The Story of Crass
The story of Crass in the real world has many different angles and reflections depending on where you stand. To discover that George Berger had written a book that attempted to explain the phenomena started in an Essex farm house was something too good to miss...or so I thought...
The Story of Crass as written by George begins in the 60s with Penny and Gee at art college, this early background information is interesting and helps explain the long incubation that took place enabling Crass to develop. It puts Dial House in the mix giving it its context. The importance of Dial House in the Story of Crass cannot be stressed enough as without it Crass probably would never have happened.
So the book starts well enough but it then gets muddled in an over long description of Penny's dabbling in the early 70s avant garde music scene and his organising of free festivals. This information is interesting and relevant to the story of Crass but there's no need for so much. There is also plenty written about the late Wally Hope who seems to have been a Syd Barrett character to Penny. We are told about Wally, mostly through Penny's eyes. If there is a fault of the book, this is it, the Story of Crass is mostly from Penny's point of view.
Once all the hippie stuff is out of the way and punk starts to happen the book begins to bite. It is then that all the waffle about the late 60s early 70s makes sense, putting in perspective how there's a framework in place waiting for the right person to turn up and use it. In walks Steve Ignorant.
The beginning of Crass is straight forward in that it's the coming together of the right people at the right time, it's explaining how they made something happen that had such a huge influence is what makes reading this book so valuable. Interpreting how they developed from the shambolic drunken performances to a multi-media sensory assault gives this book its punch. However, there's little on the how the record or poster artwork was done, next to nothing on the mechanics or economics of the record label. All this has more to do with Crass than Penny's arty noodlings or Stonehenge.
There's no point being too picky about the book as it's rich in detail and revealing. There is loads of info on Crass written chronologically putting events in a social political context explaining how the band ascended, peaked and then exploded, imploded or run out of steam depending how you interpret events.
There's plenty more to be said about Crass and George's book is an important piece in the history that's yet to be fully written and understood.