech wasn’t there to film all those gigs.

    Keep on keeping on.

  9. TonyEhrfucht
    March 30, 2010 at 9:41 am

    This clip is from the ‘There is no authority’ film if I’m not mistaken…
    There has got to be more footage from this shoot hasn’t there? The quality is superb:

  10. XenuCrass
    August 5, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    That’s a great recording of the Yes Sir I Will set, thanks.

    Today I wrote this and was planning to post it at Southern’s Crass forum but there was trouble registering and then I thought maybe here would be a better place to leave it, hope it’s of interest:

    “I know this is a controversial and potentially trouble-making first post but I’d love to hear more about this subject. It’s been a matter of public record for over a decade, through Martin Cooper’s contribution to the punk anthology ‘Gobbing, Pogoing and Gratuitous Bad Language’ (Spare Change Books, 1996), that John Loder was a long-term member of the Church of Scientology. It’s quite a funny story, Martin’s oddball 80s punk band Salad From Atlantis were on the verge of a record deal with Southern then made the mistake of mentioning a planned concept album taking the piss out of L Ron Hubbard….cue “my wife and I have been Scientologists for many years” and being shown the door! Martin has confirmed this as true to me in person, I was so surprised when I read it that I thought it might be a prank on his part.

    On asking Penny Rimbaud about how Mr Loder’s beliefs interacted with those of the fiercely anti-religion Crass, he replied with careful wording that it didn’t really have much to do with their relationship as friends. I can relate to that, I have friends in the decidedly dodgy pseudo-Buddhist cult New Kadampa Tradition and we simply avoid the subject. No-one seems to have a bad word to say for John Loder which speaks volumes for his genuine and honest character. Maybe all that strong sixties LSD was to blame for his crackpot belief system 😉 I did think it was odd that the subject didn’t come up either in Shibboleth or George Berger’s book though.

    I noticed an unhinged-sounding poster on the Southern forum claiming that both Crass and Southern are veritably riddled with Scientology devotees, I don’t believe that myself and am simply posting this in an attempt towards openness and dispelling rumours. Declaration of interest: I personally believe Scientology to be a vicious, exploitative and dangerous cult…but quite like their anti-psychiatry angle cos those guys are even worse.”

  11. alistairliv
    August 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

    XenuCrass – are you “simply posting this in an attempt towards openness and dispelling rumours.” ? Really and truly? Or are you hoping to create a wee stushie (as we say in the Scots)?
    I think we should be told…

  12. george berger
    george berger
    August 6, 2010 at 9:37 am

    During the research for my book I did ask Penny about this and he gave me the same answer as he gave you. John Loder himself refused to be interviewed.

    Perhaps the timing – I knew he was very ill – contributed towards not going down that path, but to be honest I don’t remember.

    I also don’t remember what Martin from Salad From Atlantis wrote but I do remember him saying they weren’t allowed to call their album ‘Who’s in the cupboard? L Ron Hubbard’. Imagine the outcry if a major label did that.

    So personally I think it’s a valid point for discussion.

  13. XenuCrass
    August 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Of course I’m trying to create a wee stushie, the post destined for Southern’s forum was carefully phrased just in case there’s any truth in the OTT conspiracy theories and Allison calls down the wrath of the Office of Special Affairs on my head 🙂 To make it clear: I do not believe at all that John Loder helped to set up Crass Records with CoS money, it was money he’d earned from the advertising jingle business.

    John Robb has had this issue suggested to him as a question for Rimbaud and Ignorant when he publically interviews them at the Rebellion nostalgia fest in Blackpool tomorrow. No idea if he’ll go for it but it’s more interesting in my view than ‘so what do you think is Crass’s legacy’ or questions about the entirely depressing feuds with Wright and Jerwood.

    Meanwhile see for the latest jawdropping display of power by Co$.

  14. alistairliv
    August 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Ah, I think I understand now. There is a conspiracy theory that Crass were part of an anarcho Illuminati plot by Scientologists to… manipulate the minds of thousands of naïve teenage punks and…um… make ‘em all vegans? Or something?

    Far too plausible to be true. I think Annie Anxiety has revealed the truth in her recent blog post. Crass were really the Epping front of the Khmer Rouge…

    Drugs were not acceptable, for many reasons, the main one being the vulnerability of the house and its tenuous place within the local community. There was seldom any liquor, and nor were there a television, radio, or newspapers. I could never quite understand the word ‘hippie’ being continually used by the press in conjunction with Crass. The word hippie implies hedonism. For me, at least, this was more like living as part of a gentle paramilitary organisation, a loving faction of the Khmer Rouge.

    If you read the whole blog, Annie describes her first visit to Dial House like a scene from Apocalypse Now (based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), as if she was taking that infamous ‘ Holiday in Cambodia’.

    The original Crass strategy was clear – to act like black clad Pied Pipers, drawing thousands of able bodied young people out of the city and into the countryside where they would become slave labour in the endless vegetable fields of Essex… it is perhaps fortunate that this evil plot was foiled by a group of scientologists who secretly assassinated and the replaced (with cloned look a likes) the entire membership of Crass.

    In a final twist, the Crass clones then converted to the Maoist ideology of the Chilean Sendero Luminoso, proclaiming that “El Marxismo-Leninismo abrirá el sendero luminoso hacia la revolución” (“Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution”) – clearly heard if Bloody Revolutions is played backwards at 78 rpm…unfortunately the Chilean connection was then infiltrated by cocaine dealers and the whole idealist project ended in debt and bitter recriminations.

  15. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    August 7, 2010 at 12:19 am


  16. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    August 7, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I wrote this on my FB page in response to a piece that appeared on:

    “The capacity of the Internet to connect one with one’s past never ceases to amaze me. God bless you, Annie Bandez for mentioning me and my fanzine in your post!

    “Of course, Crass were not saints, simply human beings…I…drank endless cups of tea, and had major discourses about philosophy and politics. I tried to keep up, but my lack of education glared, at least to me. Their reference points were Sartre, Jung, and Laing, and mine were Drag Queen Bobby, Marie the Whore, and Junkie Jimmie from Dykman Street…at the time I felt like some dopey little juvenile delinquent who walked funny due to having her grimy foot planted firmly in her mouth.”

    I remember these sessions well, I remember feeling pretty much the same way. I also remember, thinking back, upper-middle-class accents clipping in interjecting about my ‘market’ expressions when I trespassed upon what certain individuals considered to be their intellectual territory. I think Annie and Steve experienced something similar.

    Later, when I’d gotten a real education, to PhD and beyond, the like of which nobody in Crass ever had, I came to realise how art-school (in the worst sense), how sophomoric, how rooted in the agitprop clichés of the past the discourses of the older, more ‘intellectual’ members of Crass were; ultimately, how derivative and dull so much of this was. Belatedly, I rediscovered the fun aspects of punk long after punk itself had ceased to be.

    This does sound like sour grapes, I know. But looking back there was an intellectual dishonesty there that at times came close to a kind of intellectual bullying.

    Take religion, for example. I’ve always had what I’d now call a kind of ‘spiritual intelligence’ (as others have artistic, social, and other intelligences — I’m thinking of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences here). So I took the lyrics of, say, ‘So What?’ very much on trust, as if perhaps despite my uneasiness about such lyrics, there was a truth there that others who were older and more experienced and better educated than me could comprehend.

    Perhaps one day I too would understand it all. In the meantime, I mindlessly used to mouth these foul lyrics, ignoring the bad taste (having a bad taste in one’s mouth, real or figurative, being a quintessential part of punk life).

    So one time I was reading through some stuff the ‘intellectuals’ had put together for CND. In it they quoted what was in fact a strong and coherent Christian pacifist argument from the French paper ‘La Vie Catholique’.

    When I pointed out the contradiction between this and the likes of ‘So What?’ I was treated to some arch looks and a couple of practiced put-downs from the ‘intellectuals’. This was one of the last times I was up at Dial House.

    The me of 2010 could never have stood for that kind of shit, but the me of 1981 was younger, weaker, more vulnerable. This lack of responsibility (in the literal sense), was one of the things that I came to feel very uneasy about when I remembered Crass.

    Ditto what no seem to me to be different levels of initiation, one truth for the plebs, another for people like ‘us’, &ct. This is why elsewhere I’ve described Crass as ‘cult-like’, despite the obvious and sincere generosity of most of the people at Dial House. Then there were a couple of people who were just clever bastards there. . .

    Hard feelings? Not really. One day I’d like to go back up there and see it all again more or less as a different person. Then I was very much a fan, and immature, a late developer emotionally. We none of us are consistent, not me, not Crass not no-one else. This is a human contradiction I’ve learned to live with.

  17. alistairliv
    August 7, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Mike – if Crass’ worldview was based on ‘art school agitprop’ [agitprop – agitation and propaganda, originally used by Russian communists]… how different is that from the similar ‘art school agitprop’ of Malcolm Mclaren and Bernie Rhodes?

    So that both Crass and McLaren/Rhodes were drawing on a set of ideas from the sixties counterculture which had become cliches by 1976/7 and then re-worked/ re-shaped/ re-modelled them as a brand new product – punk.

    It is as if the origin of punk was the Beatles 1968 song Revolution, where John Lennon sings “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know you can count me out”…and then says “in”… [43 seconds in].

  18. Lee23
    August 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Just to clarify the point raised earlier, re : Martin Cooper/John Loder, I was with Martin at that meeting (circa 1988) and indeed what was said was true.
    John was interested in releasing a Salad From Atlantis record by financing the pressing (the LP had already been recorded) and releasing it on my own label distributed thru Southern. But he didn’t like the concept which had an anti-scientology title and artwork.
    He felt it didn’t do the material and the band justice though he admitted he was a Scientologist.
    To be honest my feeling at the time it was better to follow his advice to get the record out (though what the members of Salad thought I wouldn’t want to write here as it’s their perogative) as we certainly didn’t have the money to do it ourselves.
    The overall tone of the meeting was pretty professional and supportive despite the obvious surprise about the Scientology stuff and the record was released through Southern, a lost gem of passionate melodic post punk if I do say so myself.
    I prefer to judge people on meeting them personally and I felt John Loder was totally honest, sincere and supportive in the dealings I had with him.

  19. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    August 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Amebix have quite a few bad things to say about Jon Loder concerning missing money and holding onto master tapes… not that I know if it’s true or not.

    As to whether his belief in Scientology made a difference, or if he had some kind of master-plan, it was a pretty bad one if he did.

    At the point that he paid for the recording of ‘Stations’ I doubt if anyone had the slightest incling that Crass would ever be the huge cultural influence that they became, and even if they did, the message was always “think for yourself”.

    The fact that a lot of people swallowed ‘the gospel according to Crass’ (myself included) without much critical analysis is hardly their fault.

    Simarly, Crass always seemed to be against organised religion rather than ‘spirituality’ per se (however you want to define that), often quoting spiritual ideas (especially from Bhuddism).

    Personally, I think all religion (organised or otherwise) is at best self deluding bullshit, and at worst genocidal lunacy, and Scientology is just insane, but each to their own.

    I’m quite happy to take ideas from whatever religious writing is available, but I treat them the same as Aesop’s fables – made up stories that illustrate a moral point.

    Story of Jesus: Moral #1: Power structures (especially religious ones) will kill you rather than let you threaten their positions of privilige.
    Moral #2: Fear the mob.

    Sorry, off the point again…

  20. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    August 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Scientology? Wake me up when it’s over.

  21. gerard
    August 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    “the message was always “think for yourself”.

    The fact that a lot of people swallowed ‘the gospel according to Crass’ ”

    …surely illustrates that the message *wasn’t* ‘think for yourself’ ?

    Just a thought.

  22. XenuCrass
    August 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    “The fact that a lot of people swallowed ‘the gospel according to Crass’ ”

    …surely illustrates that the message *wasn’t* ‘think for yourself’ ?

    Just a thought.”

    A thought shared by Pete Wright, whose self-recriminatory view of their actions hasn’t been publicised anywhere near as much as the Rimbaud/Vaucher/Ignorant axis. Some good bits from his unpublished afterword to the Pomona ‘Love Songs’ book:

    ‘Crass used the well worn paths to success and influence. We had friends, people with whom we worked and co operated. We were educated, socially connected. We networked, lied, cheated, intimidated, tricked, bought, bribed, mocked, flattered, self-deluded, and accommodated all manner of contradictions to maintain our ‘rightness’.
    The parallels between Crass and the opposition penetrated everywhere. The‘apocalyptic’ nature of our outlook, our ‘all or nothing’ message, reflected the State pacifying its population through fear of total destruction. It’s not easy to put forward a reasoned analysis of the use of bogeymen to justify State oppression, if the supposed radicals are plying the same trade to bolster an identical ‘us and them’, ‘all or nothing’ mentality.
    I wonder when we’ll be able to face up to the essential nature of evangelism, of proselytising. Forceful persuasion requires a platform plus charisma plus bigotry (plus the promotion of the same message in a different package if possible). That works well.
    Crass was bigoted. A singleness of message, a polar view shorn of checks and balances and considerations.’

    Great and honest writing – from what I’ve heard the bloke is hard work as a human being, and the ongoing row over reissues is pathetically familiar to many people in bands, but I do prefer his trenchant cynicism to Rimbaud’s pompous bluster and Ignorant’s yawnsome ‘I’m just a working class geezer, I like a pint’ act.

  23. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    August 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Xenu – can you take Pete Wright’s criticism’s a bit further? If Crass was bigoted, in what way were they bigoted? What was their ‘platform’, what was the message Crass were promoting?

    If Crass were reflecting the State’s attempt to pacify its population through fear of mass destruction, were the Pop Group playing the same game with “For how much longer will we tolerate mass murder?”

    In our ignorance, people are killed
    In your decadence, people die
    All that we ask for is our very own garden of Eden
    All that we get is a garden of interballistic missiles
    Phallic nuclear warheads were born in the hearts of men
    Why let sadistic mass murderers control our world

    If Crass ‘got it wrong’, who, at that time, got it right?

  24. XenuCrass
    August 9, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Mark Stewart’s great and very creepy 1987 album on which he almost entirely used the found/collaged lyrics of others as an auto-critique seemed to address his own doubts over The Pop Group’s rigid views of power structures and earlier dogmatic statements.

    For all their faults Crass were fascinating to me as a kid and here we all are still talking about it – even if I often only bought their records as they were cheaper than ones by other bands.

    >who, at that time, got it right?

    Such temptation to be flippant and say it was obviously Roi Pearce who had the most incisive politics of that era. I don’t know. I know Ian Svenonius’ startling and fiery glamour-obsessed approach to radical politics in Nation Of Ulysses was an enormous inspiration to a later 90s generation and his schtick spawned wave after wave of subcultural DIY activist stuff from the reverberations, but look what that energy became – fucking Vice magazine.

  25. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    August 9, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Ah… I had to look up both Roi Pearce – in the Last Resort / 4 Skins and Ian Svenonius – Nation of Ulyssess were formed in 1988…. I had never heard of either of them. And haven’t heard Mark Stewart’s 1987 album.

    I guess we are working from a different set of political/cultural references.

    So to refine my question – of the groups / musicians active between 1978 and 1984 and who can be loosely described as working within the same punk / post punk areas as Crass – who got it right / were more effective than Crass?

    For example, where would you place the Gang of Four / Au Pairs since they had a political perspective / theory for their work?

  26. XenuCrass
    August 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    >>of the groups / musicians active between 1978 and 1984 and who can be loosely described as working within the same punk / post punk areas as Crass – who got it right / were more effective than Crass?

    Throbbing Gristle and the early Psychic TV was a thrilling oblique slant on cultural/political criticism in my eyes and a daring mass experiment which was the equal of Crass (and just as alarming to traditional authorities) – with as much potential to go badly wrong, which in some ways it did.

    Not my politics or I would imagine the politics of many who come here but for effectiveness it’s kinda hard to ignore the worldwide effects spawned by Skrewdriver issuing their idiotic ‘White Power’ single in ’83 to big controversy at the time. I wonder if Andy Martin regrets printing an advert for it in Scum zine back then as some sort of perverse anti-censorship kick.

    All I can find to say about the Gang of Four and Au Pairs is that I bet a lot of New Labour MPs and councillors, social workers and teachers around the country loved those records when they were students, and over the second glass of that lovely Rioja on offer at Sainsburys will state and believe with all their hearts that they have stayed true to their radical roots. I’d take Mark E Smith at his most boorish over them. The Fall’s 1977 anti-NF anthem Hey Fascist was reworked during the 90s as Hey Student – it seemed petty and griping of him but the point became clear later during the second Blair term.

  27. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    August 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Throbbing Gristle were my favourite group 79/80 – but I don’t remember any one else amongst the extended KYPP collective having much interest. With PTV it was very different, there was very strong interest which developed into direct links – with Mouse briefly joining PTV and with Min in Zos Kia which led to us releasing Zos Kia/ Rape on All the Madmen in 1984.

    It is difficult to judge since I was maybe a bit too close to be objective, but for a while, Beck Road / PTV was probably as important / influential as Dial House / Crass had been a few years earlier.

    But then there was the festivals / travelling shift – so there were at least some people who moved from being Crass anarcho-punks to being PTV / TOPY folk to being travellers…to acid house ravers or road-protestors.

    If Crass can be fitted into this sequence of lifestyle / subcultural orientation shifts…does this mean that the Crass experience was not so total and immersive for those outside their immediate circle as it was for those within it? If it had been so total, how could it be so easily dropped and replaced by the PTV / TOPY experience, or time spent at Stonehenge festival?

    With Skrewdriver – can’t say anything, don’t know anything to say. With the Gang of Four / Au Pairs – it would be interesting to find out if future (now past) New Labour folk did listen to their records. But I don’t think the Gang of Four / Au Pairs experience was as all embracing / total as the Crass or TG / PTV experience. Mark E Smith / The Fall / Hey Fascist? Another gap in my musical knowledge…

  28. XenuCrass
    August 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    As someone who was fifteen and living in the suburban sticks in 1983 both Crass and PTV helped to give me an alternative/supplement to mainstream education & my mum and dad watching crap sitcoms and reading tabloids – an education which has probably been of more use to me in my adult life. I remember distinctly being unsure about the extremity of the sleeve rhetoric to Conflict’s ‘To A Nation of Animal Lovers’ EP and from there becoming more aware that you didn’t have to take on the whole thing as a totality/belief system. Parts of the lengthy ‘You’re Already Dead’ sleevenotes contradicted each other and I liked that. Guess I’m glad I didn’t buy completely into either. I learned to sigilise but felt no need to share em with the pervs at TOPY HQ!

    The parallels with mind controlling cults and their distinctive modes of operation were apparent in both (knowingly used in the case of TOPY) which is why I was fascinated with the unlikely scientology / Crass connection and finally posted here after much reading & lurking. Both were mild and harmless in that respect compared to something like the Children of God of course (see for hours of breathtaking insanity – quite why the Manson / Jim Jones obsessives haven’t latched on to these maniacs I don’t know).

  29. Chris
    August 10, 2010 at 12:03 am


    I like the cut of your jib. Hope you stick around 🙂

  30. XenuCrass
    August 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    If that’s Chris L then hi, we meet again (Joe Chip).

    Further on Crass/Scientology I have found one piece which explicitly uses a dianetics concept – on the pretty great Eve Libertine & A-Soma album ‘Last One Out Turns Off The Lights’ there is a lengthy mostly spoken piece which veers between the absurd and the terrifying entitled “Taking Care Of An Unconscious Patient” – the sarcastic title makes it apparent to the most casual Hubbard reader that it’s an attempt at an audio facsimile of how engrams are formed. A brilliant piece of work actually. Were there earlier tracks which slipped in ideas from Co$ tech without the listeners’ knowledge, or awareness of how it could potentially affect the consciousness? Who knows. At least GP-O was upfront about the tricks TG/PTV played & couldn’t help bragging about it in interviews eg getting born-again christians to play on a song about sexual piercing, using Jim Jones speech as lyrics on a pretty song etc.

    There is nothing wrong with ‘squirrelling’ from scientology and there is nothing wrong with making it to clear and then quitting as many have, but the continued area of silence from Crass personnel about the extent (if there was ever anything major) of their involvement sits uneasily with their other public statements to say the least.

    The main reason why many people are annoyed at the Co$ is that they are at the very forefront of attempts at internet policing and censorship, having for instance invoked the DMCA to Google over leaks by ex-members of their deluded & ridiculous higher OT level documents before the idea was a twinkle in the eyes of the RIAA. “The Sound of Free Speech” indeed! Sorry for the esoteric nature of this post. If I had to explain all the hocus-pocus in Hubbard’s cupboard it would go on and on. Plenty of follow-up reading online elsewhere, despite their best efforts.

  31. alistairliv
    August 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Just about to go to bed, but any thoughts on the L.Ron Hubbard/ Jack Parsons/ Aleister Crowley connection?

    Going back 30 years, when the Scientologists had a place on Tottenham Court Road, they used to get people in to do free personality questionaires. I worked out how to fiddle the answers and got asked if I wanted to join…but when I asked about the Parsons link they threw me out!

  32. XenuCrass
    August 12, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Two quotes I found on an ex-scientologists’ forum illustrate how Hubbard was influenced by Crowley’s ideas. The Hubbard quote seems to be from a cassette recording, offered for no doubt extortionate prices to devotees.

    Crowley: “Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”

    Hubbard: “Magic is a very precise study. Most people think of magic in terms of stage magicians or something of the sort. It’s not. Magic is not. It is a method of producing effects by using for cause the supernatural.”

    LRH was certainly more successful than most other cult leaders inspired by Crowley in attracting followers.

    Each of the last few albums by Whitehouse since 2001 have used lines from some of the more crazed higher ‘sec checks’ in Co$ to fine sinister & pranksterish effect.

  33. alistairliv
    August 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    The Caliphate OTO are very keen to protect their ‘copyright’ on Crowley and his works. Perhaps they could be persuaded to sue the Scientologists for infringement of their copyright on the Great Beast’s works?

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