George Berger has written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International amongst others. His previous book was a biography of the Levellers: State Education/No University.
Crass was the anarcho-punk face of a revolutionary movement founded by radical thinkers and artists Penny Rimbaud, Gee Vaucher and Steve Ignorant. When punk ruled the waves, Crass waived the rules and took it further, putting out their own records, films and magazines and setting up a series of situationist pranks that were dutifully covered by the world’s press. Not just another iconoclastic band, Crass was a musical, social and political phenomenon.
Commune dwellers who were rarely photographed and remained contemptuous of conventional pop stardom; their members explored and finally exhausted the possibilities of punk-led anarchy. They have at last collaborated on telling the whole Crass story, giving access to many never-before seen photos and interviews.
"Lucid in recounting their dealings with freaks, coppers, and punks the band's voices predominate, and that's for the best." --The Guardian UK
"Thoroughly researched...chockful of fascinating revelations...it is, surprisingly, the first real history of the pioneers of anarcho-punk." --Classic Rock
"They (Crass) sowed the ground for the return of serious anarchism in the early eighties." --Jon Savage, England's Dreaming
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The Story of Crass: A Review
By Tom Sawyer
September 2nd, 2015
The Story of Crass is George Berger's biography of one of the first anarcho-punk bands, Crass. Formed by Steve Ignorant and Penny Rimbaud in the late 70's, Crass functioned as an anarchist collective operating from a commune in the English countryside known as Dial House. The band released six full length albums varying widely in style but consistently featuring an intense and trenchant take on politics, art, gender, and music. Fiercely independent, Crass were among the first bands to self release their records, eschew advertising, and function almost entirely autonomous of the traditional music industry system. Berger writes clearly and directly, and paints an honest portrait of one of punk's pioneering groups.
Punk for the People
By Stefan Christoff
September 30th, 2010
The Story of Crass goes on to trace the punk culture scene that gave birth to Crass via subcultures of the late '60s, breaking a punk subculture taboo in highlighting a historical trajectory between the hippie era and punk rock that would make Sid Vicious roll over in his grave. But Crass' attempt to articulate revolutionary dreams, in action and sound, reaches beyond cultural labels like punk rock. Key to understanding the continuing relevance of Crass today is the universal nature to the anarchist ideas that fuelled the group.
Even at their peak a band on the margins, the main players in Crass were plugged into the radical activity of a good quarter of a century. Whether it was communal living, free festivals, or the anarcho punk with which they made their biggest, early 1980s impact, stalwart Penny Rimbaud was present with the "why not?" attitude that seems to characterise the counterculture of any period. To the distinct benefit of this book, he and his fellow players are also happy to talk about it all. Lucid in recounting their dealings with freaks, coppers and punks - there's a sweet account of Gee Vaucher looking after a comatose John Lydon - the band's voices predominate, and that's for the best. There are Crass fans still, possibly, but it's the band's attitude which rings truest. "I had a lot," says Rimbaud of his comfortable upbringing. "So I thought whatever I had, I'd share." Appealing words, in any era.
So where, in these inflammatory times ripe with the necessity for action, has that good old anarcho spirit gone? Where are the songs and gigs screaming about Iraq/Iran, or about the sheer boredom of celebrity culture?
Crass, as a new biography by George Berger reminds us, politicised a whole generation - but unfortunately not this one. This lot are happy to leave it all to sanctimonious, self-publicist Geldof and Bush-toady Bono - although how these people, who show their love of the world by flattering those who are busy messing it up, retain any credibility is something of a mystery.
Shock and awe. Got the book and read it last night. Then couldn’t sleep. Just like after reading Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming - the book manages to transmit the intensity of that which it describes. Which is brilliant. But now I am exhausted. Do I read it again?
George Berger's book is an engaging, useful and well-researched if somewhat scrappily finished account of the Crass years and Dial House before and after. It is largely an oral history and there are some very fine photos. It shows brilliantly the intellectual and artistic conditions that led to the creation of Crass and also the events that have folllowed since Crass finished in 1985.
There´s just so much in this book that it would be hard to fit in one review! However one surprise to this book are comments from Garry Bushell and I can see what he is saying regards Crass and the Anarchist moment. Even Steve Ignorant felt that way about many people in the movement especially his commments towards many of the folk at the ´Autonomy Centre´ in Wapping.