Punk is Dead- Part 23

This is the International Times interview with the Clash from August 1977. The pic of Mick Jones from this and his quote “Whoever said PUNK IS DEAD is a cunt” was used as graphic by Crass for their ‘Punk is Dead’ on ‘Feeding the 5000’.

In the interview Mick asks IT about their February 77 headline “Punk is Dead”. Although Mark Perry of Sniffin Glue/ ATV did say “Punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS”, the IT headline was not based on Mark P’s quote – he hadn’t written it in Feb 77. He was a still a fan of the Clash then. In Sniffin Glue 9 (April/ May 77) he reviewed the first Clash album and called it “The most important album ever.”

Mark’s “the day punk died” quote [probably] came from the last Sniffin Glue, issue 12, September 77.

So it looks like the Crass song was part inspired by International Times. Although IT had been a sixties/ hippie counter culture mag, by 76/77 it had acquired a punk edge:

‘When the mode of the music changes’, IT said originally, ‘the walls of the city shake.’ Well the walls have been replaced, the sky lowers on sky rise buildings, and the mode of the music has settled into comfortable soft rock, such as The Eagles, slagged out and professional, with crystal clear production to ping in the foggy ears of hash smokers sitting comfortably, ‘laid back’. Everybody’s just as bored, scared and unoriginal as they ever were – perhaps more so.

Punk is trying to burn through it and all the slickness, but could be easily sabotaged by ‘Very punk, very Joan Sanderson’ type stuff. How can we ever change anything if we cultivate stupidity? – The transcendental moron, the punk moron, the fashionable moron, the cool moron. We could be offensive, but you wouldn’t give a shit when you’ve bought your nice new stereo…The only sign of life is an occasional exuberance shown in cruelty, and atoned for by sentimentality, all blanketed over by an incredible self-absorbed apathy which stops you from thinking, emotion or suicide. And you probably can’t even understand the words we’re using, let alone apply it to yourself, and as for ourselves this applies also, and all we ever need is a little love and understanding. But how do we get there, how well, and how often? What can one ever do? Going down the pub?”

Apart from playing their first gig at the Huntley Street squat -which was London’s largest squat in 1977-one of Crass first gigs was at ‘festival’ in Covent Garden. Thanks to some ace detective work by Tony Puppy, who spotted a reference to ‘Cras’ in the IT archives, it looks as if this was the James Street squat where IT had their offices…and where Tony himself later lived. [Tony has also found info on the Demolition Decorators who were based at James Street.]

In ‘The Story of Crass’ (page 83) Penny R. said that Andy Palmer was ‘vaguely involved’ with International Times and [allegedly] ‘pilfered a guitar from the IT offices’.

What is emerging out of the IT archives is another strand to the London punk/ pre-punk counter culture cross over, one in which Crass are more entangled than the image of them ‘isolated’ out in Epping would suggest. Even with the main stream of punk there is untold / half-told story. I have just checked, but can’t see any mention of IT in Jon Savage’s ‘England’s Dreaming’ – yet if you go through the back issues for the period, punk is there. IT was like a big circulation fanzine, but one which was selling mainly to people from the pre-punk counter culture and exposing them to a version of punk as [see IT editorial above] a renewal/ reformation of the counter culture.

Certainly it had that impact on me as a reader. If it was being read by [future members of] Crass in a similar way, it may have influenced Crass particular construction of punk.

AL Puppy

(insertion of IT snippet showing ‘Cras’ and more IT/James Street published links can be seen in the Puppy photo album under Print Material and International Times folder HERE

  1. johnn
    August 18, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    so if no one had fallen out over the re-releasing remastered crass back catalogue ,no one would have looked into who owns what songs and colin would still be collecting the rewards from somebody elses works?just for how long has he been being paid?no wonder penny sounds so pissed off.so would i too.

  2. Nic
    August 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Alistairliv: “Too slow…I was going to suggest Carl had a look at this Crass inspired discussion on the Guardian’s website.”

    He’ll be back, Al…they’re always back…

  3. chris
    August 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    >>>so if no one had fallen out over the re-releasing remastered crass back catalogue ,no one would have looked into who owns what songs and colin would still be collecting the rewards from somebody elses works?just for how long has he been being paid?no wonder penny sounds so pissed off.so would i too<<<

    personally, I fail to see how this is conceivable, let alone possible.

  4. gerard
    August 18, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Carl: “Crass was as boring as buggery way back then”

    Doesn’t sound like your buggery life was too hot back then ?!

  5. Carl
    August 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Gerard :

    Yep, probably not the best turn of phrase, but you know what I mean !!

    Crass is just like a “never ending drama” really, only problem is no one is listening any more …and public bickering about who did what always comes across as petty and pointless.

    I have said before, I never liked them and never will…

    Nic : Shite…….I wasn’t meant to come back, does this mean I have to follow Al’s link now ??

  6. Nic
    August 19, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I’m afraid so, Carl: otherwise the Anarcho-Stasi will be round to impound your Abrasive Wheels ‘When the Punks Go Marching In’ LP…

  7. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 19, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Oh. I was about to say no need – unless you want to read a discussion about how Crass must be really rich since they own a posh house (based on a recent photo of 4 ex-Crass folk standing outside Dial House) – which is then rebutted by the story of Dial House being repeated all over again.

    “Same old story, hear it all before…” as it were. Oh and “Crass only sold records because they were so cheap.”.

    The King Blues were suggested as a present day (but different musically) equivalent to Crass.

  8. Carl
    August 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Arrrrrr, the dear old “Wheels”…Probably the worst band I ever saw… Memories, the memories…

    Followed the link Al, and you have to smile, some of the comments afterwards were not of the highest intelligence were they ?

  9. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Crass- the prog rock years…

    The story so far: thanks to hours of patient detective work in the International Times archives by Tony Puppy, it seems that the mysterious 1977 ‘Covent Garden festival’ gig played by Crass (or ‘Cras’) took place in the basement of the James Street squat, Covent Garden. This was organised by the infamous Demolition Decorators. Penny Rimbaud did not play. Instead his place was taken by Charles Hayward of This Heat.

    But before This Heat, Charles Hayward was a member of Quiet Sun. Quiet Sun were an English progressive rock/jazz fusion band from the Canterbury Scene consisting of Phil Manzanera (guitars, later of Roxy Music), Bill MacCormick (bass), Dave Jarrett (keyboards) and Charles Hayward (drums).

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canterbury_Scene for more on this scene which spawned the Soft Machine, Gong, Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow, Matching Mole, Gilgamesh, Egg…and Caravan.

    Ah, Caravan…many were the happy hours I spent in the early seventies listening their classic 1971 prog – or progressive as we called it back then- rock album “In the Land of Grey and Pink”. Although musically far removed from punk, one of the tracks on ITLOGAP (Golf Girl) has a very un-progressive reference to the very punk fabric -PVC…

    Standing on a golf course, dressed in PVC
    I chanced upon a golf girl, selling cups of tea.

    Diligently researching Crass’ prog rock roots, I have now found compelling video evidence that Crass really were the missing link between prog and punk.

    Recorded for the BBC circa 1971/2, the evidence can be heard 2 minutes 50 seconds into this video of Caravan performing a subversive version of ‘Golf Girl’

    Later on the golf course, after drinking tea
    It started raining H-BOMBS, she protected me…

    This line is NOT in the studio version of the song and is the only known reference to H-Bombs (and PVC) by any progressive rock group. But in these throwaway, almost subliminal lines by Caravan, the soon to come future that would be realised in punk was already present for those [e.g. future members of Crass] within the prog rock/jazz fusion scene with the imagination to grasp the explosive potential of the H-Bomb…

  10. Tony Puppy
    Tony Puppy
    August 21, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Re-reference to H-bombs in prog-rock songs.

    On The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective Cd there is a previously unreleased demo, ‘Henry & The H-bomb’, from sometime in the early seventies. Hear here:


  11. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 21, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Hmmm…I was going to try and argue that Mott were more rockers than proggers, but the Rough Guide to Rock [page 701] sez Mott the Hoople

    “successfully straddled the widening gulf between the English rock underground (prog rock) and the new pop star mentality encapsulated by Top of the Pops (glam-rock).”

    Yeah, sure… but the only Mott album I had was ‘Mad Shadows’ (1970) which I bought 1974/5ish after reading that the final track – ‘When My Mind’s Gone’, “was allegedly performed by Hunter under producer Guy Stevens’ hypnotic influence… “. The album was pretty dark and gloomy, but not in a ‘progressive’ way e.g. the way Van Der Graaf Generator were.

  12. shammyleather
    August 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Did anyone in the Cr@ss collective perform in or were connected with “Here and Now” before they got involved as members of Cr@ss.

  13. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 21, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think there was any direct connection between Crass and Here & Now.

    But Here & Now were connected with the Mob/Zounds via the ‘Wierd Tales’ tour.

  14. gerard
    August 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I could be wrong too, but not as far as I know. Most likely would be andy palmer, but he doesn’t do communication.

    Despite his website: http://www.andy-palmer.co.uk/

  15. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    August 23, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Gerard said >

    Despite his website: http://www.andy-palmer.co.uk/

    Interesting that there is a seven year gap on Andy’s CV between 1977 and 1984…

    Gee once told me that apart from herself and Penny’s involvement with EXIT (and the Stamford Rivers Quartet!), no-one from Crass had had any previous musical involvements apart from Pete Wright who used to be in ‘a folk rock band nobody can remember the name of’, although for a while some mischievious scamp on Wikipedia did have him down as the bass player of some heavy metal band called ‘Trapeze’ and Motown soul outfit Fontella Bass…

  16. Andy X
    Andy X
    August 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

    “Interesting that there is a seven year gap on Andy’s CV between 1977 and 1984…”
    ha ha! thats funny, you would think being in crass would make his art more salable?, why deny your self and your own history?

    great article and links by the way!

  17. Penguin
    August 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Think that CV section is just there to mention Andy’s schooling and artwork awards rather than any outside interests hence the gap.
    Actually good of him not to play on the name of Crass in my opinion, think he would rather have customers that enjoy his work rather than buying it just because he was historically a member of…etc etc.

  18. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 23, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Pete Wright/ Trapeze/ Hot Wire/ 1974 – bass guitar and backing vocals. There is even a photo of him on the back sleeve. Though (listening to the album as I write this) I would call it ‘hard rock’ rather than ‘heavy metal’. More Deep Purpule than Black Sabbath. It is certainly NOT folk rock.

    But since it is the wrong Wright, I am barking up the wrong rock family tree… Hang how about this sixties garage -punk Pete Wright?

    “During the peak years of the ’60s garage band wave, Pete Wright was one of the nation’s top independent record promotion men. His records were not only hits on Chicago’s crucially important WLS but also in small markets throughout the Midwest. So much so that launching a record label was the next logical step. Thus was born Quill Records, a short-lived but supremely cool label heavily indebted to the garage band sound… from the Malibu’s who manage to outdo their idols the Animals, at least in pure unbridled energy, to the Skunks who on their overdriven, fuzzed-out cover of “Do the Duck” could be mistaken for a UK mod/freakbeat act. ”

    Damn, another wrong Wright… maybe ‘our’ Pete was in the highly influential Cambridgeshire folk rock group ‘Spriguns of Tolgus’? …
    Nope…no Pete Wright’s there…and there were an awful lot of UK folk rock bands in the era 1969-1976.

    Probably just as well I can’t find a Crass> folk music link ( or should I say ‘volk’ music?), since there appears to have been an outbreak of paranoid-conspiracy-theory-itis on the [Southern] Crass Forum.

    The main source for the witch hunt appears to be Stewart Home – so it is probably as true as the ‘green-brown alliance’ (nazi/ green anarchist) conspiracy. That really had me worried when I read about it at the time (early nineties)… a few years later I told Stewart’s mate Fabian Tompsett how worried I was about a Nazi/ Green link up… and he burst out laughing at me…

    “Did you really believe that stuff? We made it all up!”

    Ever since I have treated all Stewart’s writings as (very clever) works of fiction.

  19. gerard
    August 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

    As far as I remember, Pete’s previous band was ‘Friends Of Wesneydale Jasper’ though the spelling of the third word is dubious. It’s somewhere in my Crass book anyway.

  20. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    August 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I should have checked your book first Gerard. Here we are – page 31:- Pete Wright was a member of a folk duo called ‘Friends of Wensleydale Jasper’ -and Mick Duffield made short film with the same name…

    Got to be 11 out of 10 for research on that one…

  21. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    August 24, 2009 at 12:17 am

    > Think that CV section is just there to mention Andy’s schooling and artwork awards rather than any outside interests hence the gap.

    It seemed to me as though he was consciously writing the Crass years out of his life… I did meet Andy at Dial House the day after the ‘Voices Against War’ QEH concert and he seemed chatty enough about the Crass years though, and was most impressed with the compost loo we’d built.

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