ONE LITTLE INDEPENDENT have released the first two tracks from the forthcoming Christ Alive – the Rehearsal, a vinyl and digital release of a Crass rehearsal session at Dial House recorded in the run-up to the studio sessions for the band’s 1982 boxset release Christ – The Album.
A limited vinyl run of Christ Alive – The Rehearsal will be issued to coincide with this year’s Record Store Day, and will be a benefit for the campaigning charity Refuge which “provides specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.”
The tracks “Nineteen Eighty Bore” and “Buy Now Pay As You Go” have been released on the Bandcamp platform, and on a number of other digital streaming and download sites. Digital copies of the album can be pre-ordered from the Bandcamp listing for the release.
The production team of Penny Rimbaud and Charles Webber first recovered the original analogue Tascam recording from Dial House and then selected tracks for digital transfer. The pair then chose to blend into a revised mix samples from the Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the stems of which had recently been made available for remix purposes by BBC Radio 3. Seeing parallels between that project and the Feeding of the 5000 stems project (which has already led to release of several remixes of Feeding tracks), Rimbaud and Webber saw evident potential in a new style Crass-Beethoven mash-up.
“Call it Crasshoven if you like,” say the pair, “but this is a noble attempt to blend together two highly motivated but historically divorced forms of music to make sense in a world that seems progressively to make no sense at all.”
One early reviewer told The Hippies Now Wear Black: “If these first two tracks are anything to go by, the results of this experiment are – in any auditory, artistic or creative sense – more revolting than they are revelatory.” Asked if they would still be buying the release in order to support the fund-raising efforts, they indicated not. “I think I’m just going to donate the purchase price to Refuge,” they added.
A rare insight into the workings of Crass, spattered with the workings of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Recorded in 1982 on an ancient Tascam cassette machine in Crass’ rehearsal studio at Dial House, ‘CHRIST ALIVE! – The Rehearsal’ documents the ofttimes gruelling process behind the making of a song. Given the exacting nature of Crass’ finished works, it’s illuminating to hear them battling out results that eventually gave them the structure to ‘Christ the Album’, which by any reckoning has to be seen as their finest hour.
In late 2020, suffering from the isolating effects of Covid 19, Penny Rimbaud and Charles Webber got together at Allen Road Studios to “muck about” with the old rehearsal tapes, editing them down to a digestible 12” LP scale. Having achieved this arduous task, they then consulted the oracle and, for no greater reason than he was readily available, came up with the idea of adding Beethoven to the mix. The BBC had that week offered a free download of stems for the first five and a half minutes of the 5th Symphony, in much the same way Crass had done for their ambitious ‘The Feeding of the Five Thousand Remix Project’ that also continues to raise vital funds for Refuge. It was synchronicity that wasn’t to be missed.
From then on it was an uphill climb holding Ludwig back from completely smothering what in comparison now appeared to be somewhat modest offerings from Crass. But with the determination of Sisyphus, the brute was somehow tamed and some kind of order was made of the turmoil. Call it Crasshoven if you like, but this is a noble attempt to blend together two highly motivated but historically divorced forms of music to make sense in a world that seems progressively to make no sense at all.
Penny Rimbaud tells us; “When Charles Webber and myself played back the mixes in a final run-through, we firstly looked at each other rather seriously and then collapsed into convulsive laughter over the utter absurdity of what had been created. Crass were deadly serious about what they did and, no doubt, so was Beethoven, but put them together and never mind the revolution, the circus comes to town; mind the gap, dadi dada do, and that, I guess, is the point; challenge a myth, and it’ll fart in your face. And next week? Wagner takes on Wiley? That should be a laugh.”
The brittlest and most hard-line radical of the first wave of British punk bands, Crass issued a blitz of records that were ruthless in both their unrelenting socio-political screeds and their amelodic crash of noise. The horrors of war, the arbitrary nature of legal justice, sexism, media imagery, organized religion, the flaws of the punk movement itself — all were subjected to harsh critique. Like few other rock bands before or since, Crass took rock-as-agent-of-social-and-political-change seriously, and not just in their music. In addition to putting out their own fiercely independent records (though the majors were certainly not knocking at their door), they also formed an anarchist commune that worked with other artists and labels, and on the behalf of various political causes.
They were the definitive uncompromising punk band, which guaranteed them a cult following amongst the disaffected youth. An undiluted lyrical message was far more important to Crass than commercial considerations, and until 1984 they cranked out anarchist-leaning recordings and experimental cuts, branching into tape collage and spoken poetry.
Crass always intended to disband in 1984, and true to their ideals as always, they did exactly that when the year came around. They gained recognition as one of the relatively few acts in the music who aimed to live their values rather than just sing about them.
The rehearsal took place at Dial House in early 1982:
Vocals – Steve Ignorant, Eve Libertine, Joy deVivre
Guitars – B A Nana, Phil Free
Bass – Pete Wright
Drums – Penny Rimbaud
Recorded by John Loder
releases July 23, 2021
‘Christ Alive!’ was mixed at Allen Road Studios, Nov 2020.
Mixing engineer/production assistant – Charles Webber
Production – Penny Rimbaud.
Mastering – Harvey Birrell
Design – Gee Vaucher