An absolutely insane SEVENTY minute performance from Crass performing all the songs featured in the set at a very fast rate with barely any interruptions.
Billed as ‘Shaved Women’ rather than Crass, this is the first and only time that the band performed in a venue that they had a part in setting up.
For anyone interested in Crass, this performance needs to be listened to, as I doubt you will hear another performance like it from other cassette tapes of ‘normal’ and shorter Crass performances.
The original Wapping Autonomy Centre poster is from my collection.
A few months after arriving in London I was invited to a Black Flag / Ceinfeugos readers meeting above a pub on the Kings Road.
This turned out to be a support group meeting for the defendants in the Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy Trial which was to begin in September, so as well as Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer I met Iris Mills and Ronan B and I think Dave Morris of later McLibel Trial was also there.
Iris and Ronan were acquitted and after the acquittal, Ronan had the idea of setting up an anarchist social centre in London. To raise funds for this social centre, the notionally anarchist punk groups Crass and the Poison Girls were approached to make a benefit record for the centre which was released in 1980.
The Crass and Poison Girls benefit single for what was to become the Wapping Autonomy Centre was released in May 1980 and raised £10,000. The money was used to convert a space in a Victorian warehouse beside the Thames at Wapping into a social centre. After discussion the more neutral ‘Autonomy Centre’ was chosen over ‘Anarchist Centre’ as its name. It opened in early 1981 but was a rented space without an entertainment licence or a drinks licence. The rent was £680 a quarter and by November 1981 the lack of committed support from the traditional anarchist community had created a financial crisis.
To bring in some cash, it was agreed to put on punk gigs on Sunday nights at the Autonomy Centre. Over the next three month these brought in £700 but as Albert Meltzer sadly observed
“With the punks’ money came the punks, and in the first week they had ripped up every single piece of furniture carefully bought, planned and fitted, down to the lavatory fittings that had been installed by Ronan Bennett from scratch, and defaced our own and everyone else’s wall for blocks around. In the excitement of the first gigs where they could do as they liked, they did as they liked and wrecked the place. Loss of club, loss of money, loss of effort. End of story”.
The problem was that the majority of the punks who came to the Sunday night gigs were teenagers, some as young as thirteen. For many of the audience and groups, the Autonomy Centre gigs were a continuation of gigs that had been put on in a squatted, derelict ‘Grimaldi’ church on the Pentonville Road through 1980 and 1981. These stopped after one of the homeless alcoholics who also used the church accidentally set fire to it.
While the end of the Wapping Autonomy Centre in February 1982 marked the end of one connection between anarchists and punks, a different connection soon emerged. The new connection was with a group of Spanish anarchists who had squatted an abandoned school on the Harrow Road called the Centro Iberico.
The Spanish anarchists lived in the classrooms upstairs and allowed us to convert a former assembly room downstairs into a performance space. A stage was built using old cookers from the kitchens covered with carpet retrieved from skips. Although the Centro was evicted at the end of 1982, for a few month during the spring and summer it was used once a week for anarchist punk gigs. After that a series of ’Anarchy Centres’ were squatted in north London over the next few years, one of which evolved into Molly’s Café on Upper Street in Islington.
Alistair Livingston Kill Your Pet Puppy.
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.
This is another digitalising of one of Penny Rimbaud’s cassette tapes, one track by Annie Anxiety and the rest of the 101 minutes is pure Crass.
Recorded from the crowd, this is a decent recording never-the-less.
To accompany the audio is the interview that was included in the 1980 edition of ‘Rapid Eye’ fanzine. I have scanned the pages at 300dpi and have placed them on this YT post so hopefully easier read, although some of the writing is very small!
The text below is courtesy of Veg who was there, and Veg’s life long friend Nick Hydra who was kind enough to write these words down and get them to me.
Veg was bass basher for Adrian and His Anal Birth Complex and more well known bands; Hagar The Womb and WAGTEY (We Are Going To Eat You). Veg is now throwing a bass around for the brilliant Shocks Of Mighty.
Nick Hydra performs as one third of Hydra, who perform a glorious post-industrial anarcho-punk noise – Here is a description of the sound from Rattler:
“What I love about Hydra is that they take the spirit (in the purest form I’ve seen for awhile) and indeed the vocal style from old-school anarcho-punk stuff then mash it up with a totally contemporary groove, backed by distorted samples used as rhythmic noises and incredible junk-metal percussion. If you think of Test Dept at their angriest, then multiply it by 23, you’re in the right region. I can’t even describe the sheer force of it on paper”.
Thank you to you both.
Veg can take it from here:
This was the first time I saw Crass, and I was really excited, as I’d been listening to their records for a while and had been trying to see them without success – the usual combination of no money, not knowing about the gigs, not finding the gigs (following ‘punk looking’ people from the tube only to find out they were lost as well), and the gigs being cancelled.
To be honest, I can’t remember much about the gig itself, just a collection of brief snap-shots:
Making the long journey from Catford to Witham by National Express coach with my mate Mick, and meeting Andy Palmer as we were walking towards the venue; “Hello, going to the concert?” he said ‘ as we shuffled our feet and mumbled “Yeah.” like the chronically shy teenagers we were.
Getting to the venue quite early and there were loads of punks on the green outside playing football with cider cans.
Sitting outside and listening to Crass sound check with ‘Systematic Death’ and being convinced they were shouting “Disco/ Disco/ Disco” rather than “System/ System/ System”.
A punk arguing with his skinhead mate, shouting at him “Go on then, fuck of on your British Movement march you fucking moron, you’ll be first against the wall if they get in!” and thinking “British Movement march? That can’t be good.” It turned out the BM were having a march in Witham that day and the route of the march was going right past the venue. I remember looking at the Labour Hall which was mainly glass fronted and thinking “We won’t even be safe INSIDE.”
Later on the same punk started punching holes in the ceiling, resisting all attempts by other punters to persuade him to stop, because he was so ‘punk rock’. Eventually Andy Palmer and Eve came out and took him very politely to task, at which point he stopped being quite so punk rock, and turned into a naughty little boy being told off by his mum in front of mates.
Because I’d never seen them before, I imagined Crass gigs to be intellectual affairs with people sitting around stroking their chins going “Hmmn” like they were in some kind of beatnik jazz club. Even though the place was rammed with pissed punk rockers, I still somehow imagined people would be sitting around going “Hmmn”.
Then Crass came on and everyone went mental, and so did I.
As there was no way we were going to make it back to Catford, I’d arranged for us to stay at my Uncle David’s house as he lived in the area. He was going to pick us up from the car park at 11:00 O’clock, but this being a Crass gig it finished early so we were faced with the prospect of hanging around in the pitch black car park at the mercy of marauding bands of skinheads.
After about half an hour of skulking in the shadows trying to be inconspicuous, our worst fears materialised. A group of six skins spotted us and started walking straight towards us across the car park. One of them was right out of my worst nightmares – over six foot tall and nearly as wide; he was almost certainly nick-named ‘tank’ by his slightly less misshapen friends.
I clearly remember thinking “This is not going to end well”, and preparing for the worst, when a set of headlight flashed across the car park as my Uncle pulled up next to us. We jumped in, and drove off at some speed. Being picked up by a relative from a gig was pretty much the most shame-inducing thing to me at the time, but on this occasion, it was the best thing that had ever happened – I’d been to the best gig of my life, and not been beaten up by skinheads.
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.
Unedited raw audio footage.
Sixteen years ago, radical punk band Crass disappeared from public view. Right from their inception in 1978, they had always planned to split in 1984, as a nod to George Orwell’s novel. As it turned out it was good timing. Crass had become uneasy demi-gods in a movement they had unwittingly created. They were even scared of going on holiday for fear of being seen as “sell-outs”, and were becoming disillusioned with the notion that their anarchist-pacifist politics were really the answer to Thatcherism.
During their seven years on the road, the band gave away thousands of pounds to causes ranging from CND to striking miners, attracting the attention of MI5 along the way. They also rejected offers from major record labels who promised to help them “market revolution”. Crass needed little help with marketing, as they could, at their height, shift 20,000 singles in a week with no advertising and no airplay. Combining shock value, humour and a distinctive graphic style, the band found it easy to get their message across.
But they found it much harder to stop their fans from seeing them as ideological leaders. The Falklands war saw the band at their most politically active: they recorded an attack on Margaret Thatcher that was discussed in the Commons. The single, How Does it Feel to be the Mother of 1000 Dead?, sold enough copies to make the top 10 in its week of release, but strangely it didn’t even appear in the top 100. The band made enemies of both the political left and right and were singled out for particular hatred by then Sounds journalist Garry Bushell.
After their final gig the band retired to Dial House, their Essex commune home, to get on with writing, painting and tending the organic vegetable garden. But even there they found turmoil. There were splits within the house which led to some members leaving. The remainder then found themselves in a legal battle with British Telecom to save their home and the surrounding countryside from being swallowed by a housing development.
They defeated BT in the courts with the help of local villagers, but were immediately thrust up against new owners, property developers Peer Group. Peer Group has recently put the property up for auction, so the four former members of the band who remain there have made a call for help to raise the £80,000 they need to buy it.
The grade 2 listed 16th-century cottage on the outskirts of North Weald was set up as a commune by artists, and later Crass mainstays, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher in 1967, and it has since become a punk equivalent of the Bloomsbury set’s Charleston House. The similarity is not lost on Rimbaud, who managed to persuade the courts of the cottage’s significance as a cultural outpost. The house was the birthplace of the Stonehenge festival and the base from which Crass rejuvenated the peace movement and created the blueprint for the kind of anti-globalisation protests seen in London and Seattle in recent years. It was also a temporary home to many of the bands who recorded for Crass’s eponymous record label. One such visitor was Bjork, who stayed in 1984 when she was recording an LP for the label with Sugarcubes predecessors, KUKL.
The appeal for funds is an ideological struggle as much as a financial one. After all, the four, Rimbaud, Vaucher, Eve Libertine and Steve Ignorant (to give them their “punk names”), have breached the old anarchist “all property is theft” maxim. “It was very, very difficult indeed for us to decide to go ahead with the appeal, because in a way even that is contradictory to our ethos,” says the commune’s founder, Rimbaud. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that that idea was so wholeheartedly supported and even to some extent initiated by people outside of here, then I don’t think it could be tolerable.”
In the heyday of the band it was not unusual to have a house full of visiting fans while others camped in the garden. “A lot of people were really surprised because they were expecting it to be really quite scruffy – filthy dishes piled up everywhere – and they were really quite in awe,” Libertine says. On one occasion the local police found a dozen Italian punks searching for the house in nearby Epping Forest. “They were brought here in a police van, dumped, and the police said ‘Best of luck mate’,” says Rimbaud. “They were very extreme, but when it came to ablutions they were so straight. They were all lined up in a row holding a toothbrush in one hand and a neat little towel, waiting.”
Those same Italian punks are now among those who have come together to help with the purchase of Dial House through donations and benefit concerts. This is all very alien for the four, who are used to raising money for others, rather than being on the receiving end of generosity. But they realise that if they are to maintain their way of life and preserve Dial House then they have to swallow their pride.
Iain Aitch 2001
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.
Another one of Penny Rimbaud’s cassette tapes.
Raw unedited footage that I cannot really comment on, as I do not know anything about this interview that was recorded for some radio show in France, save what is written on the case.
By the sound of it, with so many Crass members being present, the interview must have taken place at Dial House as I doubt that they were all flown over to a studio in France.
The interview seems to have been recorded by several microphones around the room as some comments are barely audible mumblings, some comments are properly audible and some comments are loud enough to make you reach for the volume reducer, just to turn it up again when the barely audible mumblings return.
I can hear Gee. Pete Wright. Phil Free. Eve. Joy. I also hear Penny, although he seems, by and large, to have taken up the position of the interviewer…
If I am correct, presumably the radio station that would have edited and broadcasted whatever they could salvage, just asked them to talk amongst themselves.
Seems odd but there you go.
Anyway, one hour and forty five minutes of random Crass conversation, for those who are interested in this kind of thing, and have the stomach, or the time, to plough through the interview!
The two Crass type images that accompany the audio constantly on a loop, although from my collection, I have no recollection of what they are, or indeed where I got them!
They just looked cool, so I placed them both up.
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.
If I get further information about this raw footage I will endeavour to amend this description for this post.
This raw cassette audio footage is not of the best quality. In fact it is rubbish, but the poster that accompanies the audio is of the best quality!
The original, taken off the wall on the night by Mike (below) shows the rarer ‘ransom demand’ lettering rather than stencils etc.
The first three minutes, sound like a muddled mess (and it pretty much is) but if you listen carefully you will realise that it is ‘Asylum’, a song that I have not heard on the live performance Crass cassette tapes that I own, or have been lent. I think this is the only time I have heard ‘Asylum’ performed live on any cassette tapes that I have handled over the last thirty five + years anyway… .I might be wrong, but…
Below, are two email replies to memories of this specific gig, that were replied to by Mike Clarke and Tony Barber.
Thanks to them for that.
Here’s what I’ve got, not much I’m afraid but hope it helps:
Bear in mind I was 18 at the time, not always together in body and mind, and I went to at least 2-3 gigs a week minimum, often more.
Luckily I wrote some of them down in a diary, the bands seen and venues, but not many details otherwise, so some of my recall may be jumbled, however my recollection of the gigs after this are much clearer.
26/5/79 EPILEPTICS/Autopsy/POISON GIRLS/CRASS Conway Hall
I went to this with Anna Claydon, a punk girl who lived off of Portobello Road. For some reason Crass had a greater effect on me this night than previously; they seemed to have honed the general aural assault of films and white-noise openings into a very effective whole.
I don’t remember a lot else because I’d taken a couple of Tuinal and drunk several cans on top of it, to unfortunate effect, though an old mate just reminded me of a character down our local, an older gay guy who had seen the early Pistols’ gigs and was a kind of one-man pharmaceutical lab with an array of poppers, Dexys and Valium always at hand, so it could have been the latter rather than the oft-blamed Tuinal-beasties, but, let’s face it, neither were exactly enlightening experiences.
For some reason, when we entered Conway Hall, there were a couple of people arguing with the hippie manning the ‘door’ (actually he was sat behind some tables). Never being one to miss a trick, I slid under the tables, followed by Anna, who then had to help me up as once down I couldn’t get up again. The poster pictured came off the wall at the end of the night as I left.
No recollection of the Epileptics, but the Poison Girls were very good, in hindsight probably a “better band” than Crass.
Afterwards, there were a whole lot of drunken Scots football fans falling into doorways, asleep in doorways or throwing up in doorways.
Though this has stuck in my mind as part of that sludgey tuinal-miasma of “did that happen or didn’t it?”, I just checked on the internet and, yes Scotland played England at Wembley that day, so the Tartan Army wasn’t a figment of my imagination.
What I do remember is giving one of them a light, getting into a conversation (of sorts) and then discovering we were both members of the Gunn Clan from Wick/Caithness (me on my Mothers side) and thus vaguely related, at which point he burst into tears on my shoulder.
Sorry Mickey, no hoary old old war stories, no phalanxes of machete-wielding skins. I hope someone else has better memories of the night in question.
Mike Clarke – Inflammable Material / Defiant Pose / Decadent Few.
Hi there Mickey.
This is probably the gig I recorded. I’m pretty sure I was the only person recording the gig.
I remember that I recorded it from the shelf on the mixing desk podium, and that I wandered off to he front to jump about and when I got back at the end it hadn’t been pinched!
I also recorded the entire sound check(I got to Holborn at 5pm), complete with the entire band going “One,Two…One,Two” and three stop-start versions of ‘Roxy’ (I think), all on the same cassette.
I have still have the original cassette, I also have photos from the show, including The Poisons sound checking in the empty hall etc*.
Tony Barber – Lack Of Knowledge / Rubella Ballet / Boys Wonder / Buzzcocks
* I hope that Tony might find the time to digitalise these at some point in the future, so I can place them up on KYPP and my YT channel.
Although the audio quality on this cassette tape is not the best, it is still worthy of placing up, for, well I don’t know why for, but… Perhaps someone will find it interesting!
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.
Uploaded today is a two-hour interview-documentary about Crass, featuring plenty of Crass tracks, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher. It was originally broadcast in 1987 on the Triple J Radio station (JJJ) in two one-hour slots, one hour broadcasted one week, and the second hour broadcasted the following week.
This is another of Penny’s cassette tapes that are out on loan to me right now.
I needed help with (any) information on JJJ Radio, so I appreciate the help of Bob Short and Tessa Tribe for adding their thoughts to this YouTube post.
In 1972, after twenty-three years of Conservative rule, Australia elected the Whitlam Labor Government. (Labor is spelt that way by the Australian Labor party for some reason best known to themselves). Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was more of your old school radical and wanted to drag Australia kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. Part of his plan was a nationwide youth radio network playing Australian and Alternative music. In 1975, the first cab off the ranks was 2JJ, a tiny Sydney based station playing off a terrible transmitter out of Kings Cross. You’d could hear it in Wollongong where I lived if the wind was in the right direction. I often hung a radio at odd angles to tune in. On a clear night, I’ve heard people claim they could tune in as far as Tasmania (which would be like tuning into Radio 1 in Moscow). It was true that 2JJ played an alternative to the mainstream and included much Australian content. It was, however, run by hippies so you were more likely to hear a twenty-five-minute version of Alice’s Restaurant than something off a Patti Smith album. But the odd song came through. In between copious tracks by the Eagles, Supertramp and Steely Dan, you’d hear the odd Stooges song. Eventually a bit of Television. But the strongest point was perhaps it’s “Live at the Wireless” series of recordings of local bands. Whilst most of those bands basically boogied or jammed, Radio Birdman managed to score half hour shows, then other lesser known punk bands like Johnny Dole and the Scabs. This obviously benefitted Sydney bands more than anyone else. The Saints got a bit of airplay when their album was released but mainly the ballad tracks like “Messing with the Kid” and “Story of Love”. As I said, it had a base in hippydom. There was a focus on the idea of “real music”. But it was also very much a community station with people arranging ride shares around the country on air. Eventually a thriving live scene of punk bands emerged, receiving support and radio play from the station, though it always threw a broader net than just punk. Eventually, JJJ got an FM licence and began broadcasting nationally. Transmission was split between Melbourne and Sydney. The original hippy ethic became increasingly corporate. These days, you’d rather put a fork in your ear than listen to it.
Bob Short – Filth / Blood And Roses.
JJJ used to be a fantastic alternative radio station that supported underground music Australia wide. Changing hands around five years ago, the new management completely changed the stations direction to compete with corporate radio. Now it has sold out and only plays generic music, losing the interest of the listening public who would prefer to hear music a little more ‘edgy’. JJJ finally changed the date this year (2018) of their “Hottest 100” songs of the year countdown, previously held on Australia Day (January 26th) which marks a day of mourning, invasion and genocide for Indigenous people. The station changing the date is a positive move hopefully spurring more Australians to reconsider supporting a national holiday that celebrates colonisation and genocide. JJJ has nothing like an equivalent to John Peel since I tuned in and I doubt will have in the future. There are fantastic community radio stations in Australian capital cities like PBS and Triple R in Melbourne, at great lengths supporting underground and independent music. PBS has over the years recorded some great Australia punk. Straightjacket Nation released a “Live on PBS” LP on No Patience Records a few years back. Sunglasses After Dark on PBS is a fantastic punk program that has run for almost fifteen years. I know Adelaide and Brisbane have some great punk shows on community radio also. But nothing nationwide…
Tessa Tribe – Lost in Fog Records, Masses & Ubik
Indebted to Penny and Gordon.