In a career jammed with brilliantly provocative instigations, few surpass the delicious prank that Crass pulled on the professional romance industry just as the most overhyped wedding of the twentieth century (uniting Charles and Diana) was about to occur on British soil. Released in 1981, Crass’s third album Penis Envy foregrounded the vocals of Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre, as befitted an album focusing on women’s topics. As Crass fans know, the album’s final track, not mentioned in the album art itself, is an über-saccharine ditty called “Our Wedding,” performed in a style vaguely reminiscent of “Heaven,” the song delivered by the “Lady in the Radiator” in David Lynch’s 1977 classic Eraserhead. The song brilliantly used the language of matrimonial devotion to skewer the marriage industry and all of its attendant assumptions. Here are the lyrics:
All I am I give to you
You’ll honor me, I’ll obey you
Rich or poor or come what may
We’ll forsake all other love
Just we two, one flesh, one blood
In the eyes of god
I am yours to have & hold
I’m giving you my lie….
Never look at anyone, anyone but me
Never look at anyone, I must be all you see
Listen to those wedding bells
Say goodbye to other girls
I’ll never be untrue my love
Don’t be untrue to me [repeats]
The song as an adjustment to a Connie Francis parody called “Lipstick On Your Penis” that the band deemed necessary to avoid a copyright lawsuit. Having done so, Crass decided to see if they could fool anyone into imbibing the song “straight.” They found a taker in Loving, a magazine aimed at teenage girls of a romantic bent. Loving agreed to offer the single as a white flexi-disc release readers could receive for free by writing in to the magazine. It’s been said that copies of the flexi-disc go for impressive sums on eBay, but a brief trip to the website failed to confirm that.
Loving gushed to readers in the May 30, 1981, issue (a few weeks before the Charles and Diana wedding) that the free Crass flexi would make “your wedding day just that bit extra special…. Joy De Vivre has captured all the happiness and romance of that all-important big day—your wedding—so make sure you send off your copy in time for the grand occasion—it’s a must for all true romantics.”
In 2005 Penny Rimbaud wrote the following account of the incident for Vice:
We were recording an album called Penis Envy, the last track of which was “Lipstick On Your Penis” based on the old standard “Lipstick On Your Collar”. Penis Envy was fronted by the women of the band, it was a very feminist album and “Lipstick” was about the institution of marriage being little more than prostitution. Having recorded that track, we realised it would almost certainly lead to a copyright prosecution, so we decided to completely rewrite the lyrics. What we ended up with was so convincingly schmaltzy that we had the idea of trying to sell it to a teenage romance magazine called Loving. It was one of those magazines which feeds lies to young girls, sets them up with ludicrously impossible fantasies which they can’t follow, won’t follow and don’t follow. Magazines like that just create heartache, they remove young people from themselves, set them up to be knocked down.
Anyway, we called in at Loving‘s IPC offices as Creative Recordings and Sound Services (CRASS) and said “We’ve just made this recording and think it would be suitable for your publication.” They jumped at it, saying “It’s great, fantastic. We’re about to do a special brides [bribes] issue. How about us doing it as a free flexi?” Which is precisely what it became. They advertised it as “Our Wedding”—an “absolute must for your wedding day”. They’d bought it hook, line and stinker, but the lyrics were frightful, banal shit about the social fantasy of marriage, you know, things like never looking at other girls or guys once you’ve fallen for it. It was total rubbish, but they happily gave it away with their magazine. Now, what kind of loving is that? Shortly afterwards a friend in Fleet Street exposed the scam and The Star printed the glorious headline “Band of Hate’s Loving Message”. I think there were a few sackings at Loving magazine.
When the hoax was exposed, a brief tabloid controversy resulted; the News of the World hilariously called the title of the new album Penis Envy “too obscene to print.”