If written crAss, with the A in a circle, this refers to probably the greatest, purest, British anarchist punk group ever. In fact the circled-A symbol, which is now a worldwide recognised symbol for anarchism, was first popularised by crAss: before they started using it (and backing it up with an attempt to cover London in anarchist graffiti), the symbol was nothing more than a historical curiosity known to a few theoretical anarchists and historians of the Spanish Civil War.

crAss started out in 1978, although vocalist Steve Ignorant and drummer Penny Rimbaud had known each other for a couple of years before that. Steadfastly refusing to kowtow to The Man or to water down their message in any form at all, crAss lived and breathed Anarchy in the UK while the Pistols simply sung about it in a music industry-controlled format.

Completely rejecting anarchist theory (they joke that they used to think Bakunin was a brand of vodka), they also annoyed the rest of the punk world by rejecting the ripped-clothes, spiked hair and safety-pin through the nose image that the rest of the genre had adopted, and instead dressed in black.

Their music was all extremely political and controversial. their first EP was put out on the tiny Small Wonder Records label. Although an EP it contained an amazing 17 tracks, although when released it only had 16: they were unable to find a pressing plant anywhere in the world prepared to manufacture a record with "Reality Asylum" (the opening track) on it, claiming it would get them sued under the blasphemy laws. The EP was eventually put out with a 2-minute silent track at the beginning, which the band entitled "Free Speech".

Discouraged with the attitudes of even the fringes of the music industry they formed their own label, "crAss records", but were so short of cash that at the beginning they had to hand-draw the artwork for record sleeves. They put out a series of singles over the next few years, each as uncompromising as the last, and played a number of CND and Rock Against Racism gigs.

crAss were eventually killed by The System: whether intentionally or not they had neglected to pay value added tax to the Inland Revenue for the records they'd made, and along with regular vice squad raids on their premises they eventually gave up the fight in 1984.

Crass (kr?s), a. [L. crassus thick, fat, gross, prob. orig., closely woven See Crease animal fat, and cf. Crate, Hurdle.]

Cross; thick; dense; coarse; not elaborated or refined.

"Crass and fumid exhalations."
Sir T. Browne.

"Crass ignorance"


© Webster 1913.

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