“The feeding of the five thousand” is a well-known phrase in Christian tradition, being the name of a Biblical “miracle”, a fairy tale when Jesus became the best catering employee ever, in which with a small amount of food is said to have fed 5000 people. It is also the title of one of the best punk albums ever been released. It is the hailing from London punks’ Crass debut album, released in February 1979 via Crass Records. 40 years after its recording (29 October 1978) the album stands as one of the most influential records of the genre and marked its era. According to Penny Rimbaud, drummer of Crass, they named the album “The Feeding of The Five Thousand” because 5000 was the minimum number that they could get pressed and some 4900 more than what they thought they’d sell… Of course the album is now golden but that doesn’t matter anyway…Personally I discovered Crass when I saw a picture of Bolt Thrower, when a band’s member was wearing a black t-shirt with this ‘strange’ logo (strange for a young metalhead in his early teens). Not exactly my type of music back then -and still 25 years after-, probably too British and definitely too punk for me, but the whole attitude and the lyrics were so attractive and interesting to explore. Late 70’s were so political and full of tense in Britain, often violent as in every capitalistic state that the government loses control.
So Punk as a music genre and cultural phenomenon was there to fill the rage and the anger, and why not to show the political direction to a society/generation that was not comfortable anymore with the social situation (despite the final result of this route). Crass never became as popular as Sex Pistols, and even though their work was surely more “dangerous” for conservative Britain, still it made the way for Pistols and The Clash to be accepted from mainstream. Musically the songs are not something innovating musically speaking almost repetitive but they are well executed and well played with a street feeling and a squat flame burning aura. So it may sound similar at first hearing but all songs despite the simplistic guitars have their own personality, with recognizable sound and memorable lyrics. Speak of the devil, the best thing about this album is the lyrics. Lyrics that are mostly sharp and perfectly suitable for an ‘angry’ album like “The Feeding of the 5000”. The sarcastic, vitriolic and socially offensive language is brilliant -though sometimes rather naïve to my ears, but this can’t change that Crass was the first band that wrote anti-authoritarian lyrics with a serious approaching-.
Mark that the anarchistic, pacifist lyrics and the noise that Crass created completed with 24/7 police surveillance and questions asked in British parliament back in its days… The record was made when Pete Stennett, owner of Small Wonder Records, heard a demo from Crass. He was so impressed from the material, that he decided to release an 18-track 12″ EP rather than just a 7” single. The album created huge amounts of controversy even before it was released. Workers at the Irish pressing plant refused to manufacture the record, as they felt the lyrics of the opener “Asylum” were blasphemous. Originally named “Reality Asylum” (referred to as “Asylum” on the record sleeve), the song has spoken-word by Eve Libertine and it speaks of Crass’s hate for tyranny and violence that the band claimed that was perpetrated by Jesus Christ and his followers. The record was eventually released with the track replaced with 2 minutes of silence entitled “The Sound of Free Speech”. This incident also prompted Crass to set up their own record label in order to retain full editorial control over their material, and “Reality Asylum” was issued shortly afterwards in a re-recorded and extended form as a 7″ single. A later repress of the disc (subtitled The Second Sitting) released on Crass records in 1980 restored the missing track. Most of the album follows a similar pattern. Spoken-word pieces, “Fight War, Not Wars” (the band’s slogan), offering catchy punk songs and quotes to write with sprays on the walls (Punk Is Dead). Bassist Pete Wright sings on three of the tracks, which contrasts nicely to Steve, Eve, and Joy’s voices and gives a plurality and a variety to the album.