"Do They Owe Us a Living? Of Course They Do!" Crass, Throbbing Gristle, and Anarchy and Radicalism in Early English Punk Rock

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2007

Journal Title or Book Title

Journal for the Study of Radicalism






Although many books and articles have been written in the popular and academic press about the punk movements of the 1970s in England and the United States, few have gone beyond examining the canonical bands and movements. Works such as Legs McNeil's and Gillian McCain's Please Kill me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk and Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World offer valuable insights into the motivations of the American and British punk movements' pioneers. However, they do not adequately examine several important aspects of the punk movement, namely the political and social motivations of many of the major band involved. The two bands I examine here, Crass and Throbbing Gristle, did have to work with distribution systems to which they were opposed on principle, but they did so more in the spirit of subversion than in acquiescence to the dominant hierarchy. They attempted to make a radical statement within the confines of a commodified musical distribution system. Many other more popular bands were simply posturing, but Crass and Throbbing Gristle were the true fathers of radical politics and anarchy in the British punk movement.

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