Unbanned from the ROXY – mais oui!

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.

Paris 1968

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.

  1. Izzy Ducasse
    Izzy Ducasse
    May 27, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Has anyone read Penny’s father’s book “Nelly”. It’s a brilliant piece of work which investigates the consciousness of who we really are. “I am who haunts me” says Mr Breton over a glass of wine with Nelly. Genius.

  2. Stewart
    June 23, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    LOL! 🙂

    March 18, 2009 at 2:29 am

    This is the first ive heard of Cross.anyone got any tuneage,would love to hear Cross/Cress/Crass supergroup.
    ps Tony if you read this ive got the tape of exeters THE WASTE supporting Conflict at the Clarendon,plus Conflicts set.its a good tape,except a twist at start of Waste.ive got the WASTES 2 demos and Exmouth gig.get in touch,i cant convert them but i am so glad ive found this site i may donate em.ive also got Citizen Fish and rdf tapes from when they came to Cornwall to help me raise money to get the white goddess fest going.plus Culture Shock pa tape from treworgey tree fayre.

  4. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    March 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    “Spectacles of Society- the Musical” was recorded by young Neil Megson at West Ruislip on 6 September 1969. Due to Cros refusal to compromise with the ‘Century of Counter Revolution’ as they called the 20th century, the recording was made using Charles Cros’ s cylindrical sound recording system – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Cros

    Taking their DIFY (do it your effing self) ethic to the extremes only they were capable of, the 69 tin cylinders used had been donated to the Cros Collective by Andy Warhol on a brief visit to West Ruislip and originally contained illegally imported Campbell’s condensed tomato soup.

    Unfortunately, having made the recording of “Spectacles of Society- the Musical” using the Cros system, Megson discovered that Charles Cros had never quite got round to inventing a play-back system.

    The whereabouts of the recordings are currently unknown, but it is rumoured they maybe held under 24 hour armed guard in a lead lined vault beneath the British Library.

    Aussi http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Hydropathes

  5. Penguin
    March 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Is this Neil Megson mentioned, the same Neil Megson that is now Genesis P-Orridge Al? I witnessed Penny perform down The Roxy (detailed above) btw. A crazy evening that was…

  6. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    March 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    I have just checked with Wikipaedia and there is no mention of Neil Megson aka Genesis P Orridge having been involved the avant aclu Cross Collective but it does say that after dropping out of the University of Hull in 1969…

    “Megson joined the Exploding Galaxy , a commune in London’s Islington Park Street. Members abandoned all normal modes of living, all notions of privacy, and Britain’s class structure. Strict discipline was expected and “ costumes” were the norm, as was role-playing and a rejection of all forms of social convention.

    Neil assumed the character of Genesis P-Orridge. He used the name for “Early Worm” his first recording, an album of improvisation on homemade instruments in 1968 (of which only one copy was pressed), and legally changed his name in 1971 ”

    According to Disinformation

    “After a near-death experience left him determined to follow his notion of becoming a beatnik writer, the young P-Orridge’s instinct for finding other “genetic terrorists” like himself led him to the psycho-therapeutic bootcamp of the Exploding Galaxy/Transmedia commune (which also included filmmaker Derek Jarman). Members were required to sleep in a different location every night, to take meals at different times during the day, and to act out assigned roles and attitudes, often in costume and with unerring earnestness, going so far as to have atypical sexual encounters (in character!) or risk getting badly beaten up if a situation warranted it.”

    Flyer for Exploding Galaxy here

  7. Penguin
    March 19, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Al, it seems strange that two folk with such boring names ie Neil Megson would be involved in some wacky shit during that end of the 60’s. Gotta be the same guy surely? I knew that other stuff you wrote about the ‘Orridge’.

  8. alistairliv
    alistairliv • Post Author •
    March 19, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Even stranger that someone called Penny “Centime” Breton should have formed an anarcho-situationist musical collective called Cross in a West Ruislip commune and just happened to have travelled to Paris ( in red London bus with “La Plage ” on the destination board) at the invitation of Guy Debord – to play a gig at the Sorbonne that turned into a riot (when the played “On the Poverty of Student Life”) on 3rd May 1968… which within days had paralyzed France….

    “Le 3 mai 1968, à Paris, la police évacue 500 étudiants qui occupaient la vénérable faculté de la Sorbonne. Le commissaire procède à des contrôles d’identité et embarque plusieurs étudiants au poste. Aussitôt éclatent des manifestations dans tout le Quartier Latin, au cri de «Libérez nos camarades !» Des barricades font leur apparition.”

    Or from http://www.marx.org/history/france/may-1968/timeline.htm

    3. May – Police clear the courtyard at the Sorbonne. Violence in the Quartier Latin results in more than 100 injured and 596 arrested.

    4. May – Courses at the Sorbonne are suspended. The UNEF and the Snesup call for unlimited strikes.

    5. May – Courts convict 13 demonstrators; give four jail terms.

    6. May – Battles in the Quartier Latin: 422 arrests; 345 police and about 600 students are hurt. Students at universities throughout France pledge support.

    7. May – At the tomb of the unknown soldier at Etoile: 30,000 students sing the ‘Marseillaise.’

    9. May – The Minister of Education forbids the re-opening of the faculties.

    10. May – Night of riot in the Quartier Latin: police assault 60 barricades. 367 are hospitalized of which 251 are police; 720 others hurt and 468 arrested. Cars burned were 60 and 188 others were damaged. The Minister of Education says of the protestors, “Ni doctrine, ni foi, ni loi.”

    11. May – The major unions, the CGT, the CFDT and the FEN, call for a general strike on 13. May. Back in Paris, George Pompidou, announces the re-opening of the Sorbonne, also for the 13. May.

    13. May – The general strike puts hundreds of thousands of students and workers in the streets of Paris; the Sorbonne is occupied by students.

    14. May – The National Assembly discusses the university crises and the battles of the Quartier Latin. President Charles de Gaulle leaves for Romania. Workers occupy Sud-Aviation in Nantes.

    15. May – The theatre de l’Odéon is occupied by 2,500 students and the Renault factory at Cléon is occupied by workers.

    16. May – Strikes hit other factories throughout France, plus air transport, the RATP and the SNCF. Newspapers fail to be distributed.

    18. May – President de Gaulle arrives back from Romania, 12 hours earlier than expected. Cinema professionals occupy the Cannes Film Festival. Major French directors withdraw their films from competition and the jury resigns, closing the festival.

    19. May – At the Elysée palace, President de Gaulle says, “La réforme, oui; la chienlit, non”

    20. May – An estimated 10 million workers are on strike; France is practically paralysed.

    Random co-incidence or surreal conspiracy?

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