In 1964, future Crass drummer Penny Rimbaud, then known by his given name of Jeremy Rattner, appeared on the Ready Steady Go! music program to receive an award from Beatle John Lennon. He’d won a contest for producing artwork inspired by “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
The prizes were copies of the LPs Mingus by Charlie Mingus and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto. This anecdote appears in Rimbaud’s autobiography, Shibboleth: My Revolting Life.
Thank you to Brad Laner for calling this delightfully weird pop culture connection to our attention.
The end of 1981 likely saw highly influential British anarcho-punk band Crass both energized and exhausted after dropping their third album, the remarkably complex feminist manifesto Penis Envy.
One speculates that the idea for their final release of the year came to the band as a “eureka!” moment. Why not release a 7” novelty record made up of a department-store-style, organ-and-drum-machine medley of their anthemic and obnoxious tunes, including “Big A Little A,” “Punk is Dead,” “Big Hands,” “Contaminational Power” and others? Slap on an innocuous Santa Claus intro and obnoxious outro at the end, pop it into a sleeve with a strange and horrific collage of an Xmas-day family holiday scene by Gee Vaucher, and you’ve got an instant inside-joke punk classic on your hands.
As a horror-day bonus for you Crass-heads, here’s a wide-ranging, as-yet-spotlighted 2007 interview from pancrack.tv with your man, drummer Penny Rimbaud…
The women of Crass: Gee Vaucher, Joy DeVivre, Eve Libertine 1982
A couple of Crass things of note this week: The first fruit of their long planned remastering/repackaging program aka The Crassical Collection emerges this week (although I can’t find anybody selling this in the states yet, unfortunately) with the first Crass LP The Feeding of the 5000.
After many years of being out of print, this legendary album has been been restored from the original analogue studio tapes, repackaged and bolstered by rare and unreleased tracks, and stunning new artwork from Gee Vaucher, who has lovingly created what could only be considered a real artefact. Included in this package is a 64-page booklet featuring all lyrics along with extensive liner notes from band members Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant, which shed light on the making of the record. Also included is CD-sized recreation of the iconic original fold-out poster sleeve.
‘Five thousand’s a crowd (four thousand nine hundred and ninety nine more than I imagined were going to buy the record), but two’s company (I knew for certain that my Mum would want one), so it was on the plate, ready to serve, The Feeding of the Five Thousand’. ‘We were setting out as purists: hard, uncompromising and utterly bemused’. ‘On one thing we were very clear, in bringing a prosecution of Criminal Blasphemy against us the authorities would have been giving us the kind of publicity which overnight would have made us a household name. They were aware of this, and so were we. It was a situation that allowed us carte blanche to say pretty much whatever we wanted without any real fear of incrimination, a situation which over the next seven years we exploited to the hilt’.
Epic want ! The other epic thing is this lengthy new interview with Penny Rimbaud which reveals some surprisingly bitter battles between the players accompanied by some fantastic, never before seen photos (two of which I used in this post).
Below: a fan vid for one of the most striking tunes on Feeding of the 5000
While The Feeding of the 5000 came out way back in ‘78, Rimbaud and Vaucher still remain true to the “Crass ideal.” They continue to practice a sustainable, anti-corporate lifestyle at Dial House, a “safe haven for those individuals of principle who still live by the old punk slogan ‘Do it yourself.’
I remember a time when the procuring of a new Crass single was a matter of great urgency. Watch below to find out why.
Tonight brings a special guest post from Dangerous Minds pal, main Medicine man, and one of my dear childhood friends, Mr. Brad Laner:
Crass has always been one of my favorite bands. While mostly known for their brilliant iconography and lyrics, media pranks, and communal origins/existence, I think they made tremendously creative and musically interesting records. Drummer/lyricist Penny Rimbaud‘s drumming in particular is like none other I can think of. The man managed to work a bizarre martial uh…march feel into nearly all of their material, and therefore made Crass sound like no other “punk” band before or since.
I recently picked up Rimbaud’s autobiography, Shibboleth, and while there is precious little about the actual music, it’s a fun and informative read. An early moment finds teenage Jeremy Ratter (the future Mr. Rimbaud) crossing paths with The Beatles on Ready Steady Go.
As unlikely as that sounds, it’s thankfully preserved for all time on the YouTubes:
It also must be mentioned that Crass created the greatest lost feminist manifesto/concept album ever in 1981’s Penis Envy. I’d be hard pressed to come up with another band that was able to so beautifully marry great heaping mouthfuls of bitterly angry lyrics to almost jubilantly inventive music.