The debut and only LP by The Rondo’s from Rotterdam recorded in 1980 shortly before the band split up. A large Gang Of Four and Wire influence on the tracks contained on this excellent LP. A free flexi disc is also included in the package which I did not bother to upload as it is a very bad quality short wave recording of John Peel playing ‘The Russians Are Coming’ on his famous late night Radio One show.
The text and photographs below concern the infamous Crass / Poison Girls / Rondos September 1979 concert at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square that was disrupted by a punch up between S.W.P. and B.M. hooligans. Crass never got to perform on this night due to the plod emptying the hall of all gig goers, peaceful or otherwise.
The text has been lifted from rondos.nl the Rondos official site, and the photographs are taken from the Rondos CD box set released on King Kong Records (KKR008/009). Indebted to Chris Low.
Conway Hall 9th September 1979 setting up
Poison Girls perform
Conway Hall crowd during the break before Crass were going to perform and before the trouble erupted
The plod enter the scene, Steve Ignorant and Gee look on from the crowd and the venue is evacuated
Sometime early on in 1979, Peter from Backstreet showed us a bizarre LP from London ‘The Feeding Of The 5000’ by Crass. We were overwhelmed at the enormous noise, driven by the beat of a drum and accompanied by serious ranting and raving, lasting the entire two sides of the album. We’d never heard the word ‘fuck’ that often on one record before. In Huize Schoonderloo we held our breaths as we listened to Crass’ anti-musical music many times over. Something that resembled tracks started to take shape. We read the lyrics and looked closely at the sheet covered in fascist-like symbolism. They were great! Better than us!
We sent them an enthusiastic letter, some of our issues and a single. We immediately got a very nice letter in return, with Crass buttons we should by no means feel obliged to wear and a Crass lyrics book, handmade and stenciled. They wondered if we wanted to come to England to perform together. We sure did. We decided to take a trip to England. Dick and Mildred filmed our departure from Hook of Holland. We saw a Crass concert in London. What an experience. The whole thing soon degenerated into a fight, initiated by a gang of skinheads who were violently terrorizing the venue. To our utter amazement Crass initially played on as if nothing was happening.
The following day we visited Dial House in the countryside on the outskirts of London. Penny Rimbaud, Crass’ drummer and clearly its source of inspiration too, gave us a warm welcome. He’d been in the kitchen all day and had baked all kinds of vegan vegetable pies, especially for us. Were we hungry? We told him it was kind of him but we’d just scoffed some hamburgers in London somewhere. Vegetarianism was still one step beyond us. Crass were surprised we weren’t fifteen-year-olds. That is how our music had sounded on the single we sent them. What do you say to that? To make things better G. said it was meant as a compliment. Rather sweet.
We were invited to perform with Crass and Poison Girls in London in September. We were already looking forward to it. They asked if we could leave the hammer and sickle at home, because they were likely to have the wrong effect on the skinheads who faithfully frequented Crass’ gigs. We agreed to everything.
We returned to London in September. We were wearing nice black suits with red Politischer Schutzhaftling (‘political activists in protective custody’) triangles. Admittedly this was inspired by Crass’ militant uniforms. Up to then we’d usually worn cheerful, colourful football shirts bought on flea markets. But by then everybody was doing that, you see.
The Crass members lived and worked together for the good cause like we did. They were incredibly friendly, a little older and a little more intellectual. And the ladies were rather feminist. “We pay with our bodies.” We were still boyish and open-minded, but certainly not stupid. We got on straight away, especially with Penny who just seemed incredibly old to us. He had to be almost forty! He was very friendly, however, and had clearly been influenced by oriental philosophy. Zen, if you like. We spotted modest Buddha statuettes here and there in the beautifully decorated country home and in the middle of a conversation he suddenly pointed at the wooden coffee table and said: “This teapot is borrowed from the universe.” Everyone fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop and we all stared at the teapot on the table that looked very normal to us. We’d not seen that one coming.
We stayed the night. They willingly put their rooms and beds at our disposal. The day of the concert arrived, a benefit concert for the anarchist prisoners in England known as the ‘Persons Unknown’. Crass practised the transitions between the songs, which they played without pausing, like they did on their records. We hung around in their delightful garden. Steve Ignorant, Crass’ brilliant singer, polished everyone’s Dr. Martens boots. He asked how we could remain so calm just before a performance. We smiled, because we didn’t understand the question. He told us he kept running to the toilet with nerves all day. We raised our eyebrows. That afternoon we arrived at the Conway Hall in Crass’ van. The place was swarming with skinheads. The fascist National Front had just held a big meeting, in the Conway Hall of all places.
The atmosphere in the venue just before that night’s performance was vicious. Fights broke out near the toilets in the corridor between different groups of skinheads supporting different football clubs. They marched ostentatiously into the room, with bloody hands and faces. They raised their arms in the Nazi salute. The Rondos played. Apart from the odd broken string the gig went perfect. We got good reactions. Poison Girls played. There was a lot of Hex-like behavior from female fans. Their vocals were rather theatrical, but still it was a great show, supported noisily by a gang of West Ham skins thrashing the balcony.
Then all hell broke loose. It all happened very fast. People were getting punched and kicked. Panic broke out. The audience scattered. We lifted small skinheads on to the stage so they wouldn’t get trampled. They cried with shock and fear and were barely eleven or twelve years old. People were lying on the floor. The police arrived and cleared the room. The skins were told to hand in their shoelaces. Peace returned and staff scrubbed the floor and mopped up the blood. Apparently, members of the Anti Nazi League and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) had clashed with skinheads of the British Movement and the National Front, who had stayed behind in pubs around the Conway Hall after the NF meeting to come to Crass’ gig that evening. A Jewish activist from the SWP walked up to the stage and pointed his finger at Crass. Your fault!
We grabbed our things and got in the van. We were packed together and very quiet. We went by a Chinese take-away for some vegan spring rolls. At Crass’ place a discussion ensued. The tone was friendly, but still. Shouldn’t you protect yourself from this kind of violence? They frequently wrestled with these problems. Crass had become a target for skinheads who were attracted to their furious music, militant appearance and swastika-like symbols, but who rejected anarchist and pacifist ideas. Crass refused to employ bouncers or let the venue hire them, even though that was a common thing in London in those days. It was a question of principles but should the audience be put through all this? You do invite them to come to your gigs, after all. Is it fair to deliver them unprotected to hordes of skinheads, fascist or not, while you are safely on the stage? It was fair, said Crass, for that was simply the situation in London at that time and they didn’t want to be ‘anti’. Crass said we didn’t understand, coming from the peaceful Netherlands. Crass’ pacifist anarchism, although admirable, opposed The Rondos’ more militant attitude.
We said goodbye the next day. We agreed to do more concerts in England together, organize a common tour of the Netherlands and there were plans to record an LP with Crass’ help. We’d talk about it all later. In the meantime the newspapers in England were full of the Conway Hall battle. The only venue, by the way, that had offered the National Front a space to meet, from the fundamental conviction that everyone has the right of assembly.
When we got back home to peaceful Huize Schoonderloo Andy, Crass’ guitar player, telephoned us. They had decided not to collaborate with us after all. Yes, we did do the same thing and yes, personally they thought we were very nice and sympathetic, but still. Later we received a letter from Penny. They didn’t want to confuse the audience by playing with a band that had different views. Besides, we had some sympathy for the People’s Republic of China. This was also a difficulty.
We were rather baffled. Obviously we understood that they were under direct physical threat from National Front skinheads. If they’d taken that as an argument, we would’ve immediately endorsed and appreciated it. But they were turning it into an ideological issue. They just didn’t want to be seen with us. Letters were sent both ways. No results. Still we didn’t give in. Raket published vicious articles we wrote about the Crass vs. Rondos controversy. We thought it relevant because in the Netherlands too, the Crass ideology was spreading and racism, propagated by different neo-Nazi groups, was emerging and poisoning the punk scene. The issue simply had to be addressed.
In hindsight we may have been too bitter and disappointed, and thus let things get too tense. We did, however, get votes of sympathy from London punks who were tired of the skinhead terror and wanted to strike back, but felt hindered by Crass. The discussion spread across the Dutch punk scene. You can look it all up in the fanzine Raket.
Levellers piece on the Crass / Poison Girls / Rondos Conway Hall troubles – published date: Oct 1979 (Chris Low Collection)
Bigger text HERE
Another perspective of this concert is written in the book ANTI FASCIST by Martin Lux who was there that night fighting the fascists.
An excerpt of that chapter is on a seperate post which may be accessed HERE