A certain summer trip to Oslo in 1989, blowing all money on records at Blitz and a few other sources of underground vinyl in Oslo,brought along a record that would set my head and life on goddamn fire. Feeding Of The 5000 by CRASS replaced my nihilistic aspirations as a "punk" in the classical sense with the thought of punk rock as something completely new in comparison to the traditional Dionysian cultus of rock and roll.
The new breed that came with CRASS took the idea of "do it yourself" to another level of involvement and seriousness in meaning and praxis. When BUZZCOCKS gave out their Spiral Scratch EP in 1976 on their own label, it was just in lack of a better alternative for an unknown amateur act. If EMI had offered them a contract already at that point of the bands career I m certain they had been in for the offer. They had the same ambitions,long back in their Manucian minds,as The STONES,THE KINKS or THE BEATLES,they wanted the glory, the fame of a rock n roll star. As simple as that.
CRASS at 1977,a Hippy camp that picked up the latest flavor and cut their hair and turned electric,redefined the meaning of punk by an infuse of the radical spirit into the vacuum and the void left behind by the hedonistic ramblings of the great rock n roll swindle. Punk,according to CRASS, turned out to be just another trend, controlled by the same major labels as the previous hype of rock and roll, just another object incorporated into the culture industry. Same Shit New Wrapping(YOUNG LORDS).They took the principal,ideologically legitimate,stance of an independent artist, cutting the lines to the control tower of the established music business and major labels, releasing records in their own way and on their own label, even constructing,creating a new language in visuals and blatant sloganism. "Anarchy" was now way more than just a word applied to stir up the conventions. The anarchism of CRASS was a true adoption of the ideology formulated by Bakunin or Prodhon a century before.
In effect it was the dynamic duo Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant, their anarcho syndicalist interplay of working class anger and middle class intellectual activism, that created the vitality in their music. It is a rougher,faster and angrier voice than the cockney sneer of SEX PISTOLS, in sound way more avant garde than the mock n roll conventions of SEX PISTOLS. The CRASS collective quite soon proved themselves being far more interested in politics than creative artistic (counter)strategies, typical of the one who dares to wake the ghosts of historical avant-garde.
CRASS formulated a once again surrender to ideological absolutism,a radical bastard child of the same Socialist origin as Communism, in the shape of traditional political ideology of Anarchism. Together with an experimental hard edged music, filthy language and disturbing collages all over their record artwork, they narrowed down the career opportunities of CRASS as a rock act in late 70s UK music business. They swore the oath to the solitary dwellings of the underground artist, a youth quake tagged and passed on as "non mainstream" or "against the grain". "I wanna be the minority", not sang to the US MAJORITY like GREEN DAY two decades later, but screamed and cursed out by the minority to the minority.
Even though they looked like crypto-fascists in their black dresses and militant touch in line and accessory,the substance reveals more of a traditional leftist approach,the counter cultural parameters defined by beatnik, summer of love and the´68 student riots in Paris. "Once a hippy, always a hippy" as an answer to the "Never trust a hippy" dictate of classic punk. The community laid out a never ending quest for nirvana, an Utopian solution of "anarchy and freedom" in combination with a hard roughly cut amateur rock. The result is one that attracts and seduces rather than offends or bores.Consolidated with an established ideology and with huge sources of energy and rage,CRASS was searching for a new and fresh direction in the afterglow of the punk explosion of ´77,desperately trying to save themselves from an atmosphere that evoked a feeling of a "rock n roll suicide", to quote the man the name CRASS came from anyway ("Ziggy Stardust",DAVID BOWIE).
CRASS also featured an outstanding visual/graphical battery. It took heavy cues from both the agit chic line of the UK punk style originators Jamie Reid and Malcolm Mclarhan/Vivienne Westwood , but took on a language of ad hoc stencil print that nailed them much more to the S.I/propaganda form and terminology than the unholy trinity of the brilliant media chaos behind the bravery of PISTOLS would have allowed themselves.
Gee Vaucher,who designed the package of CRASS,glided more towards parody and plagiarism. A black and white Richard Hamilton sort of way, rising the temperature from vital artistic experimentalist (also evident in Jamie Reids graphics for SEX PISTOLS),to a far more political(dis)charged form in image and jargon.
After seeing the poster included in The Feeding Of The 5000, that torn off burned out hand of a solider stuck in the bared wired battlefield with the message "your country needs you", the laughter has grown sour. That flirt with propaganda and stark social realism/photo journalism isn t funny anymore. At least not if you add the lyrical attack on everybody ever linked to punk as music,generation,style or "attitude":
"Steven Jones, you're napalm If you're so pretty vacant, why do you smarm? Patti Smith, you're napalm, your write with your hand But it's Rimbaud's arm".
In fact written by the arm of a rhetorical brain calling himself "Penny Rimbaud". One can perhaps sense an obnoxious envy of the nature of a true genius that PATTI SMITH shared with the poetical prodigy of Arthur Rimbaud. In spite of the naive but sincere political engagement found in THE CLASH camp to their last day, the judgment is nonetheless merciless in it s arguments of "selling out" to CBS. As they later state on The Stations Of The Crass album:
"The name is CRASS not CLASH"