In 1979 Crass release their ultimate statement: Stations Of The Crass

Crass - 1979 (roughtradepublishing.com)

Crass – 1979

Introduction

Only a few bands have had the amount of impact on me that Crass has had. That primarily applies to the way I view the world and the powers that be.

After Feeding Of The 5000

Crass - The Feeding Of The 5000 (punkygibbon.co.uk)

Crass – The Feeding Of The 5000

As written in the article on The Feeding Of The 5000, Crass’s debut was a huge success within (alternative) music circles. So huge in fact, that many record company A&R divisions asked whether the band would want to make serious amounts of cash and were inclined to signing a deal with a major company. The band just laughed. They had only recently founded their own Crass Records label and would continue down that path.

There was one invitation the band was more than willing to fulfill: recordings for one of the John Peel Sessions made for the BBC. It was a recognition of the band’s popularity to be asked for the program and that their recordings would/could be heard by listeners all over the country. On March 28th, 1979, the band went over to the Maida Vale studio in London, where they recorded five songs: Shaved Women, They’ve Got A Bomb, Tired, G’s Song and Mother Earth. The last two were new songs, that would end up on their second album.

Crass - Stations Of The Crass (theartofcrass.uk)

Crass – Stations Of The Crass

Stations Of The Crass

It’s a bit unclear what the precise release date for the album really is. Some sources state it was August of 1979, but that seems a bit too soon, as side D of the album contains recordings from a show on August 7th, 1979 (at the Pied Bull in Islington). On the other hand, Crass was totally DIY and was virtually able to start pressing records whenever they felt it was time. In his book Shibboleth: My Revolting Life Penny Rimbaud writes: “In the summer of ’79 we recorded our second album ‘Stations Of The Crass’ which we released that winter”. I stick to November 1979.

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Foldout (collections.vam.ac.uk)

Crass – Stations Of The Crass – Foldout

Album title and cover

According to Rimbaud the album title was chosen because of earlier nightly adventures: “The title was chosen to celebrate our operations with the spray can, while the cover carried a photo of a wall at Bond Street station displaying the resulting efforts”.

The title is also a play on words of the catolic Stations of the Cross, which refers to 14 images/paintings portraying Christ on the day of his crucifixion and prayers. Even though Rimbaud doesn’t really address this in his book, the band must have been pleased with that connotation .

The album cover was made up of a giant foldout poster, which was personally folded by the band members themselves. Considering the fact that this album was the most successful Crass album, selling over 250,000 (!) copies, the Crass members have folded the same amount of covers. Steve Ignorant later commented he hated it. It does speak volumes about the band’s conviction and care.

Double album

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - 'Traditions' (discogs.com)

‘Traditions 1828-1945′ – J.A.D. Ingres’ “The Valpinçon bather” versus de horrors of Hiroshima

The debut The Feeding Of The 5000 was a 12-inch, as it had to be played at 45-RPM. The band used the same recipe for Stations Of The Crass, however the band had so much new music that the songs extended into 3 record sides (all 45-RPM). The fourth side contained live recordings and had to be played at 33-RPM.

The idea to release a double album was ambitious and (relatively) expensive, but the band had ideas by the tons and Crass made sure that consumers paid the bare minimum. “Pay no more than £3” was the motto.

The expenses the band had to make were financed by an initial loan made available by the Poison Girls, the punk band centered around Vi Subversa, that released music on the Crass Records label in 1980 and 1981. In the liner-notes of the re-release, as part of the The Crassical Collection, Rimbaud states:

Having borrowed enough money from the Poison Girls to manufacture five thousand copies of Stations, which we felt was probably the most we could reasonably expect to sell, we had budgeted the record accordingly. However within a week it had sold out and we’d had to order a further pressing of twenty thousand, which, despite an anthem of critical bile from the music press, also sold out immediately.

Crass - Soundcheck (southern.com)

Crass – Soundcheck

Music

Musically, Stations Of The Crass followed the road taken on The Feeding Of The 5000, but the band also tried new things. The band sounded less ‘punk’ and at times melody even entered the songs quite heavily, even though the noise, military drumming, the unschooled guitar playing by N.A. Palmer and the almost inaudible Steve Ignorant, who seemed more determined than ever to use his Cockney dialect, were still the main ingredients.

The opener, Mother Earth immediately hits home, hard. I thought it was a macabre start, the atonal guitar, the propelling bass, the attack of the drums and the hysterical screaming, Mother? / Mother? / Mother? / Mother?, ever more prevalent. It was scary and exciting. To this day, I know no other albums that sets the mood for the entire album so quickly, so sinister, yet so sincere. The following White Punks On Hope contains an almost reggae-like second section. A song like Walls seems to be the missing link between hardcore-punk and house music, with the use of electronics and the ‘four-on-the-floor’ beat, musically and recording-technology-wise quite impressive. The Gasman Cometh paints a bleak future, lyrically as well as musically. On the closing I Ain’t Thick, It’s Just A Trick Crass sounds like an old-school punk band (for the first and last time).

Throughout the album Crass shows itself at its most diverse. Following singles and albums would see the band being driven by the message, but also seeking the boundaries of their musical skills.

Songs

All songs written and performed by Crass.

Side Song Time
A   Mother Earth   4:11

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Side 1 (discogs.com)

    White Punks On Hope   2:22
    You’ve Got Big Hands   1:42
    Darling   1:56
    System   0:56
    Big Man, Big M.A.N.   2:46
    Hurry Up Garry (The Parsons Farted)   1:11
B   Fun Going On   2:16

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Side 2 (discogs.com)

    Crutch Of Society   1:52
    Heard Too Much About   1:08
    Chairman Of The Bored   1:18
    Tired   3:19
    Walls   2:59
    Upright Citizen   3:15
C   The Gasman Cometh   3:17

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Side 3 (discogs.com)

    Demo(n)crats   3:20
    Contaminational Power   2:01
    Time Out   2:16
    I Ain’t Thick, It’s Just a Trick   4:24
    Prime Sinister (hidden track)   1:20
D   System
Big Man, Big M.A.N.
Banned from the Roxy
Hurry Up Garry
Time Out
They’ve Got A Bomb
Fight War, Not Wars
  12:51

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Side 4 (discogs.com)

    Women
Shaved Women
You Pay
Heard Too Much About
  7:10
    Angels
What A Shame
So What
G’s Song
  7:19
    Do They Owe Us a Living?   2:04
    Punk Is Dead   1:56

Crass

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - Patch (discogs.com)

Crass – Stations Of The Crass – Patch

  • Steve Ignorant – vocals
  • Eve Libertine – vocals on Darling, Walls and Demo(n)crats
  • Joy De Vivre – voice
  • Phil Free – guitar, background vocals
  • N.A. Palmer – guitar, background vocals
  • Pete Wright – bass, vocals on Fun Going On, Tired and Upright Citizen
  • Penny Rimbaud – drums, radio
  • Gee Vaucher – artwork
  • Mick Duffield – films

Message

The first song is Mother Earth, a song about (the media attention for) Myra Hindley, the female part of the Moorland Murderers, who gruesomely murdered young children between 1963 and 1965. Even though the anger about the double standard behind the media frenzy and about the, evidently, popular story, is justified, I think Crass takes it too far when they state:

hindley’s crime was to do what others think

© MOTHER EARTH, CRASS

I have always felt uncomfortable with the statement. Either it is utilized as a ‘shock statement’ (mission accomplished) or it says a lot about the way Crass views human nature, which would be deep, deep black. Which is unjust, in my opinion.

The following White Punks On Hope opens with a full-on attacks on The Clash, the band that had inspired Steve Ignorant to make music himself upon the band’s utterance that everybody at their show should start their own band if they thought they had something to say or (maybe) could do it better.

they said that we were trash / well the name is crass,not clash / they can stuff their punk credentials / cos it’s them that take the cash / they won’t change nothing with their fashionable talk / their RAR badges and their protest walk

© WHITE PUNKS ON HOPE, CRASS

Consequently the song address the left-wing mob who support the oppressed and then brags about it (‘look at us being all humanitarian and all’) and unknowingly ridicule themselves (‘we understand and help you’), without any indication of self-reflection. The second part of the song seems inspired by reggae (another jab at The Clash?) and really portrays the band’s philosophy:

pogo on a nazi,spit upon a jew / vicious,mindless violence that offers nothing new / left-wing violence,right-wing violence,all seems much the same / bully boys out fighting,it’s just the same old game / boring fucking politics that’ll get us all shot / left-wing,right-wing,you can stuff the lot / keep your petty prejudice,i don’t see the point / ANARCHY AND FREEDOM IS WHAT I WANT

© WHITE PUNKS ON HOPE, CRASS

Even though I think there is a difference between the types of violence and the basis for it, in the end it really boils down to it being the same old game.

Big man,big M.A.N. is an extremely powerful message on the way men (and women) are conditioned by (social) regulations and upbringing. In my entire life, I have tried very hard to get away from ‘traditional’ expressions of masculinity. I detest it.

you see there’s lots of chances in this land of hope and glory / try and make your own rules,that’s a different story

big man,big M.A.N. / big man,big M.A.N. / big man,J.O.K.E. / big man,what a fucking joke

© BIG MAN,BIG M.A.N., CRASS

Morals, habits, traditions may offer a foundation, but also give way to suffocation, oppression and (as a result) rebellion.

don’t want to bury my head in the crutch of society / perverted parent that takes my energy / sucking me dry with your morals,your threats / christ,your queen,your politics / fucking hypersensitive,super-realist humanity / i’m one of your super hybrid community / commutes the arsehole of the economy / watch out,watch out / it’s all about,reversion’s setting in / and i can see you / staring at me with your seizured brain / trying to put me down the drain again / well you’re too smart,right from the start / i learned it well that the truth will tell / and you’re done for / it’s what the son’s for / it’s what the gun’s for / it’s what i come for / you better run bore / you better run bore

© CRUTCH OF SOCIETY, CRASS

Besides Walls virtually being house music, the message is (once again) that suffocation kills. Without boundaries man can grow and flourish.

without your walls i am alive / without your walls we all survive / without your walls no guilt to bear / without your love,our love to share / without your walls i am alive

© WALLS, CRASS

The same message, but more explicitly aimed at institutions. A great political statement narrated by two voices accompanied by menacing apocalyptic sounds in the background.

out from your palaces,princes and queens / out from your churches,you clergy,you christs / i’ll neither live nor die for your dreams / i’ll make no subscription to your paradise

© DEMO(N)CRATS, CRASS

The trap from which almost no-one escapes. In the end most people don’t last and start living their ‘normal’ lives.

you think you’re fucking different,you think it’s you and them / if they asked you a question you’d ask them when / you think you’re hard done by,but you just want the same / chicken-thighs,human-thighs,it’s all the same old game / well,you made the choice,money,sex and crime / tight little egos asking for the time / well i ain’t got it,you can sit in your pit / middle-class,working-class,it’s all a load of shit

© TIME OUT, CRASS

But, is that such a bad thing? Is it wrong that there are people fighting discrimination (RAR: Rock Against Racism)? Is it wrong for people to extract some sort of self esteem from that? I don’t think so. As long as the recognition is there that it’s a choice to do it, it’s okay. As long as the recognition is there that there are other options as well, and that they’re ‘okay’ too. As long as a path taken doesn’t lead to indoctrination of the new generations and freedom succumbs. Utopia? Maybe, but I’m still trying.

Crass - Fight War Not Wars Destroy Power Not People (storenvy.com)

Crass – Fight War Not Wars Destroy Power Not People

Crass has always had a knack for one-liners and slogans, like Fight War, Not Wars and Who’s Your Leader?, both of which run much deeper than meets the eye. The slogan Crass is most identified with is also very strong: There Is No Authority But Yourself. The live recordings of the album contain the song Shaved Women, that has another strong statement, also true on multiple levels:

in all our decadence people die

© SHAVED WOMEN, CRASS

Review

As I have stated in the introduction, this album has influenced me strongly. Particularly the ideas and convictions, even though I didn’t necessarily agree with them all. The fact you take responsibility for your own life, your choices (including their consequences) is something that has stayed with me throughout my life.

Musically: I like the sound of the album. It sounds clear, angry and direct, even after 40 years it hasn’t lost any of its initial impact and, unfortunately, depiction of current affairs. Crass clearly added diversity to their music. The slower, more experimental pieces sound as threatening and urgent as the noise eruptions. The confidence, rage, disgust and optimism is contagious and believable. The only letdown, as was the case with The Feeding Of The 5000, is that the songs sung by Pete Wright are considerably less, I really don’t like his voice.

Stations Of The Crass is a personal favorite, an album I will continue to play and listen to. I understand it’s not for everyone, but sincere anger, amazement and conviction can also be very moving.

I award this album with the rating below. And yes, that is no joke. The album comes highly recommended!

After Stations Of The Crass

Crass - Nagasaki Nightmare / Big A Little A - Single (discogs.com)

Crass – Nagasaki Nightmare / Big A Little A – Single

In 1980 Crass and Poison Girls released the single Bloody Revolutions / Persons Unknown, meant as a benefit to the Wapping Autonomy Centre. Bloody Revolutions was partially about violence at Crass shows. Crass were strong believers in pacifism and subsequently didn’t believe in maintaining order at their concerts. At one specific show, organized by Crass and Poison Girls benefiting Persons Unknown, an anarchist collective jailed due to false accusations, Crass blamed left-wing demonstrators (opposing nazi skinheads) and Rock Against Racism, who was deemed too polarizing. Even though I don’t reject the 100% pacifist stance, I do lean towards the anti-fascists and don’t support Crass’s view in this matter.

Following the single Rival Tribal Rebel Revel, which came free with a fanzine, the single Nagasaki Nightmare / Big A Little A was released. Nagasaki Nightmare was about the atrocities of nuclear war, and the B-side contained Crass’s message in a nutshell:

be exactly who you want to be,do what you want to do / i am he and she is she but you’re the only you / no one else has got your eyes,can see the things you see / it’s up to you to change your life and my life’s up to me / the problems that you suffer from are problems that you make / the shit we have to climb through is the shit we choose to take / if you don’t like the life you live,change it now it’s yours / nothing has effects if you don’t recognise the cause / if the programme’s not the one you want,get up,turn off the set / it’s only you that can decide what life you’re gonna get

if you don’t like the rules they make,refuse to play their game / if you don’t want to be a number,don’t give them your name / if you don’t want to be caught out,refuse to hear their question / silence is a virtue,use it for your own protection / they’ll try to make you play their game,refuse to show your face / if you don’t want to be beaten down,refuse to join their race / be exactly who you want to be,do what you want to do / i am he and she is she but you’re they only you

© BIG A LITTLE A, CRASS

Crassical Collection

Crass - Stations Of The Crass - The Crassical Collection (discogs.com)

Crass – Stations Of The Crass – The Crassical Collection

On November 10th, 2010, Stations Of The Crass (just like The Feeding Of The 5000 two months earlier) was re-released as the second part of the six-piece The Crassical Collection. Remastered, with supplementary artwork by Gee Vaucher an 64 page booklet, containing liner-notes by Ignorant and Rimbaud.

Unfortunately, the re-release started a row between the band members. The release stirred up some controversy within the punk community as well, which didn’t present its prettiest face (not by a long shot). Complaints about the price (still considerably less when compared to current standards) and a feeling of entitlement to free music, because ‘that’s what Crass was all about’. Do They Owe Us A Living? indeed…

But, all in all, the re-releases were great, even though I didn’t particularly liked it sound wise, but the packaging was awesome and the liner-notes were informative and a very nice read!

Success

As unbelievable as it may sound, but Crass was hugely popular, especially for a band who went under the radar and didn’t do any advertising. That not only showed in the number of sales, but also in the attention bestowed upon the band by the press, politics and their audience. The sheer amount of letters, requests and stories the band received on a weekly basis was astronomical. Next to the regular band activities, the band was adamant that all post be read and responded to.

But, along with success comes money. Not necessarily a bad thing, but making a profit was out of the question. How was the band able to spend the money wisely, making sure it benefitted the community?

Crass - Bullshit Detector Vol 1, 2 & 3 (discogs.com)

Crass – Bullshit Detector Vol 1, 2 & 3

Bullshit Detector

One solution was to so something with the loads and loads of cassettes that were sent in. Crass created compilation albums from the best recordings they received, and released them on their own Crass Records. No less than 3 compilations were released during the band’s existence, all titled Bullshit Detector. the title was (yet again) a reference to The Clash and specifically to the song Garageland (coming of their debut album).

All releases were filled with demo’s, recordings made in practice-rooms and other manifestations the band had received. Oftentimes the sound quality was really bad, as Crass wanted the recordings to sound the way they had received it. As the cover of Vol 3 states:

Don’t expect music when the melody is anger, when the message sings defiance, three chords are frustration when the words are from the heart.

Crass - After the show at The Plaza, Eglinton Toll, Glasgow (1980) (twitter.com)

Crass – After the show at The Plaza, Eglinton Toll, Glasgow (1980)

In closing

This is my third story on Crass on my blog. The first story was published on October 16th, 2017, about the single How Does It Feel. Penny Rimbaud reacted to the story in a loving way, which I appreciated beyond words. Earlier this year the article on The Feeding Of The 5000 was published. The next story on Crass that will be published will be about the (first?) feminist statement within (anarcho) punk, Penis Envy.

What’s your opinion on Crass and the double album Stations Of The Crass? Let me know, it is highly appreciated.

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: In 1979 Crass release their ultimate statement: Stations Of The Crass. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!