By way of continuation from my previous post - after the censorship of ‘Reality Asylum’ by the pressing plant on ‘Feeding the 5000’ Crass decided to start their own label Crass Records, so that they would have complete control over their own output and also to allow them to create a platform enabling other artists to release music, people who were coming from a similar place ideologically. They also took profit out of the equation and all Crass records releases were tagged with ‘Pay No More Than’ making them more affordable.
There were a number of great releases on the label and it became a major platform for the burgeoning anarcho punk scene.Two releases releases that particularly stood out for me were The Mob - No Doves Fly Here 7” and a record by Zounds entitled ‘Cant Cheat Karma’. These records carried more melody than the usual ‘Crass sound’ and also carried a more emotive message lyrically. They both seemed to allow a little colour into the monochrome Crass aesthetic.
The Mob went on to form their own label, All the Madmen records initially releasing two singles of their own but going on to release records by Blyth Power, Zoe Kia, The Astronauts and Flowers in the Dustbin amongst others. One of the things that drew me to the band and the label output was that they seemed more accepting of previous strands of counterculture as influence ie. the 60’s and particularly the scene that bridged the 60’s hippy to 70’s punk - I’m thinking here of bands like Hawkwind and The Pink Fairies. Whereas Crass and the punk scene generally seemed to go for a ground zero approach The Mob and their ilk seemed to simultaneously embrace that world, which was attractive to me as someone who as a young teenager was also buying records by Hendrix, Dylan, Donovan and the Incredible String Band. Although from Yeovil originally they relocated to a series of squats in Brougham Road, Hackney which included an abandoned bus garage This drew vehicles from the Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe who were an early New Age Traveller group that travelled with a marquee and would put on cabaret shows with a twist for free at festivals and wherever would allow them to park. This was the coming together of two worlds. The anarchist punk scene and the anarchic world of the early travellers.
With this as background The Mob released ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ which I bought on its release in 1983. I immediately fell in love with the record and still enjoy it to this day. Although it may not have had the same impact on me as Crass ‘Feeding the 5000’, I’m far more likely to listen to The Mob album nowadays. Where Crass were black and white the Mob world was more orange and purple. Lyrically the album dealt with similar themes to Crass but they were presented with far more personal emotion and a sense of yearning for a more pastoral world - at least that’s how it sounded to me. Where Crass were addressing a stark Cold War aesthetic The Mob seemed to be offering colour and hope There’s an irony to this in that in itself the record could be heard as being quite depressing, take the opening lyrics on Side 2: ‘Our life our world, mapped out in scars, carved on wrists and back of arms’
For me however it let the light in.
Mark, the vocalist with The Mob was the first punk I was aware of who had dreadlocks and rumour had it that he also owned a tipi which he transported in an old ambulance. This was the world of Green Anarchism, not that I think anyone would have actually called themselves that but there was a magazine of that title. Through it ran an ethos which incorporated a back to the land approach into anarchism, which to me was extremely enticing.
I loved Let the Tribe Increase and still do, it’s melodies and lyrics still resonate today and over the years they’ve gained an international cult following. Whilst Crass blew the bleeding doors off, The Mob spoke to me personally and gave a vision of hope to cling onto in an increasingly bleak landscape. Let’s not forget the Eighties didn’t end in any kind of anarchist utopia, far from it, we saw the Miners defeated after a long hard strike which drew all elements of counter culture together and subsequently the erosion of workers empowerment. It was the beginning of a time where we became a more openly selfish society driven more and more by neo-conservative values.
We needed hope and for me that came from escaping into the countryside and attempting, however naively, to form our own world outside society. Some may say that was a cop out but that was where the spirit of freedom took me and there I forged a whole new group of friendships. There was also some degree of self preservation. Over the years I lost a lot of good friends to the pitfalls that presented themselves as people struggled with the fallout of the late eighties protest movements.
I’ve met Mark from The Mob a couple of times, he’s another genuinely lovely bloke with an infectious, grinning smile. A few years ago I went with my old friend Nick down to his place Rockaway Park in Temple Cloud Somerset. As I understand after a time spent living on the road he went on to run one of the biggest Ford Transit scrap dealerships in the country which morphed into Rockaway Park. As well as having his home there, he has a multitude of workshops and outbuildings all converted in a highly original manner into vestiges of creativity with a number of people working and living in and around the place- mechanics, carpenters, engineers, tattooists, yoga teachers and of course musicians, all contributing to this hive of incredible activity.
To a large extent in my opinion he has realised the dream.
- Matt Davies