BUY THIS BOOK and derange your senses
History, Herstory, Crassstory and a bit of mystory
The Story of Crass: George Berger : Omnibus Press: £14.95
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? No, I can’t, today being Friday, I have to rest and relax ahead of a weekend of full on being a carer for a disabled person.
So I am listening to the ATV/ The Image Has Cracked/ 1978 not Crass...Viva la rock n roll...Arthur Rimbaud spoke to me through New York’s new wave ... letting the disorded fragments of my mind re-assemble after the derangement of my senses. Which makes me think of Kenneth Grant as well as Penny Rimbaud.
Certain fugitive elements appear occasionally in the works of poets, painters, mystics and occultists which may be regarded as genuine magical manifestations in that they demonstrate the power and ability of the artists to evoke elements of an ultra- dimensional and alien universe that may be captured only by the most sensitive and delicately adjusted anntennae of human consciousness... [This] would sem to require that total and sysematic derangement of the senses which Rimbaud declared to be the key to self knowledge ...’ The soul must be made monstrous ... The poet makes himself into a seer by a long, tremendous and reasoned derangment of his senses... This he attains the unknown; and when, at the point of madness, he finishes by losing the intelligence of his visions, he has beheld them!’ This formula of derangement was for Rimbaud, as for some of the greatest artists and magicains, the supreme key to inspiration and the reception of vivid images such as those which flash and tremble upon the luminous canvases of a Dali or an Ernest.
Kenneth Grant: Outside the Circles of Time: Fredrick Muller: 1980: 14/15
The Story of Crass as a collective entity can be read as just such a ‘long, tremendous and reasoned derangment of their senses’. The collectivity of Crass is the key. For the duration, a group of individuals gave up their self-identities to that of the collective. In this Crass resembled the Merry Pranksters [Electric Kool Acid Test/ Tom Wolfe], with Penny Rimbaud playing the Ken Kesey role.
This leads on to a recurring theme of the book - the Crass were/ were not ‘hippies’ arguement. Jamie Reid’s ‘Never trust a hippy’ [directed at Richard Branson and Virgin] came from ‘Never trust a Prankster’. But ‘Never trust a Prankster’ came from the Pranksters’ situationist style attempts to create a permanent psychedelic revolution by constantly disrupting attempts to classify/ market/ control/ describe the ‘hippy’ subculture as it emerged in San Francisco before the 1967 ‘summer of love’. Electric Kool Aid Acid Test ends in late 1966 [ Bantam paperback edition: pages 367/8] with a remnant of Pranksters playing music to themselves on a repeating theme of ‘We blew it’. The intelligence of the visions had been lost at the point of madness... but for that brief and preceding moment of ecstasy, they had truly beheld the vision.
Ten years after and ‘hippy’ had become everything the Pranksters had subverted against. [See Barney Hoskyns/ Waiting for the Sun/ Chapter 7/ Crawling Down Cahuenga on a Broken Pair of Legs, or What Were Once Vices are Now Habits. For David Geffen and Elektra/ Asylum, read Richard Branson and Virgin]. The ‘hip capitalists’ had bought and sold the freaks’ revolution, turning rebellion into money as just another marketing ploy. The last freaks left standing were Hawkwind and summed it all up with their song ‘days of the underground’ on their 1977 ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ album.
But as one of the doors of perception closed, another opened, ‘you can’t kill the spirit’ as the Greenham Women sang. Punk renewed the vision, exploding (apparently) out of nowhere to systematically derange the senses of another generation. Hippies, punks or freaks? Poets, magicians or madmen and women?
For Kenneth Grant, such revolutionary eruptions of an ‘extra-dimensional and alien universe’ into the mundane world of everyday life are to be expected. The apparent failure of each such eruption to create a social revolution is to misunderstand the nature (un-nature?) of such currents. The world as physical reality remains the same, but - for those whose senses have been deranged - it is fundamentally different. A shift in consciousness, in perception, has taken place.
Expressed politically rather than mystically, the society of the spectacle has been revealed as a mechanisim, grinding and whirring away as it produces illusion upon illusion. To reconnect with Crassstory, compare now and then. Then we had the Falklands War. Now we have the Iraq/ Afghanistan War. Then we had the Cold War against an Evil Empire. Now we have the Eternal War against Religious Terrorism.
Then we had Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Now we have Anthony Blair and George W. Bush. Cue Bloody Revolutions...
Just the same false logic that all power-mongers use So don't think you can fool me with your political tricks Political right, political left, you can keep your politics Government is government and all government is force Left or right, right or left, it takes the same old course Oppression and restriction, regulation, rule and law
still sends shivers down the spine even after all this time.
This is where I came in, where crassstory became part of my story. Conway Hall, late 79, Persons Unknown Support Group [which included Dave Morris so straight link to Stop the City 4 years later] meeting to discuss an Autonomy Centre and suddenly there were all these punks in the room and afterwards we went to the pub and I got talking to Tony D. and he had been reading Kenneth Grant and I wrote him a piece for on magick and anarchy for Kill Your Pet Puppy and... what a long strange trip its been.
Go Rimbaud, go Rimbaud. As Patti said. And Penny did.