web analytics
Home Gallery Bombed Out Punk Amazon Smashwords Paperback

Punk Band Crass Fought The Law…and Guess What?

Punk Band Crass Fought The Law…and Guess What?

 Above Photo:  Crass onstage at Eric’s Club, Liverpool, October 1979  – Penny Rimbaud on drums, Steve Ignorant singing. (© Mark Nick Jordan)

I was recently contacted by a reader who’s a lawyer and who thought I might be interested in a legal run-in he had with Anarcho-Punk band Crass in the 1990s.

I saw Crass play live at Eric’s Club in October 1979, and still play some of their music today. I also mention the band in my Punk and New Wave memoir Bombed Out!, so of course I said yes.

This is what he wrote (with Crass song names inserted as sub-headings inserted by me).

All photos of Crass playing at Eric’s Club, Liverpool in October 1979 by kind permission of Mark Nick Jordan.

The Gasman Cometh

“Back in the late 1990s I was acting for the corporate landlord of a large rural estate in Essex, which they wanted to develop. Part of the estate was a beautiful detached house, several hundred years old, in an idyllic setting with about 6 bedrooms and extensive gardens. The sort of house that stockbrokers live in & you’d probably have to pay about £2 or 3 million for these days.

Crass at the same Eric's October 1979 gig (Mark Nick Jordan).

Crass at the same Eric’s October 1979 gig (Mark Nick Jordan).

The Feeding Of The 5,000

The core members of Crass had happily lived in the house for decades, with various others coming and going in a commune type set up. For as long as they paid the very low rent, they couldn’t be evicted without a court order, having security of tenure under the Rent Act
1977. 

I Don’t Like It

The landlord’s only way of getting them out was by making an offer of “suitable alternative accommodation”. But what they offered as an alternative was a modern, ugly and virtually derelict bungalow about a mile away.

Crass unsurprisingly refused this offer and so we took them to the Cambridge County Court seeking an order for eviction, the landlord wanting to claim they had “unreasonably refused suitable alternative accommodation”.

Crass at Eric's 1979 (Mark Nick Jordan)

Crass at Eric’s 1979 (Mark Nick Jordan)

I ‘Aint Thick, It’s Just A Trick

The Crass band members’ affidavits described their nice-sounding communal lifestyle & made frequent references to the fact that they had been in a band and had some success.

They didn’t say which band or give any song names and of course they were being sued under their real names so it wasn’t immediately
clear which band they were in, but I realised during the trial that the band was Crass
.

I mentioned this to our barrister & he said “Never heard of ’em – what did they do?”

Steve Ignorant, Crass, Eric's 1979. (Mark Nick Jordan)

Steve Ignorant, Crass, Eric’s 1979. (Mark Nick Jordan)

Do They Owe Us A Living?

I mentioned a few song titles including “Do They Owe Us A Living?”. The barrister thought that was ironic and asked for some sample lyrics. I told him the answer to the question in the title was “Course they fucking do!”

So the next day the lead singer Steve Ignorant was giving evidence and the barrister started asking him about the band.

“Any notable songs?”

“Nothing you’d know.” Steve replied.

“What about ‘Do They Owe Us A Living’? Is that one of yours?”

“Yeah.”

“Perhaps you could help me. What’s the next line after ‘Do They Owe Us A Living?’”

“Course they do” Ignorant mumbled, somewhat self-consciously.

“Is that the exact wording?”

“Yeah…”

“Isn’t it, ‘Course they fucking do’?”

At this point, the Judge, obviously being a big Crass fan, decided to help out Steve Ignorant and jumped in, addressed our barrister:

“Is this relevant? I don’t see it’s getting us anywhere.”

Our barrister then tried and failed to justify where he was going with this line of questioning, which wasn’t really relevant to the proceedings we were in court for, and the judge knew it.

Crass at Eric's 1979. (Mark Nick Jordan)

Crass at Eric’s 1979. (Mark Nick Jordan

Gotcha

The main defendant (band name Penny Rimbaud) had seen me feeding the line to the barrister and as I filed out of court at the end of the session, he waited for me and growled: “You ought to listen more closely to those lyrics mate…”

Taking this warning on board, I decided not to encourage any further legal probing of the Crass lyric book by our barrister….

Asylum

In the end, the judge came down heavily in favour of Crass at the hearing, and years later the band bought the property outright at auction.”

That was a great outcome.

Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php

I’ve put a You Tube link to ‘Do They Owe us A Living’ below. It’s one of my favourite Crass songs.

 

 

 

Like this? Share it.

or signed paperback copies from:
News From Nowhere, Bold Street Liverpool; Waterstones, Liverpool 1 or Pritchards, Moor Lane, Crosby.

 www.bombedoutpunk.com © Peter Alan Lloyd

Related Posts

0 Comments

Leave a Reply