Thanks to Val for passing on details of these interesting events – see http://www.1968.org.uk/index.html for more
The big news is that after years of campaigning by their fans, the ban has been lifted! So 31 years after his last appearance there, Penny Rimbaud of Crass will be performing live at the Roxy!
13 MAY 2008 Tuesday
7.30, Hothouse at the Roxy: The Dream Is Over. The Revolution Starts Here
A multi-media event with Penny Rimbaud. What can we learn from history? Is there any such thing as an individual event? Is there any such thing as an individual? Can anything happen in isolation? Where does context end and the ‘outside’ begin? Within commodity culture we are either product or outsiders looking for a context beyond it. Yet, for all that, we are not observers of history, but its result. The mirror cannot look at itself. Truth is multifaceted, a two-faced, three-faced clown2. We are divorced in matter alone. In essence, nothing changes. E=mc2.. Take up your bed and do it at the speed of now. In contribution, Penny Rimbaud and friends will create themselves in the image of the moment, that being the only conceivable God. Let there be light. (Free)
Venue: Roxy Bar and Screen 128-132 Borough High Street London SE1 1LB
(Next to Sainsbury’s, close to Tesco, not far from ASDA- but I still get lost in the supermarket – or is this just a fairy tale, happening in one?– See Raincoats below)
And there is more …
28 MAY Wednesday
6.30, Malcolm McLaren on the Avant Garde
From the radical avant garde movements of the early 20th Century to the revolutionary zeal of Cross in May 1968 and the angry blast of Seventies punk, cultural entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren explores the successive waves of 20th century countercultural apathy. (£750, £50 concs)
Venue: British Library next to the blessed SAINT PANCRAS STATION
29 MAY Thursday
7.00, Henri Lefebvre and Critique of Everyday Life with Andrew Hussey and Patrick Keiller
Lefebvre’s three volume magnum opus Critique of Everyday Life (Verso) has been lauded as a major influence on the students and workers of group Cross whose first and only gig was in Paris ’68. Andrew Hussey, author of The Game of War: The Life and Death of Guy Debord and film-maker Patrick Keiller, (London and Robinson in Space) will discuss the work and its legacy. (£6)
Venue: London Review Bookshop 14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL
Ahead of these exiting events, Penny Breton – whose ’avant aclu’ anarcho-hippy band Cross travelled from West Ruislip to play their one and only gig at the Paris Sorbonne on 3rd May 1968 – spoke exclusively to AL Puppy.
Photo- French bobbies escort members of Cross back to their tour bus, Sorbonne, Paris, France, 3rd May 1968
AL : So Penny Breton, what is the story behind Cross?
PB : Well, it was my mate Guy Debord’s idea really. He had just written this book, The Spectacles of Society, and he wanted to turn it into a musical. I had know Guy for donkeys – he’d expelled me from the Situationalist Internationale back in 1957.
AL: But didn’t he expel everyone?
PB: Yeah, but he expelled me before I was even a member. I didn’t actually join the SI until 1967. Anyhow he called me over to Paris in December 1967 which is when it all started. “Centime” Guy said, “ -that’s what he called me, Centime – we need to take the revolution to the masses and you are the man to do it. You must take the Spectacles of Society and turn it into music that is unpopular.”
At least I think that is what he said. My French isn’t very good.
So I said “ Mais Oui, Guy” and went back to West Ruislip.
AL: West Ruislip?
PB: Yeah, me and some mates had just set up a commune at the end of the Central Line in West Ruislip. We were like these really grumpy young hippies. That is why we called the band ‘Cross’, cos we were really really cross about everything. We had a few problems though.
AL: Like what?
PB : Like none of us could play any instruments. And when I tried to read the Spectacles of Society, it was all in French. Like I said, I could speak a bit of French, enough to order a beer, but I couldn’t read French. Still can’t. So I had to sort of guess the words.
AL: What about the music?
PB : Well I had this mate called Malcolm Edwards who was an art student and he gave us a record by the Monkees – Stepping Stone I think it was called – and we imitated it. It was a bloody racket, I mean we were, playing the same song for about two hours at a time.
AL: So what happened next?
PB : Well, must have been about March 1968, I told Guy that we had done it, we had turned the Spectacles of Society into music and he said, great, I will get you a gig in Paris. But nothing happened. By this time there were about twenty three of us in the band – we had a really cool brass section – and Malcolm says ‘I will be your manager’ and he starts hassling Guy about the gig in Paris – cos he could speak French better than I could. So about the end of April Guy rings me up and says “I have booked you to play a student gig in Paris on the 3rd May – but tell Malcolm and his mate Jamie they are counter-revolutionary wankers.”
Of course Malcolm didn’t give a toss – he and Jamie (one of his art school mates) turned up at West Ruislip on the 2nd May with this old Routemaster London bus with ‘La Plage’ stencilled on its destination board. So we all got on the bus and set off for Paris… what a disaster. The bus kept breaking down, so we only arrived in Paris on Friday 3rd May, where we met Guy. He took over and drove us to the gig – at an old college called the Sorbonne – full of bloody students. We got all the equipment out of the bus (most of it ‘borrowed’ from Pink Floyd – Syd was another old mate of mine and he said we could use it, but the rest of the band were well pissed off) and set up in the square in front of the college.
Everything was going fine until we started to play ‘ On the Poverty of Student Life‘ – then all hell broke loose. The French students hated us! The gig turned into a riot… the CRS [French riot police] turned up and started firing tear gas canisters, the students started digging up the cobble stones and throwing them at the police and we just kept on playing the rest of ‘Spectacles of Society’ until someone cut the power, then we were escorted back to the bus and high tailed it home to West Ruislip. The riots went on for days. Students- bloody revolting the lot of them.
AL: So what happened after you got back to West Ruislip?
PB : I decided to become an accountant. I thought “ The Man has killed the band, so lets break up the kids and get real.” The whole thing was just crass really, though funnily enough, old Guy seemed well chuffed by the whole situation. He sent me a certificate ‘Hero of the Revolution -First ( Working) Class’. Still got it somewhere. But once I started studying accountancy seriously, I lost touch with most of the others, we just drifted apart. Neil (Megson) became a bit of an artist, Malcolm changed his name to McLaren, Tony went to fight in Belfast, Bevanne tried to change the nation, Rudi stayed at home and starved. Jerry, our sound man – ‘Ratters’ we called him – kept the tape of the gig for years after he caught the last train east to Epping. I think he later re-mixed it as ‘Stations of the Cross’ – must have got religion…
Looking back, it’s all nostalgia really. But I will go along on to the Roxy on the 13th May just for old times sake. Shame Guy can’t be there, it will be the kind of spectacle he used to enjoy.
“Centime “ he used to say to me “never forget that Music is the Lemsip of the Masses.” And I never did.
AL : Thank you Penny Breton, this has been a most surreal interview.