Crass..... a marmite band for sure, you either loved them or absolutely hated them. Two Crass memories spring to mind. In 1983 I was in the fourth year at school and bizarrely we had two music lessons a week (one actually singing and one 'music appreciation'!).... it was an odd school make no mistake. It must have been close to the end of a term and an alternative lesson was arranged whereby Mendelssohn, Holst and Brahms were ditched for 40 minutes in favour of our own choices. AC/DC, Depeche Mode and UB40...... my choice was 'Sheep Farming in the Falklands' by Crass. The teacher, a Mrs Edwards endured the Antipodean growl of Bon Scott whilst he described the 'Highway to Hell', along with the Essex pop sensibilities of a then squeaky clean Depeche Mode. What she wasn't prepared for was ...... Crass!
The record was placed on the dansette record player at the front of the classroom, the stylus placed on the disc..... teh band's Steve Ignorant intoned...
'Sheep farming in the Falklands, re-arming in the fucklands
Fucking sheep in the homelands, her majesty's forces are coming'
Well that's as far as that one got and I earned a detention, but it was worth it!
In 1984 Crass called it a day, this was always their game plan......
Fast forward three years, now just 17 my mate and I had delved deeper into the Anarcho punk scene, which was always well represented in Brighton (we lived in Burgess Hill, not so far away). AYS (Admit You're Shit), Dirt, The Subhumans all played there. Sadly I missed some of these bands but did finally get to see Conflict at the point that their 'Ungovernable Force' was released. Antisect were a sight to see too. But Crass eluded us.In April of '87 the aforementioned Conflict announced a special gig, the so called 'Gathering of the 5,000' at the Brixton Academy that was to feature Steve Ignorant on vocals (along with Conflict's Colin Jerwood). This was intended to be a celebration of Crass and all that the scene stood for. I will post on this particular gig separately as I still have much of the stuff that Mortarhate Records sent out ahead of the gig as well as the reportage of the aftermath when things, perhaps predictably considering Conflict's then relationship with the Metropolitan Police, went somewhat awry.
My mate Matt and I were unbelievably exited to see Steve Ignorant and to hear Crass songs live (neither of us having had the opportunity to see the band in their own right). The gig was a classic, but the Met were lying in wait at the end of the gig and things turned nasty. Matt and I did not hang around to witness the semi riot, I was just 18 and he was still 17.... we came from Mid-Sussex..... and to be honest we had little appetite for a proper Brixton riot!
Now back on the time machine to August 2019 and there is that man again in Blackpool, with his 'Slice of Life'. I admit, I was ill prepared, a lovely looking lady on keyboards and two seated, I mean seated! dapper musicians on guitar and bass (as you can gather I hadn't heard the band before). Come showtime, an equally dapper Steve Ignorant joined his band on stage and began to play a set that initially confused me.... I honestly did not know what to make of the first three songs. After the gig, I described the band to everyone I knew and to Steve himself as 'Jazz Crass'. The band are extremely competent playing a backing that is not jazz but nothing that you would associate with that enfant terrible, Steve Ignorant. Steve's impassioned lyrics, generally more subtle than those of his first band, although not always, were delivered in that familiar Crass intonation. It was also a very visual performance from which I took away the theatrics of Jello Biafra with hints of Ian Dury and perhaps a little bit of Max Wall (sorry Steve), but we were in Blackpool!
Songs like 'Love & a Lampost', 'Eleven Chimneys' and 'Slaughterhouse' are tracks that I recall. Really different stuff and well worth a listen..... it's all on Spotify.
I recorded one song, 'Steve Ignorant's Slice of Life'.
'Steve Ignorant's Slice of Life'
Rebellion Festival, Blackpool
1st August 2019.
Post gig I met Steve and should have mentioned the teacher's outrage etc but the poor chap was desperate for a cigarette so I spared him my teenage reminisces!