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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Starving 5000 at Shepherd's Bush Empire

The pages of The Guardian, like the pages of The Sun, are just a load of fucking lies, are just a fucking con. Punk was once an answer to years of crap, a way of saying no where we'd always said yep. They said that we were trash, well the name was Crass, not Clash. They can stuff their punk credentials cause it's them that take the cash. Yes that's right, punk is dead, it's just another cheap product for the consumers head. Schoolboy sedition backed by big time promoters but its not for revolution, it's just for cash. Punk became a fashion just like hippy used to be and it ain't got a thing to do with you or me. Punk became a movement cos we all felt lost, but the leaders sold out and now we all pay the cost. Punk narcissism is social napalm.

"This guy asked me if I wanted to do 30 minutes for something, and I said the only way I will do it is if I had a half-hour slot to do The Starving of the 5,000," says Ignorant. "I think he was shocked. He was certainly silent for a long time on the end of the phone. It has snowballed from there and now all these other bands, like Flux of Pink Indians, are involved, too." We can become media personalities, but it is always on their terms. We're tired of living up to other people's expectations when our own are so much higher. Intelligence seems so easily dismissed when it doesn't conform to mainstream values.

Punk has spawned another rock and roll elite, cheap crass imitations thinking they'll change their world with dyed hair and predictable gestures. Nouveau wankers. There's a thousand empty stages waiting for their empty performances, a thousand empty faces waiting for their empty stances. How many times must we hear rehashed versions of Starving of the 5000 by jerks whose only fuck off to the system has been one off the wrist? It's the Starving of the 5 Knuckle Shuffle.

The choice of venue, the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, has caused controversy among fans of the band. Crass usually played church halls and scout huts, with almost every gig being a benefit for CND, Rape Crisis or some other worthy cause. Internet message boards are abuzz with accusations of a sell-out. Anything and everything can be so easily institutionalised, a poor parody of itself. Itself contained by itself. There's no point in just mouthing the words. The token tantrums just aren't enough.

Exclusive clubs where the various tribes congratulate each other for doing fuck all will achieve nothing but the strengthening of the status quo. The choice of venue, the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, has caused controversy among fans of the band. Crass usually played church halls and scout huts, with almost every gig being a benefit for CND, Rape Crisis or some other worthy cause. Internet message boards are abuzz with accusations of a sell-out.

"Some of the criticism from old fans has been spiteful and personal," says Ignorant. Entertainment is designed to gloss over real problems and very often those who profess dissent only add to the deception. Words are banded about, but always at the whim of the puppeteer. Actionless sloganeering is just another Punch and Judy show. "But I don't have to justify what I do. A lot of interviews on Crass in recent years have just not touched on how bloody good we were and what an amazing noise we made. Plus, most of the lyrics are still relevant today. And remember that three-letter word, 'fun'?" Fun can offer diversion, but it dilutes real anger and nothing gets confronted!

The biggest critic of Ignorant's London shows, though, has been another founder- member of Crass, Penny Rimbaud, whose hippie idealism gave Crass a good deal of its political grounding. Rimbaud initially refused Ignorant the right to perform Crass songs he had written. He has since granted permission, but without endorsing the gigs. Alternative values were a fucking con they never really meant it when they said "Do they owe us a living". They really meant "Let’s make a lot of money and worry about it later", don't you see? They stamped on our head so that they could be free. They formed little groups, like rich men’s communes tending their goats and organic tomatoes while the world was fucked by fascist regimes and talked of windmills and psychedelic dreams.

"I acknowledge and respect Steve's right to do this, but I do regard it as a betrayal of the Crass ethos," he says, citing "Yes Sir, I will", a Crass lyric from 24 years ago that could have been written with such an occasion in mind. The lyric in question speaks of bands performing "rehashed versions of The Starving of the 5,000", describing them as "the Starving of the Five Knuckle Shuffle".

And the more he speaks the angrier he gets. "I believe there are people coming in from Japan, who probably bought the whole deal like you would have for Queen in Paris or something," Rimbaud almost spits. "What has that got to do with the covert underground political movement that Crass was a part of? “ They talk from the screen and T.V. tube, talk revolution like it's processed food, talk anarchy from music hall stages looking for change in colour supplement pages. They think that by talking from some distant tower that something might change in the structure of power.

Banned from the Shepherd's Bush Empire ... O.K. I never much liked playing there anyway. They said they only wanted well behaved boys, do they think guitars and microphones are just fucking toys? Fuck 'em, I chosen to make my stand, against what I feel is wrong with this land. They just sit there on their overfed arses, Starving the 5000 off the sweat of less fortunate classes.


Blogger John Liedown said...

I'm not going. But my 15 year old daughter is going both nights. I saw Crass. She would like to see something aproximating Crass. I really can't get that worked up about it either way. It's not destroying any leagcay is it really? Crass shaped a lot of my ideas up to the present day. No one is going to make a fortune off 2 gigs. It doesnt matter really does it.
'We sit in holy judgement condemning those that stray
We offer our forgiveness, but first we'll make you pay'
Church of Crass anyone.

11:08 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

John - I think it does matter... I didn't use my words to write this blog, I just took a selection of Crass's own words and mixed them in with quotes from Steve and Penny from an article in the Guardian 19 October 2007 by Ian Aitch.

The problem is 'recuperation' - making dangerous ideas safe.


11:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interested to know how you think Steve playing two gigs will make 'dangerous' ideas 'safe'?

The Crass words you quote were all written by Penny, who lives in - and now owns - a £500,000 house. Nobody, including me, begrudges him that - why begrudge Steve?

3:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerard youve completely missed the point havent you. This has nothing to do with begrudging and everything to do with being coherent and critical in both theory and practice.

11:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say all the criticism - which is presumably the point - *is* begrudging Steve a right to play these gigs. Look at Penny's quotes in the Guardian.

(Re: AL's post:) Coherence between Penny's theories of almost 30 years ago and Steve's practise in the present? Sorry, but times and circumstances change...

Crass shared what they could because they were able to as they were lucky enough to have Dial House - cheap food, accomodation, practice space etc. Pen's still got that. Steve hasn't.

5:45 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

If punk had just been about music, was a youth fashion like Mod, then there would be no disagreements. But punk claimed a 'political' role, claimed to be different. Was this just another marketing ploy? Many said 'Yes' and by 1978 it seemed to be so. Feeding the 5000 appeared to challenge that, seemed to take 'anarchy in the uk' seriously and - see KYPP 1- kicked some 'dangerous ideas' back into punk. Even if some had their doubts about Crass' version of anarchist politics[the Conway Hall arguements- see KYPP 2]the 'in yer face' existence of Crass and their support for the Wapping Autonomy Centre/ Persons Unknown defendants politicised thousands of punks, the 'anarcho-punks'. This political strand of punk continued on beyond 1984, becoming more 'anarchist' than 'punk', merging into the anti-road protest and anti- globalisation/ anti- capitalism protest movements - into the continuing counterculture. This continuing counterculture has little memory of Crass or even punk. But this does not mean that the words/ sentiments of Feeding the 5000 are of only historic interest. Back then they challenged the idea that the 'politics of punk' were just for fun, just 'a bit of a laugh, really' were ironic not actually meant.

12:24 am  

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