“At school they give you shit…….”


“At school they give you shit, drop you in the pit,
You try, you try, you try to get out, but you can’t because they’ve fucked you about”.

(Crass-Do They Owe Us A Living)


Once more on the ‘memory-go-round’ dear friends, once more. Another trip back in time to when we were much younger, more naive, less jaded and cynical, more hopeful. Where every new musical movement, event or scene that presented itself to us, seemed to offer up new possibilities that would perhaps catapult us into adulthood. The promise of a new found knowledge and education, less formal than school, but oh so important!!!

I remember running home from town that Saturday morning, with THAT record tightly tucked under my arm. The rush of anticipation to get back and play THAT record was almost overwhelming, so much so that I had completely forgotten the usual Saturday routine of avoiding particular streets, and keeping a keen eye out for the skinheads that would revel in the oft opportunity to beat the crap out of a 14 year old punk in town on his own. Such was the excitement, it shattered my Saturday ritual of going to my favourite record shop, Vinyl Demand, where I would usually hang out all day, with my mates listening to the latest punk releases, reading zines and talking about the next gig or latest release or band. So as you can gather this was most unusual behaviour for me, but this was a most unusual record; a record of mammoth proportions that promised everything I needed at that point in my life, and didn’t fail to deliver. Actually that last bit is not quite true, but almost delivered everything and set me on a trajectory that has ingrained itself in my lifecourse.

I was familiar with the band Crass through fanzine articles and I had heard on the grapevine and through the punk ‘zines about this record, edgy, dangerous, controversial, blasphemous, lots of swearing; everything a good punk record should contain. I had reserved a copy of ‘Feeding of the 5000’ for its release date based on a recommendation from Terry, owner of Vinyl Demand, spitting image of Phineas Freak and a throwback to the hippy 70’s counter-culture; and now once collected, after waiting for him to open the shop that morning, was on it’s way back to my bedroom where my record player awaited.

So I finally got home, panting, out of breath but very, very excited. I carefully slipped the vinyl out of the gatefold sleeve in anticipation, placed it on my record player dropped the needle into the lead in groove, turned it up full volume and waited. I played that record consecutively probably about 15 times, over and over that day, and to be frank I thought the music wasn’t all that great. It wasn’t the punk I was used to listening to but that seemed to pale into insignificance because what that record taught me was a perspective that I was never going to get taught at school. The one great thing about Crass and their records was the aesthetic of the record sleeve, and this sort of set a template for many anarcho-punk records that followed in its wake. The sleeve unfolded into 6 sections to a disturbing and shocking poster of a dismembered hand impaled on barbed wire with the ironic war recruitment cry ‘Your Country Needs You’.

Alongside the images of war, animal experimentation, state violence were treatises and two line statements, questioning power, authority and encouraging self autonomy and dissent. But most importantly were the LYRICS. This was raw truth, an exposition, an explanation and I am not exaggerating when I say that record changed my life, it articulated everything I was feeling at that time as a 14 year old punk. How school, your parents, your teachers, the police were all colluding against you to try and control your life or at worst fuck it up, to turn you into a subservient robotic worker. Get qualifications, get a job, get married, get a house and become a slave to the system. Of course those weren’t the words I was using at that particular point; but that moment, that vinyl epiphany, suddenly started to put vague threads of thoughts, feelings and ideas into place; into some semblance of cohesive order and importance. The combination of stark imagery, and powerful words were like gold dust to a young boy trying to find his place in all this madness of youth.

So as you can see those lyrics were so important in my education, my politicization and the values and beliefs I developed and gained from my engagement with anarcho-punk have, in most parts, remained with me though in a less naive and Utopian way as I have got older and more measured. Part of my research is to explore if, and how, my research participant’s engagement with anarcho-punk as adolescents has had a lasting impact on their subsequent adult lives. Going through the data of my research interviews the issue of the importance of the lyrics of anarcho-punk songs kept coming up in those discussions. I am going to share with you some of those discussions along with the ‘The Feeding of the 5000’ for your aural enjoyment

Crass-Feeding of The 5000



The early roots of it to me was simply that experience probably related to Crass, I guess, I mean my memories of sitting there unfolding Feeding of the Five Thousand and listening to Crass and there was an expectation that you sit there and you’d read through the lyrics and you’d look at images and that would have been alongside the fairly bouncy music. And you would punctuate that music with your own reflection on what that lyric was about and reference that more broadly, I was more conscious of that. Less so than what I refer to as the 1st wave of Punk but Anarcho Punk that seemed to be the template to me, that was set out by Crass for me in that way. Cut up artwork and a focus on lyrics that were normally shouted and quite abrasive music with a punchy rhythm which was the anarcho-punk construct really. And that formed an attitude within myself that was my expectation of what stimulated me, what was relevant, what was real. (S)

The first anarcho-punk record I heard was probably Feeding of the Five Thousand, which I didn’t really enjoy that much at the time. The person who played it at me was obviously very excited about it and showed me the pictures, and read the words out to me and this I found more interesting than the actual music, which I thought was badly produced and recorded. The music was fairly irrelevant to me – it was the politics which was of much more interest. Of course there was a political slant to songs by The Clash and others, but I guess that really didn’t strike a chord with me. Whereas the lyrics of the anarcho-bands were much more clearly defined as protest songs which highlighted the problems within the “system” and offered solutions. (G)


I did have a key moment reading Crass lyrics at a skate park in Kettering which a friend brought along and something struck me about it. It was saying things that I’d perceived and it was expressing how I felt about my position in life. I was 14 /15 and the lyrics were articulating how I was feeling. Obviously things are a lot more kind of amorphous and vague, you’re listening to different stuff and influenced by different things and it’s not just one moment or not just one thing particularly. (M)


I just went Wow.  I had to listen to the whole double album twice because I thought it was so brilliant and I really, really liked it a lot. It spoke to me. The words, the lyrics, the anti- religion stuff, the anti-war stuff, the anti-rich stuff, the anti-class stuff, it encapsulated what I was thinking at that time which they put into song……when the Anarcho Punk bands came along they were actually saying something.  Conflict, animal rights that kind of stuff and that was more me, you know. I think music’s important and it can change people, it changed me, it changed my perception of things, it educated me (W)


Somebody somewhere played me a Crass song and I just thought, “I want some of that”, and I can’t even remember what song it was, but yeah. So I went out and hunted down ‘Feeding of the 5000’. It was just unlike anything I’d heard and it was so obviously angry and, you know, I couldn’t understand a bloody word of it. So I thought if I go and buy it and listen to it I might understand what the hell they are saying, apart from the ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’, you know. Which is weird, because now I listen to ‘Feeding the 5000’ and I can understand everything he says. . I mean the lyrics of the songs either helped me at the time cus I was so fucking angry with nowhere to place the anger and….they shaped me politically, so I channelled that anger and developed my own thoughts. They made me think a lot, you know. I went out and read stuff that I would never have read if it hadn’t of been for that, you know. Stuff on animal rights for example, and 31 years later I am still a vegan, about the only one out of all the people I used to know. (C D)


Crass’ Penis Envy is quite a significant album. Erm….. a strong feminist thing, female adolescence. I mean I don’t know if I completely understood everything that was going on. And then things change as well. The music of Vi Subversa, Poison Girls, I mean I loved that stuff, oh, I suppose that’s quite significant actually. Poison in a Pretty Pill, I was struggling with the contraceptive pill when I was 19 perhaps and er…I hated it and it was just like, for fucks sake, messing about with my body. And I played Poison in a Pretty Pill and burnt my contraception pills at the same time, that’s quite a significant one!. Poison Girls, I actually understand the lyrics these days, where I don’t think I really did back then. Because I was a teenager, I was just a bit of a kid, Vi Subversa was talking about a mutual women’s life and so I look at those song in a completely different perspective now. (J M)

Crass ‘Feeding of the 5000’ was actually the first time I’d read the lyrics to a punk song as well. It came out with, it came with a booklet inside with all the songs in the booklet so I sat there every night reading the booklet. I’m sure if you talk about Signs and Receivers and everything I’m sure the lyrics were just as important. Obviously the music came first to the receiver ……all these ideas and concepts were certainly being implanted which otherwise wouldn’t have happened if it was without the lyrics booklet. I also remember prior to that, in terms of lyrics, you know, you’d get Smash Hits, you’d cut out the lyrics to punk songs and stick them on your wall and stuff. But you never really, I was never aware of sitting down and listening to the lyrics to you know, UK Subs, ‘Strangle Hold’, while listening to the record the way that you would with Crass records. The lyrics were kind of like an afterthought. The lyrics didn’t really count until Crass. The simple fact that if you were to listen to the record you wouldn’t have been able to make out a fucking word Steve Ignorant was singing so you needed the lyric sheets with the record to be able to follow them. (C L)

Because I came from a poor background, my family is so poor and have always struggled, possibly from that side of things, you know. Crass were singing about my family, the way I’ve been brought up as fodder, respecting Queen and country or you supposed to and it just struck a chord with me. When you bought the records you had the lyrics with it, didn’t ya. I read ‘em, read ‘em and read ‘em. I’d put the record on the record player and I’d play it over and over till I got to know all the lyrics. Not only that with the Crass records you’d have so much information on the sleeve, I’d read it, I didn’t understand all of it but I’d read it over and over again to learn and understand more. It was an education, it was more of an education than what you were getting at school really cus I wasn’t interested in getting educated at school and …. I had such a big interest in anarcho-punk. That was my education (C)


The lyric sheet/booklet and accompanying imagery played an important role in the propagation and circulation of some of the core ideas in anarcho-punk.  I mentioned earlier, that seminal Crass recording and visual aesthetic set a template within anarcho-punk where the record sleeves started to take on a similar role to the fanzines and political and ideological treatises that were circulating within that scene. The record sleeve became more than just a carrier of the artefact, the record, but a carrier of ideas, politics, protestations, ideologies, values and beliefs that were implicit to the development and reinforcement of anarcho-punk. They were also implicit in my own personal and political development, opening up new possibilities, somewhere to direct my anger and frustration, giving me strength and hope; a reason……….


Memories Are Made of This; Music as ritual and the paradox of the triple present

Memories Are Made of This; Music as ritual and the paradox of the triple present

Matt Grimes


Drawing on some of Negus’(2012) interpretations of Ricouer’s (1984-88) ideas on time, narrative and the “paradox of the triple present”, I wish to explore, through the concept of what Negus refers to as “music as ritual” (2012, 492), the notions of memory and nostalgia; two things that are closely related to time and narrative but not attended to by Negus in his article. I will use examples from my ongoing research into British Anarcho-punk (1979-1985) to demonstrate how these two important and two closely linked concepts can be applied to the notion of music (listening) as ritual.

Memory and nostalgia

Garde-Hansen (2011) suggests that, as human beings, we like to think of our memory as a biological storehouse or bio-technical hard drive from which we can retrieve coherent data on demand, whereas she argues it is far more undisciplined and creative. Our memories are often triggered randomly in a fleeting and disordered way and the degrees of depth and accuracy are depending on what is triggering those memories. Ricoeur suggests that our memory is constructed around a set of narratives, where experienced events are turned into narratives through emplotment (Simms 2003, 105-106 cited in Negus 2012). This plot, Ricouer suggests, is central to the way we understand our personal and collective identity. We continually update, adapt and manipulate these narratives, based on both past and present events that we choose to remember or suppress. This state of ‘flux’, where those narratives are constantly shifting, is further impacted on by the very nature of Who? What? Why? When? Where? those narratives are recounted. In a sense, our memory operates to justify and legitimise through strategies of selective addition and/or omission, or framing of the narrative through the omission or emphasis of a casual chain of events.

Similarly Ricoeur argues that narrative provides a cognitive “grid” through which as humans we interpret, understand and give order to the chaos and uncertainty of temporality (1991, 338 cited in Negus 2012). I would suggest that narrative also provides us with a grid which helps us locate, structure, interpret, and make sense of those memories of the past. Ricoeur refers to our experiencing of the past as something that no longer exists but is perceptible as a residue or a cache of remnants of the past manifested in the present, through memory or the process of remembering. So it could be argued that our experience of the past, and our ability to connect with it through memory, is located in our association with the present.

Where time and narrative feature prominently in Negus’ article I want to turn attention to the notion of personal and collective nostalgia (Wildschut, T., Constantine, S. et al, 2006, 45) and its relationship with time, narrative and memory. It could be argued that nostalgia relates to sentimentality for the past, which paradoxically contains positive and negative emotions and, like memory, helps us connect the present to the past and vice versa. By drawing on our memories our present emotional state is to some degree determined by the memory of past events. Bower (1981) suggests that emotional feelings serve as retrieval clues for memories associated with that emotion; therefore it could be argued that music that evokes a more emotional response is remembered better. Nostalgia also typically revolves around memories with or involving others in a communal or group experience of which we were part which, I argue, reaffirms our attachment to community and collective/personal identity, both past and present.

Music as Ritual

Negus suggests that our engagement with music exhibits behaviors that are a feature of rituals, and in doing so help us to locate ourselves, understand our identities and deal with our temporality (2012, 492).

Small (1998 cited in Negus 2012) stresses the communal qualities of ritual and how those rituals allow people to collectively explore, affirm and celebrate their relationship to each other and themselves. Using the live performance experience as an example of a communal music ‘ritual’ and listening to recordings, or what Eisenberg conversely refers to as “private phonographic rituals” (1988, 42), I suggest there is a link between music as ritual and memory and nostalgia. My own research into British anarcho-punk (BAP) was partly stimulated by a renewed interest in BAP from the media and music consumers. The research involves methodologies such as in-depth interviews, with previous participants of that scene, where issues of time, memory, narrative and the discourse of nostalgia feature prominently in discussions around ageing within music scenes. I suggest that these issues are central/key to understanding the participant’s relationship with the past, the present and the future. This interviewing process has required the research participants to reflect back on the historical moment of the past through the recollection of memory that is grounded in the present.

More often than not for my research participants the process of recollection or remembering has mostly followed a linear pattern, where they have tended to recollect past events in a chronological order. Negus suggests that linear time is the process of unfolding in a straight line with people and things occupying points on that line and unable to return to a previous point on that line. (2012, 489). Whilst I agree with Negus, in so much that we are unable to ‘physically’ return to a previous point on that line in present time, our memory can help, and in some cases allow, us to re-imagine ourselves at a particular previous point and thus consider time as circular as well as linear. This can manifest itself in hearing a particular piece of music and it transporting us back to a particular remembered or re-imagined point in time, with music being the stimulus or the carrier of that memory(s). So although we are not physically returning to that previous point on the line our memory allows us to ‘re-imagine’ that moment and help us construct a narrative of that past moment in the present.

All of the respondents in my research talked about particular pieces of music being stimuli for not only remembering specific events from their past experiences of the BAP scene, but also as a way of connecting to those times past. So for many people music seems to be an influential memory cue, (Schulkind, Hennis, and Rubin (1999). Adam (2004 cited in Negus 2012) suggests that music is used to evoke memories it also serve as a resource in the pursuit of memory by connecting the present with the past and I would suggest vice versa (493). Janata, Tomic, and Rakowski (2007) reported that music and songs frequently evoked memories and that one of the most common emotional responses named was nostalgia. Taking these two closely linked concepts I will apply them to the notion of music (listening) as ritual.

Alongside this renewed interest in BAP a large number of ‘original wave’ anarcho-punk bands have reformed to perform after being inactive for many years. For a number of these bands, there seems little desire to record new material but only to go out and perform. I asked my research participants their opinions on bands reforming and performing again. One respondent, who was returning to performing with their original band after a 30 year hiatus stated that this process of reforming was, for them, very much based around nostalgia and revisiting the past. This included the thrill, excitement and buzz of performing in front of an audience again and recapturing some of that earlier spirit and energy, whilst it could be argued celebrating that moment of the “present in the present” (2012, 487). Even though that involved them performing songs penned over 30 years ago they felt that the political intent of the lyrical content, albeit slightly naïve, was still relevant today as it was then, however they had no interest in writing new material. For this respondent listening to old anarcho-punk recordings also held the same values

“I do listen to anarcho-punk nowadays, though when I am on my own as my partner doesn’t like it so much….. Having kids it seemed that I lost myself in family life. It has helped re-focus me. I listen to the lyrics and they seem as relevant now, in fact the political messages just reinforce my beliefs and I see them from a different perspective- I understand them better now through the mind of an adult”

One of the other respondents when also discussing songs from that earlier period stated

“For me the musical and lyrical content still resonate, it speaks to me in a very base emotional level and is the most powerful influence on my life of anything, books. film, art. It’s a sort of touchstone for living without having to think about it-it’s a personal politic informed by anarcho-punk”


I suggest that this reference to the lyrics, or indeed narrative, of the songs is conveying experience of the past in the present but more importantly perhaps, as Negus suggests, “songs seeking political persuasion or engaging in social commentary may convey a comprehension of the present of the future as a desire for a better world” (487). The desire for a more ‘utopian anarchistic’ society without power, greed, poverty, control etc featured heavily in a large number of anarcho-punk songs of that period. This suggests that for a number of my respondents some of the associations with the past have remained and continued or, as Ricoeur would argue, are the traces or remnants of the past in the present; therefore perhaps making it easier for those respondents to make sense of them in the present.

Two other respondents were more critical of the notion of bands reforming and the nostalgia associated with it. One respondent stated that

“I am not big on nostalgia, and for quite a while I resisted seeing bands who had reformed just because if they are shit it will ruin my memories and opinions of them. It is nostalgia; though when people say that, it always seems a bit sad and desperate trying to recapture or recreate something from the past.

The other similarly critical stated

“I did go to Rebellion last year (an annual 4 day punk festival in Blackpool which has a number of ‘old’ punk bands that ‘reform’ each year only to perform there) and I was slightly challenged by some what I saw. There is a lot of nostalgia there, if I’m honest. Simply to reform a band and play the set you did 30 years previously for me is not good enough, there needs to be something else, there needs to be a freshness”

Similarly, through my own observations at a number of recent live performances of ‘reformed’ anarcho-punk bands, it seems that the live performance aspect gives the audience a sense of experiencing the past in the present. Interestingly at these live performances, the majority of the audience was male and in their 40’s and 50’s, so many of them would have experienced watching the bands in the 1980’s. A large number of them were wearing old T-shirts with the logo of the band performing or other bands of that past era. One could argue that although this is a display of fandom it also conveys an experience of the past in the present. Similarly a large proportion of the audience were singing along to the songs and reciting the lyrics, punctuating particular words or lines synchronously, conveying that experience of the past in the present, and which seemingly played a large part in the ‘nostalgic’ experience and the communal experience discussed earlier by Small (1998). Frenetic dancing and pogoing, as was/is associated with punk music, was not so prevalent within the audience, so perhaps where age has limited their more physical engagement, the personal connection between the past and present is maintained and displayed in other ways.


In this paper I have briefly explored the notions of memory and nostalgia in relation to Ricoeur’s theoretical approaches to time, narrative and the paradox of the triple present by applying them to some examples from my ongoing research. In this I have demonstrated how those notions connect our experiences of music between the past and the present, and suggest that memory and the evocation of nostalgia, through music as ritual, play important roles in how ageing fans of music make sense of the past in the present.


Bower, G.H. (1981)Mood and Memory. American Psychologist, 2, p129-148

Garde-Hansen, J. (2011) Media and Memory. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press

Negus, K. (2012) Narrative Time and the Popular Song.Popular Music and Society. 35(4) 483-500

Ricoeur, P (1984-1988) Time and Narrative (Vol 1-3). Translated by McLaughlin, K. and Pellauer, D. Chicago. University of Chicago Press.

Schulkind, M.D, Hennis, L.K, Rubin, D.C. (1999) Music, emotion, and autobiographical memory: they’re playing your song. Mem Cognit.  27(6):948-55.

Small, C. (1998) Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover; Wesleyan University Press.

Wildschut, T., Constantine, S., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2006). Nostalgia: Contents, triggers, functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 91(5), 975-993.

How I finally learnt to love………….Grindcore! and in doing so reclaimed a very close friend

How I finally learnt to love………….Grindcore! and in doing so reclaimed a very close friend

Matt Grimes

(For Stevie G – my punk soul brother)

Section I: Memories

I still remember it to this day, the sheer feeling of shock and surprise when my then best mate Stevie G played me the opening refrain of “You Suffer” – the first vinyl release from Napalm Death. Just as I heard the first few seconds of aural assault coming from the speakers on Stevie’s record player it was over, as if it didn’t happen, as if it was an acoustic hallucination – all 1.3 seconds of it. A momentary blast of noise that seemed to be made up of pure unadulterated, visceral anger, and despair. In an instant, it seemed as if anarcho-punk was destined to morph into another more extreme sub-genre that was beyond my comprehension of what symbolized music, well anarcho-punk music at least. Stevie had this massive smile on his face as if to say, “This is as good as it is ever going to get Matt,” – this was the future, past and present of extreme music, right there in the squat we shared.

I had heard of Napalm Death before hearing this particular tune; their name had been brought to my attention through an advert in a fanzine I had picked up at a gig somewhere. It was for a demo tape they had made called “Punk is a Rotting Corpse” and available by mail order from the fanzine distro. Perhaps the title of the demo tape was a portent to what was to follow in the ensuing years that, for me, marked the demise of anarcho-punk as it fragmented into a number of more extreme sub-genres of music that seemed to push the envelope of sonic experimentation and assault.

Stevie and I were really close mates and had been since secondary school. We had made each other’s acquaintance through the tried and tested ceremony of the school playground fight. Stevie was the only outwardly visible punk at my new school and when he spotted me on my first day of school, also doing my best to look as punk as I dared, he decided that in a school of 1,500 kids there was not enough room for two punks, so one of us had to go.

As is common with school fights, no one ever wins because the teachers come and break them up before it gets that far. We were both dragged off to the headmaster’s office and given five of the best with a Dunlop Green Flash plimsoll (the headmaster loved tennis and I was convinced he didn’t like even numbers either, hence only getting five rather than six of the best). From that day on Stevie and I decided that the fight wasn’t between us, but  between us and the “system” – that school, our parents, the police- in fact everyone who was not a punk.

And that’s how Stevie and I forged a relationship that lasted for a number of years. We did just about everything together. Hitched penniless around the country to go to punk gigs, experimented with drugs and alcohol, got into fights with skinheads and mods, bunked off school and listened to punk music whenever we could, and argued with our teachers and parents about the injustices of authority. In the summer of 1981 when it was time to leave school and the parental home, it only seemed natural that we would get a squat together because that was what we had been talking about for years. So along with a number of other miscreants we had “collected” on the way, we set off into town to liberate a building and join the ranks of the real punks. Time moved on, and whilst some things changed others remained the same. We still carried on squatting together, spending a lot of time with the anarcho-punks in London, often staying at squats there for weeks at a time. We went hunt sabbing, took part in political rallies and demos with Class War and the Anarchist Federation, even hippy free festivals such as Stonehenge, where I made my first contact with a ‘tribe’ of people that would later form the next chapter of my life. Anarcho-punk was in “full flight” and Stevie and I were living the dream (of sorts): no money, and no jobs but, most importantly, no responsibilities and feeling part of a community of likeminded free people.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point the mood of anarcho-punk shifted and got darker, as did the politics and the people around it. Margaret Thatcher’s decimation of the mining communities, the Peace Convoy, and an escalating nuclear muscle flexing exercise with Russia only added to the darkness, as society seemed to become more fragmented.  The music also started to get a bit darker and more aggressive, with bands such as Discharge, Amebix, Icons of Filth, Antisect, and Extreme Noise Terror playing breakneck speed thrash punk with lyrics focussing on nuclear death and destruction, and total state control of a near future oppressed dystopian society. Squatting became more problematic and with it came a new breed of crusty squatter, dosed up on Special Brew, Tuinal and even louder and more aggressive extreme music that seemed shambolically reflective of its listeners.

Stevie had been up in Birmingham for a while, staying with some mates and came back excited about a new band he had seen a couple of times at a venue called The Mermaid, which already had a reputation for the punk scene that had developed around it. That band was Napalm Death and Stevie described the experience as likened to being hit in the face with a sonic sledgehammer – he had (he said) found what was missing from his life: something that unleashed and expressed that anger he had carried with him; something cathartic.

So this sort of brings me back to the beginning and me hearing Napalm Death for the first time. I just didn’t get it, and Stevie trying to convince me by playing it over and over again, that this was the future of music. We didn’t see eye-to-eye over this, it just didn’t work for me and that’s when the problems started. Stevie was always a 100%, all or nothing bloke and he had latched onto this sound and that would be his focus from that point on. With Stevie’s forays into this extreme music, and my lack of interest in it, he started hanging out with a more “committed” group of people, who ended up at the squat and with them came this additional pervading darkness: heroin.

It was only a matter of time before Stevie got tempted into it, part of his all or nothing character, and from then on heroin became a regular feature of a large number of the squats residents. We would argue more, the music in the squat became more extreme and aggressive, personal stuff would start going “missing” and after one of Stevie’s so called “committed” new mates threatened me with an axe, after a four day amphetamine binge: our friendship imploded.  I decided after some contemplation and another summer at free festivals to get away from the toxic atmosphere in the squat and join the Travellers on the road. As a parting gesture of goodwill and hope, I offered the hand of friendship to Stevie and tried to persuade him to come on the road with me, away from the heroin and the darkness, but he was too wrapped up in his own pitiful ego by then. I left Brighton, not returning for a number of years, and sadly heard on the grapevine a year after leaving that Stevie had died of a heroin overdose. I couldn’t bring myself to attend the funeral – a regretful decision that has always troubled me. Looking back it was almost inevitable that Stevie would not quit this mortal coil easily or peacefully – he always was a person of extremes, energetic, volatile, unpredictably violent, but beautifully funny and my best mate.

Section II: An Afterword

I’m not suggesting that Grindcore (as this type of extreme music later became to be known by) was responsible for our friendship falling apart, I am sure it was as much the heroin and the company Stevie chose to keep. For a number of years I could not entertain the thought of listening to Grindcore because of the memories associated with it and my musical tastes had, by then, encompassed the E- generation as I travelled from one free techno party to another, with my new “tribe.”

Certainly the highly political song titles and lyrical content of Napalm Death had always struck a chord with me, even if the music initially didn’t. Finally, after hearing Napalm Death again on the John Peel radio show one night in 1992, I decided to revisit the band’s stuff. I was intrigued by the production values of the band and the paradox they seemed to create. The sound of their music takes punk’s lack of concern for formal structure and standard musical convention to another level. They offer a version of punk at its most blunt and brutal. Atonal in their approach their songs are brief, often limited to one or two minutes, and tended to avoid formal lyrical structure in favour of short, sharp statements, revealing a pre-occupation with state control, corporate power and a dystopian society built on economic and physical slavery.

From the titles of the songs their lyrical content is seemingly important, but paradoxically is mostly indecipherable due to the mode of delivery. Deena Weinstein (1991; 2009) suggests that in mainstream Heavy Metal lyrical matter may not be of concern to the listener. However I would suggest that the importance of the lyrical matter to the artists in this case is vital: the content informs the form completely.

It would be fair to say that “You Suffer” and a number of Napalm Death’s repertoire are not songs in the context of the model adopted by Western culture and the western music canon, in recent centuries, but it could certainly be regarded as a song within the context of the musical structures of other cultures as I previously mentioned. While Napalm Death’s songs do not contain a story narrative as would be common in traditional folk ballads structure, it may be possible to view a large proportion of their work as existing within an extended tradition of Folk Music which includes music characterised by “protest,” a continuum in which I would include Crass and a number of other anarcho-punk bands whose political dissent pervades their repertoire. The political impact of extreme metal music comes into question particularly when looking at arguments such as those of Keith Kahn-Harris. Kahn-Harris (2004: 6) argues that the very nature of extreme metal is “reflexively-anti-reflexively constructed as a depoliticizing category.” He identifies the ways in which black metal, for example, constantly toys with the ideas of violent racism and fascism, however will never embrace it outright. Napalm Death on the other hand, I would suggest completely embrace the lyrics they sing, and have been involved in campaigns against apartheid, animal exploitation, global corporate, and state power among others, and express their disgust of fascism, racism and the establishment. Napalm Death, I would argue, are not accommodated by Kahn-Harris’ analysis of extreme metal at all because of the nature of their songs and their behaviour. This is also reflective of the political stance of a large number of anarcho-Punk bands and the anarcho-punk scene from which Napalm Death emerged.

The recording techniques and seeming lack of acoustic treatment and mastering perhaps reflect the very raw subject matter implicit in their lyrics. Where it is traditionally perceived that the meaning of the song is carried in the lyrical content, Frith (1986) argues that the meaning is also carried in the performance of the song. It could be argued that the “differentiation” which occurs in the sound of Napalm Death is related to the way in which the group focus on the delivery of sound and also on the way in which that sound is utilised as a carrier of meaning, both of which are key elements that seem to underpin the Grindcore genre.  The actual structure of the text of the song is broken down, by the vocal delivery, into monosyllabic content. Listening to the vocal output, this low pitch guttural sound seems to come from another place outside of the human vocal range. It seems the voice travels from the diaphragm, from the lower points of the body, inside the resonant sound chamber of the torso, which allows the low pitch to be sustained without damage to the throat or lack of breath to sustain the sound. This acoustic approach is not dissimilar to early Buddhist temple chanting, where monks would employ tonal variations in their meditative and ceremonial chanting, in a quest to connect with divinity. This style of delivery and associated production values seems to contribute to a sense of sonic rapture, of speech being drawn to a halt and fractured, with the suggestion that the end result of this process will be atomisation, an attack upon the fabric of the text itself. A form of sonic rupture where, if only for a moment, a new sphere of possibility may be opened, in the space created by this rupture.

So perhaps that’s what Stevie saw in this music all those years ago, that rupture and the possibilities that might have opened up, indeed  not only for not him but for all those around him. Perhaps if I had also seen that, then things may have turned out differently for both of us. I like Grindcore and have done for a number of years. I enjoy listening to it, albeit mostly in a slightly nostalgic way. The good thing now is that I can listen to it and remember the better, happier times with Stevie before it all went tragically wrong. Perhaps I should have just listened to Napalm Death a bit more then.




 Frith, S. (1986) “Why Do Songs Have Words?” The Sociological Review. 34(1), pp77-106.

Kahn-Harris, K (2004) “The ‘Failure’ of Youth Culture, Reflexivity, Music and Politics in the Black Metal Scene.” European Journal of Cultural Studies. 7(1), pp 95-111.

Weinstein, D (1991) Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. Idaho Falls. Lexington Books.

Weinstein, D (2009) Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture. Boston. DeCapo Press.


“You Suffer” Track 12 from “Scum” (LP) 1987 Earache Records


From Protest To Resistance

This month I have had another book chapter published in The Aesthetic of Our Anger: Anarcho-Punk Politics and Music edited by Mike Dines and Matt Worley. The book is a collection of writings covering many aspects of anarcho-punk culture and is the first edited collection to interrogate anarcho-punk. Additionally the book is published by Minor Compositions which are an imprint of Autonomedia   who publish books on radical media, politics and the arts. In true punk style the whole book is available as a free download here

Alternatively you can purchase the book from Minor Compositions website here  for only £10 and you will know that your money is going straight back in to supporting radical publishers and the radical press rather than the cut that Amazon etc take from online selling.

My chapter for this book examines the Gramscian concept of the Organic Intellectual through the discourses of the editors  of a selection of British anarcho punk ‘zines from 1980-1984.

You can read the chapter here from-protest-to-resistance-matt-grimes

There Is No Authority But Yourself

I recently had a journal article published in a journal of which I am an advisory board member  Punk and Post Punk (Vol 4 No’s 2&3). The double special edition featured work from a number of Punk Scholars Network members, of which I am on the steering committee for, and was proud to have my work alongside such luminaries.

The article is about how popular music histories are documented and the formation of musical canons to reinforce particular histories of popular music. I use Alexander Oey’s documentary about Crass , “There Is No Authority But Yourself” as a way of investigating and challenging how punk histories are constructed through the use of the moving image.

The journal article can be accessed here  there-is-no-authority-for-ppp-journal

Anarcho-punk ‘zines -Symbols of Defiance

A book chapter on anarcho-punk ‘zines that I co authored with Prof Tim Wall and published in Fight Back:Punk, Politics and Resistance edited by Matt Worley also available here


This link will take you to the full  book chapter   punk_zines_symbols_of_defiance_from_the

Video seminar “From Protest to Resistance”: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance’


A video seminar of me presenting some of my work on anarcho-punk fanzines at Northampton University.

“From Protest to Resistance”: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance’


This presentation focuses on the role that alternative publications played in the cultural, political and ideological practices of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1980 and 1984. I explore the way these ‘zines disseminated the central ideas of anarcho-punk and the way that the editors mediated a shifting notion of anarcho-punk. In doing so I seek to move beyond the simpler notion that ‘zines acted simply as channels of communication, but to the idea that discourses of resistance and defiance are constructed and reinforced through the embodiment and undertaking of ideological work of ‘zine editors as ‘organic intellectuals’[1] and thus represent cultural work. This raises some interesting questions about the role of ‘zine editors/producers as key agents in articulating the perceived central tenets and identity of a subcultural movement. Where previous studies on ‘zines have alluded to the role of editors little emphasis has been placed on the way that these ‘zine authors take on leadership roles and perceived positions of authority.

I examine how DIY fan production practices, through the articulation of specific and at times oppositional ideological positions contributed to the construction of the musical, cultural and political boundaries of the anarcho-punk movement. Therefore this presentation explores how these discourses of political position, authority and identity were mediated and the sense of an anarcho -punk movement that they constructed.

FIGHT BACK-Punk, Politics and Resistance

fight back


I have a co-authored chapter with fellow BCMCR/Interactive Cultures member Tim Wall, concerning punk fanzines,soon to be published in an edited collection of writings on punk rock and politics.

Here is the chapter abstract;

Matt Grimes & Tim Wall
Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research
Birmingham City University

Anarcho-punk webzines
Transferring symbols of defiance from the print to the digital age?
What role do specialised publications play in the consumer’s experience of sub-cultures, music and the shaping of its meanings? Drawing on ideas from authors such as Teal Triggs (1995 & 2006), Chris Atton (2001) Marion Leonard (2007), this chapter explores this role through the pages and practices of British anarcho-punk fanzines, in their print and online incarnations.

Fanzines have long been regarded as representing the underground, independent, or the alternative to mainstream publishing as the communities that develop around fanzines are both consumers and (at times) the producers. When punk emerged, fanzines soon became one of the main means of communicating the ethos and values of this new subcultural and its musical style, as their production and distribution practices already embodied some of the cultural practices developing within the DIY approach of punk. Our concern in this chapter is with the role of the fanzine as arbiter of taste, its ability to articulate a specific (often oppositional) ideological position, and its construction of discourses of authenticity. We will also examine the role of the fanzine as an element in the construction of musical scenes, and in the identity and sub-cultural capital of its producers and readership. Our analysis focuses primarily on the specificities of ‘British anarcho-punk’ fanzines of the 1980s where discourses of defiance and opposition are constructed, embodied and reinforced within the anarcho-punk sub-cultural movement.

While it may be assumed that the practices and associations of the printed fanzine have simply migrated online, we examine and evaluate the continuities and discontinuities between the print and online incarnations, and the role that they play in constructing the ideology and identities of anarcho-punks. Using search criteria to identify those online versions that identify themselves as digital online punk ‘zines’, I seek to determine whether the same or similar articulations of defiance, anarchism and anti-authoritarianism are apparent in the digital texts. This essay assesses the extent to which the same discourses and discursive practices are apparent in other online punk ‘zines’, such as e-zines and per-zines. In doing so examines how the inclusion of the term ‘zine’, within the meta data of their digital manifestations, is used in the wider commercial and cultural context.

Forthcoming presentation at the Punk Scholars Network 1st Annual Post Graduate Symposium

PSN Postgraduate Symposium Poster Final-page-001PSN Postgraduate Symposium Poster Final-page-002

As well as being a member of BCMCR/Interactive Cultures I am also a member of the Punk Scholars Network, which is, as it’s name suggests, an international network of scholars academic and non academic that research and write about punk rock in all its different manifestations. The PSN has organised its first  Annual Punk Scholars Network Post Graduate Symposium for the end of this month and is being hosted at The University of Leicester and I am going to be presenting some of my Phd research into anarcho-punk. Specifically it will be reflecting on my methodological approaches. Here is my abstract for my presentation;

“Where There’s a Will There’s a Way”: Methodology, investigating memory and the life-courses of 1980’s British anarcho-punks.

Matt Grimes

Birmingham City University


Taking its title from 1980’s British anarcho-punk band Discharge, this paper investigates some of the issues faced by researchers conducting qualitative research interviews focussed on memory and the politics of everyday life. I will draw on my on-going doctoral research into a group of participants of the 1980’s British anarcho-punk scene and what significance that their engagement with British anarcho-punk has had on their lives. My doctoral research aims to build upon work about fan identities and practices within life-course transitions and the negotiation of fandom and identity amongst older fans produced by Hodkinson 2013, Harrington et al 2011, Bennett and Taylor 2012, and especially Bennett 2006, Davis 2006 and 2012, which examined the wider punk rock scenes.


Drawing on the work of Harrington & Bielby (2010) and Vitale (2013) I aim to contextualise my study and discuss the application of the life-course framework to my research. Additionally the presentation will raise some of the issues involved in memory studies as highlighted by Wang & Brockmeier (2002), Van Dijck (2006) and Labelle (2006). Drawing on the work of Rubin & Rubin (1995), Wengraf (2001) and Kvale & Brinkman (2009) I discuss the processes of and issues involved in conducting qualitative in-depth research interviews, the ethical considerations involved in this approach and managing interview data.

What is equally exciting about presenting at this conference is that Sophie Sparham, a recent graduate from the Birmingham School of Media, where I teach, will also be presenting for the first time at an academic conference. Here is her abstract;

How Close Is Too Close?  The role of the punk rock ethnographer and their relationship with their research subjects.

Sophie Sparham
Birmingham City University

Drawing on my personal experiences of touring with anarcho-punk band Addictive Philosophy in 2013, this presentation firstly discusses the significance of gaining and presenting subcultural capital as a way of gaining a more in-depth insight of a specific music scene, and therefore seeks to uncover the sometimes blurred distinction between researcher and research participant. In doing so it raises issues around the ethical dilemma of involvement and participation for the ethnographer and their relationship with the research subjects in the documenting of reality.

Secondly I discuss the role of the radio documentary producer; from the interviewing and recording process to the editorial decisions that were subsequently made to enable the creation of the documentary.  This also raises issues of the documentary producer’s desire to present reality whilst contending with regulatory broadcasting restrictions.  I demonstrate how my initial intention of making a radio documentary of the tour soon expanded into a much larger documentation and critique of the current anarcho-punk scene in the UK and Ireland.  The finished documentary was shortlisted for ‘The Charles Parker Radio Awards 2014’.

I have really enjoyed teaching Sophie and similarly I am enjoying working alongside her in developing her presentation. I am hoping it will be a really valuable experience for her and may encourage her to return to academia and engage in some post-graduate research and study .

Research project update.

One of the issues around maintaining a blog is time spent writing for it when perhaps I should be spending that time writing for my PhD. Anyway I am going to post a brief update here as a break from some philosophical reading I am conducting on Paul Ricoeur (Time and Narrative) and Michel Foucault (The Archaeology of Knowledge) both recommended by my new, yes new, supervisor Nick Gebhardt. Nick Has recently joined the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research from previously being at Lancaster University. He has a wealth of knowledge and some really erudite advice and I am really pleased to have him as a supervisor./ My other primary supervisor Prof Tim Wall has other commitments as the new Faculty Dean of Research however he has kindly committed to continue to support me as a third supervisor. So new supervisor and new progress-I recently presented my work so far to a panel for the transfer from MPhil stage to PhD stage. It was a 35K word lit review and a couple of case studies-fortunately it was approved so I have now achieved the status of being a master in my field of research. The next step was to present my new research proposal to another panel to see if my new line of investigation was worthy of conducting and worthy of approval. I am continuing with my investigation of anarcho-punk but my particular interest now is in the memories of the scene participants/ audience/ fans that were not necessarily band members though they are not ruled out of this project.

The projects aims are multi layered:
• Firstly the research focuses on the memories of the projects participants involvement with/in British anarcho-punk, musically, aesthetically, politically and ideologically
• Secondly how that involvement has influenced and/or impacted on their subsequent life courses, life choices and decisions, past and present, and shaped their lives (or similarly perhaps not).

I have decided to conduct a set of interviews this coming year with 5-6 participants that I am currently in the process of identifying and contacting. So far I have placed a couple of requests on punk forums and the response has been very encouraging with quite a few people expressing a strong interest in participating. Interestingly enough only one female response-which I am grateful for as I think the lifecourse trajectory of female participants may vary from those of male participants-I will no doubt find out. I am working my way through the methodological and ethical approaches to this form of data gathering and how my line of questioning will develop. One of the particular issues I will face is around people’s memories which includes memory recall, accuracy, memory narratives (hence Ricoeur and Foucault). Memory (and forgetting) is often problematic when trying to piece together historical analysis. I will be discussing this in more detail over the coming months hopefully in a set of blog posts here.

Video interview with Penny Rimbaud of Crass.

Ian Svenonius of Vice magazine chats with Crass’s founding drummer and writer Penny Rimbaud. The interview  starts with Penny declaring his slight preferences for the Beatles over the Stones, for at least “not shitting all over Bo Diddley’s shoulder.” Later he muses on Johnny Rotten’s logical inconsistencies before addressing Crass’s “brand image” of Crass. Penny also breaks down his feelings for Rave, describes how the Falklands War and its attendant politics forced Crass into its “immediate response” method of songwriting. Not missing a beat, Rimbaud reveals the anarchist plot to destroy Greenwich Mean Time and shares his thoughts on this concentration camp we call reality.

Crass/Thatchergate/ Secret Cabinet papers released under 30 year rule

With the recent release of the 1984 secret cabinet papers, under the 30 year rule,   Crass have again had a flurry of interest and publicity in the media regarding the infamous Thatchergate tape that they made and released in 1984. Without going into  detail I have included some links that cover most of the publicity surrounding the tape and the recent media coverage. These include the cabinet papers, interviews with Penny Rimbaud, the tape recording and other ephemera




You can download the cabinet papers here from the National Archives: http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/prem-19-1380.pdf


No Sir I Wont: Reconsidering The Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk. Punk Scholars Network Symposium.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the third Punk Scholars Network event organised and hosted by Pete Dale and the Oxford Brookes University Popular Music Research Unit. The title of the symposium was “No Sir, I Won’t”: Reconsidering The Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-Punk. The day started off with a pleasant taxi ride from the station with Pete, Penny Rimbaud, drummer and one of the founder members of Crass, and Sarah McHendry, musician and activist, member of Mwstard and former drummer of Curse of Eve, Baba Yaga and Witchknot. On arrival me, Penny and Sarah went off for a coffee at which point I started testing the ground with Penny about the paper I was to deliver that day on Crass and the documentary “There Is No Authority But Yourself” directed by controversial Dutch filmmaker Alexander Oey. My reason for broaching the paper with Penny, in advance of my presentation was because I felt quite nervous discussing somebody in the first person whilst they were there in the conference audience. It seemed from our discussions that my interpretation of the documentary was along the same lines as what Penny and Alexander were trying to convey through the documentary. Whilst this was reassuring I was yet to see how the audience would respond to my reading and the line of questioning I might get from Penny et al after I had presented.


Before the papers were delivered there was an excellent exhibition of anarcho-punk graphics from Russ Bestley of the University of The Arts London who pulled together some great examples and created a set of really powerful photomontage posters. To accompany the exhibition he also designed and printed a beautifully crafted limited edition ‘zine’ that was full of some great anarcho-punk graphics and an interesting historical perspective of the anarcho-punk movement/ scene in the UK in the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. You can see his excellent work here:PSN Oxford Booklet Layout PDF LR and here and throughout this blog post:

01 Crass Poster LR-page-0 copy copy


The first presenter of the day was Rich Cross whose paper was focused around discussions on the anarcho-punk/ peace punks’ relationship with the 60’s hippy counter culture and the development of political violence in the anarcho-punk movement. In his discussions he proposed that the singular fixed view of pacifism being integral to the early anarcho-punk movement misrepresented a more complex and contradictory reality, within the movement, where adherence to pure pacifism had become a contested principle. He drew on examples of the movements involvement with varying political groups including anti- fascist, animal liberation, anti- capitalist, Class War, Stop The City etc  and how that involvement challenged the original pacifism of anarcho-punk and saw some anarcho-punk militants adopt newly confrontational approaches.

02 Crass Poster LR-page-0 copy

Second up was a stimulating paper from Jim Donaghey who discussed anarchism as a politics of punk and punk as a culture of resistance. He proposed that there is a supposed gulf between ‘lifestyle’ and ‘ social’ anarchism where anarcho syndicalist’s ‘workerist’ interpretations of anarchism are somewhat in conflict with the social/ cultural interpretations of punk. In his paper he mapped out the anarcho-syndicalist principles of Rudolf Rocker onto DIY punk where it could be argued that the ‘workerist’ means of production are in the hands of the producers within DIY punk. In doing so he argued that a major foundation for successful struggle is a culture of resistance in which DIY punk contributes to in the contemporary anarchist milieu, as DIY punk bridges both political/personal and cultural/material.

03 Crass Label Poster LR-page-0 copy

After lunch it was my contribution where I discussed how music documentaries are used as a way of presenting and documenting popular music history, specifically punk for the screen. I argued that particular stylistic devices and tropes used in popular music documentaries engage in canonical processes that contribute to the formation of a punk canon. Alexander Oey’s documentary about Crass “There Is No Authority But Yourself” steers away from these stylistic devices and rather than presenting a ‘history’ of Crass presents us with a different insight.  In documenting Crass, Oey becomes more interested in the contemporary lives of some of the band members and  how the ideologies of the band are still, for some, core to their  lives and lifestyle. This raises the issue about an investigation and documenting of Crass being a vehicle for a broad range of ideologies that members of the band had before the band formed, and continue to live by today, rather than an intention to document history per se. The full paper is available here:

04 Anarcho Poster LR-page-0 copy copy


After me was Ana Raposo, who also presented an interesting paper on how  politics are represented in anarcho-punk music graphics. The core of her paper investigated how content and stylistic devices of music packaging are utilised as a propaganda tool and used for specific purposes such as loyalty or allegiance to  a scene,  strengthening an existing scene or recruiting people into the scene. In doing so they also present a critique of contemporary realities or utopian environments. she drew on some interesting graphical examples to demonstrate these processes at work. In some respects it was a way of also articulating or putting an additional  voice to  some of the graphical content of Russ Bestley’s exhibition.

05 Anarcho Poster LR-page0001 (2) copy

Last presentation of the day was from Pete Dale. He drew on the work of Ian Glasper’s series of books on underground UK punk, which  provides  an oral ‘history’ and a useful document of the politics of punk music and culture. In this insightful and at times amusing presentation Pete explored the notion of punk being about ‘more than music’ and pieces together some of the verbatim quotes of  informants and contributors to Glasper’s books to paint a picture of the  relationship between punk’s music and political affiliations and the way they changed over time. In doing so Pete pieced the quotations together to show how  a clearer understanding of where punk amounted to ‘more than music’ and where it also failed to amount to such.

06 Anarcho Poster LR copy

To end off a really stimulating day there was a round table discussion with Penny Rimbaud, George McKay and Sarah McHendry. (photo courtesy of Rich Cross ). I wont go into detail of the discussions as you can listen to them here (they were recorded on a mobile phone-not brilliant quality but the conversations are audible):

George McKay
Sarah McHendry
Penny Rimbaud

Here is also a link to Rich Cross’ presentation slides from the conference and will also take you to his excellent blog.

Here is also a link to some photos from the conference courtesy of Sean Clark and his blog post about the event


Punk Scholars Network (PSN) Reading April 19th 2013. Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation


I recently attended the second Punk Scholars Network (PSN) event hosted by Dr Matt Worley and the School of Humanities at Reading University. The PSN, of which I am a member, has been in existence for approximately 8 months and is a collection of academics, and some non-academics, that have an interest in researching and investigating punk and its many musical, cultural, social and political facets across many disciplines of study and research. This event was titled Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation and entailed a collection of presentations considering punk, its global ‘reach’ and localities.

The first presentation was from Hilary Pilkington (University of Manchester) who discussed an ethnographic study of a punk scene in a post-industrial post USSR town (of which the name eludes me) in Russia’s arctic hinterland. Described by the local punks as a ‘rotting city’ Hilary’s study followed a group of local punks and examined in what ways the group defined themselves as ‘punk’ and how that particular subcultural group negotiated their place within the city and alongside other subcultural groups. The particular town was in both industrial and social decline and many young people would leave and move to larger metropolis, whereas some, including this particular group of punks, decided for one reason or another to stay.  One of the interesting things to come out of the study was how the many subcultural groups in the town would share places, spaces and resources within the city to maintain their scene. Despite the groups were fundamentally different in their music and style they appreciated that due to a lack of investment and resources they were having to renegotiate their subcultural boundaries in order for each of those scenes to survive.


The second presentation was from Jim Donaghey, a PhD candidate from Loughborough University who is researching his PhD around notions of anarchism within punk scenes in UK, Poland and Indonesia. In this particular presentation he discussed some of his findings from a recent visit to Indonesia where he was conducting an ethnographic study of Indonesian street punx (sic). His study highlighted how 2 particular groups of street punks expressed their punk aesthetic, anarchistic beliefs and politics in a country with a regime that was both extremely politically and religiously (Islam) repressive. Marginalisation, discrimination and physical intimidation were regular themes that came out in his work, but despite this there is a sense of positivity and deep comradeship within the punk scenes he is investigating. Those scenes are deeply immersed and entrenched in the DIY principles of punk as access to media and resources to support them are barely available and would also bring them to the attention of the authorities that regularly clamped down on any youth cultures that fell outside of the ‘norm’ in both the eyes of the authorities and the local religious leaders. You may have read last year in the Guardian newspaper about groups of street punx in Indonesia being rounded up by the religious authorities and sent off to ‘ youth boot camps’ where they were ‘de-punked’ (heads shaved, piercings removed etc.) and ‘re-programmed’ (religiously and socially) before being returned to society as a ‘normal model citizen’. Quite repressive and disturbing.


Following on from Jim was a presentation by Melanie Schroeter of Reading University who discussed the issue of racist and xenophobic lyrics in German punk song lyrics of the nineties. Applying discourse analysis to the lyrics she highlighted the relationship between German punks and the asylum debate following on from the fall of the Berlin Wall and series of racially motivated attacks on hostels housing immigrants.


After an agreeable lunch Russell Bestley, from the London College of Communication, gave a fascinating presentation on the visual imagery of punk (predominantly record sleeves) and its relationship to regional locations. Decentralizing London as the home of punk he demonstrated how punk bands from regions around the UK would use local landmarks, such as street signs and known buildings, as backdrops for the covers of the records released by those bands to firmly locate them in their region. He argued that this was partly done to show that London didn’t ‘own’ punk and that punk and its scenes were existing and flourishing in other parts of the country, despite media rhetoric about it being a London phenomenon. It was great seeing some of the old record sleeves including the Vaultage series from Attrix Records, that had all the Brighton/Sussex punk bands showcased- I was part of the punk scene that developed around The Vaults ‘venue’ which was a crypt below an old church in the centre of town


downloaddownload (1)
download (2)
Following on from Russ was an interesting talk From Pete Dale who started his discussion around Scottish post-punk by delivering a searing critique of Simon Reynolds and his work on post punk and how Reynolds attempt to locate his work in academic theory and theoretical grounding failed-I can’t quite remember the full content of what Pete said but I remember it being controversial and received some nods from the audience. Note to self: remember to take a digital audio recorder to future events.

Last up was Paul Harvey who discussed his journey from playing with Penetration (a great Scottish punk band who I was/is still a fan of) to academia. His story was one of reticent acceptance into the academy but came about from his excellent PhD that linked Stuckist art to punk through questioning the whole concept of authenticity,what makes punk ‘punk’ and punks relationship to Dadaism and the Situationist movement. I thought his deconstruction of notions of authenticity in punk through the questioning of memory and what he referred to as ‘fabricated cliches’ was insightful.

All in all a great afternoon where I met some really interesting scholars and am really looking forward to the next one.

Forthcoming presentation on Anarcho-punk at Oxford Brookes University

Here is the poster for a forthcoming symposium reconsidering the legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk.










I will be delivering a presentation on the Alexander Oey documentary ‘about Crass called ‘There is No Authority but Yourself’. There will also be a round table discussion at the end of the symposium with Penny Rimbaud one of the founder members of Crass. Interestingly enough at a recent talk he gave at a film festival in Southend -On-Sea he said that he wasn’t too enamored by being asked to attend academic conferences- see his comments amongst other interesting insights here http://thehippiesnowwearblack.wordpress.com/category/penny-rimbaud/ on Richard Cross’s fantastic blog. All the same Penny  apparently is still coming which is great news.


Here is the abstract outlining what I will be discussing

Call it Crass but ‘There Is No Authority But Yourself’: De-canonizing Punk’s Underbelly.

Matt Grimes

       “But if punk stops in 1979, then it can be argued that that there is a great deal of the story left out. This includes punk offshoots such as…. the anarcho-punk movement, with bands such as Crass who took the anarchist message seriously…”[1]

Roger Sabin’s analysis of the histories of punk is very telling. It is in this context, of how histories of popular music are constructed, documented and presented, that this paper examines the documentary There Is No Authority But Yourself (2006) directed by Dutch director Alexander Oey concerning the anarcho-punk band Crass[2]. This documentary is important in providing an analysis of a band which has been mostly excluded from a standard story of popular music, and even from more focused examination of punk as a broader musical genre. Discussing the documentary, therefore, allows us to engage with a neglected part of music history.

In this essay I link the issue of documentary style to questions about documentary as historiography. By this I mean how documentaries are used as a way of presenting and documenting history– specifically how we find out about and present the history of popular music, with a focus on punk rock, for the screen. I intend to use Oey’s film to go beyond the classification of televisual representations of popular music as “rockumentaries[3]. To do this I distinguish between what I am describing here as ‘standard music histories’ exemplified by the BBC’s Britannia[4] series, the avant-garde approaches taken by Don Letts and Julien Temple, and the approach typified by Oey. Generally, I want to suggest that the first two approaches, for all their differences tend to represent popular music histories, through the utilisation of what can be seen as the canonical processes that contribute to the formation of a ‘punk’ canon.  In doing so I suggest we need to reconsider the role of canons in the construction of popular music histories.


[1] Roger Sabin, ed., Punk Rock: So What? (London: Routledge, 1999), 4.

[2] Crass were an avant-garde English punk rock band formed in 1977 around a collective of musicians based around Dial House, an open house community in Essex. The band was formed as a direct response to what they saw as the failings of the then popular punk movement to live up to the DIY (do it yourself) and anarchist ethos often espoused by artists such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash et al. Crass were seminal in the development of anarcho-punk, a specific subcultural strand of punk rock that promoted anarchism and pacifism as a political ideology and a way of living. Members of the band continue to perform under various collaborations and individual performances.

[3] a term first used by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault producers of the 1969 93 KHJ Los Angeles syndicated radio documentary The History of Rock & Roll

[4] The Britannia label consists of a series of documentaries and one-off programmes produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation about the history of popular music and their related cultural activities in the UK