The Political Years (Crass) Issues 16-17

SECTION FOUR: THE POLITICAL YEARS, 16 – 17 (CRASS)

The last issue of Ripped & Torn I was involved with was issue 17, which is dated March 1979.  At that time I moved out of Frestonia and into a large squatted complex in Covent Garden, an interlinked series of shop fronts, warehouses and rooms than stretched around James Lane and Long Acre.

Shrink was on the cover of the last issue, I’d seen him perform at the Rock Garden and had gone back to this squat after the gig. I moved in soon after – so must have had most of the R&T finished, done the Shrink interview and completed in in transit. There is a note scribbled on the back cover saying how we are homeless and need somewhere to put the fanzine together.

Around the end of 1978 and beginning of 1979 things began to change dramatically. Crass appeared and with them a re-focusing of the punk ideal.

Johnny Lydon appeared with PiL in a Xmas show where his cynicism and mocking of the audience touched the wrong note with me.

The squat I’d moved into was in turmoil, I discovered shortly after arriving; probably the turmoil allowed me to move in but it also led to the place getting evicted. Not long before I moved in an issue of International Times had been produced from this block, vol 12 edition 4.

An advance party had found and moved into a disused fire-station near Old Street; and we all drifted across through that spring.

I wasn’t feeling very much like writing, and there wasn’t the time: on the back of Crass there was a renewed explosion of fanzines – a whole new scene was beginning that became known as Anarcho Punk.

But I was thinking further afield and had a heedful of hippy trails and people bumming around Europe. In the basement of the squatted pub in Frestonia there was stored collections of Hippy magazines and in  through 1977 and 1978 I read my way through just about all of the Oz and Its in the place.

Vermilion had arrived in London, a writer and musician from San Francisco who had connections to City Lights bookshop and related journals from there. She had also got in with the Step Forward Records crowd – who used to help keep R&T afloat with their advertising.

Living transiently at the Fire Station I realised I may as well live transiently abroad and got a cheap bus to Paris. Before I went I arranged with Vermilion to take over running R&T, rather than let it die I thought she might be able to give it a new spark and take it in a professional direction. The squatting life had caught up with me and the fanzine had never been run properly as a financial business, or even as any kind of business. I mainly sold review copies of records to raise the cash to pay for printing, then take armfuls of them around gigs selling them as I went.

There were a few shops along the Kings Road and Rough Trade of course, and a few people attempted and failed at distributing them; so Vermilion was a bit surprised – shocked even – when we met to hand over the R&T ownership I only gave her a handwritten list of subscribers (their subscription money had been spent long before) and a list of a few shops and how many they took – sale or return.

One of the problems with distribution was the irregularity of the issues.

Upon my return from Europe (about two months later) Vermilion had produced one issue, with a great piece by Genesis P. Orridge; I had nowhere to go so turned up at the Fire Station to see if it was still squatted. To my surprise it was now a punk rock commune. This was the start of another adventure and is chronicled in the website

3 Responses to "The Political Years (Crass) Issues 16-17"

  1. Philippa nichol says:

    Funny thing, I was living in 12 James Street early 1979 and then was part of the move to Old Shoreditch fire station.I was so lucky to score a room in the James Street squat as I had been a couch surfing type of homeless and definitely lonely, after a fantasy relationship realisation. There was a great group of feminist women and some pleasant guys who left us women to live and learn. I remember my squat days with smiles and as they were learning times for me. I moved on in June1979 to the US to find myself. I did too. USA was good for me,I wonder who you are?

    • Tony D says:

      Hi,

      if you go to the Kill Your Pet Puppy site on Facebook, Michael Baxter has recently put up some photos of the fire station, taken for a Paris Match article on punk.

      I’m on the first tier, on the right. Blonde hair.

      Before the eviction at Covent Garden I was living in 48 Long Acre, but moved around to the James Street section as numbers dwindled.

  2. Andy Parker says:

    By 1979, the James St squat was on the wane…

    The International Times office ‘caught fire’ and burned through the floor – landing on our drummer’s (borrowed) kit, in the rehearsal room below. I still have a vivid memory of going in with the firemen, wading ankle deep through water, picking up submerged guitars. Completely dark, the only light in the room came from the flashing beams of the firemen’s torches and up above, a silver ghostly glow that lit the huge hole in the ceiling – the water pouring down onto Mike’s drumkit, now just a skeletal outline of metal hoops….

    But while it lasted, James St was a hive of creativity and a formative time for so many of us. I didn’t live there, but was a local boy and played in the band Bow St with various residents who did. It was indeed a warren of linked rooms and shopfronts abuzz with photographers, musicians, actors, creatives and anarchists. And anybody else who liked that kind of company…

    I visited the Old St Fire station before it became properly occupied, what a great site that was, but moved off to squat and live elsewhere…

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