The Last of the Hippies by Penny Rimbaud

The Last of the Hippies by Penny Rimbaud

The Last of the Hippies An Hysterical Romance Penny Rimbaud a new (expensive) version!


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First published in 1982 as part of the Crass record album Christ: The Album, Penny Rimbaud’s The Last of the Hippies (and reissued by Active in 2009) is a fiery anarchist polemic centered on the story of his friend, Phil Russell (aka Wally Hope), who was murdered by the State while incarcerated in a men- tal institution.

Wally Hope was a visionary and a freethinker, whose life had a pro- found influence on many in the culture of the UK underground and be- yond. He was an important figure in what may loosely be described as the organization of the Windsor Free Festival from 1972 to 1974, as well providing the impetus for the embryonic Stonehenge Free Festival. Wally was arrested and incarcerated in a mental institution after hav- ing been found in possession of a small amount of LSD. He was later released, and subsequently died. The official verdict was that Russell committed suicide, although Rimbaud uncovered strong evidence that he was murdered. Rimbaud’s anger over unanswered questions sur- rounding his friend’s death inspired him in 1977 to form the anarchist punk band Crass. In the space of seven short years, from 1977 to their breakup in 1984, Crass almost single-handedly breathed life back into the then moribund peace and anarchist movements. The Last of the Hippies fast became the seminal text of what was then known as anarcho-punk and which later contributed to the anti-globalization movement. This revised edition comes complete with a new introduction in which Rimbaud questions some of the premises that he laid down in the original.
Penny Rimbaud is a writer, poet, philosopher, painter, musician and activist. He was a former member of the performance art groups EXIT and Ceres Confusion, and in 1972 was cofounder with Phil Russell (aka Wally Hope) of the Stonehenge Free Festivals. In 1977, alongside Steve Ignorant, he cofounded the seminal anarchist punk band Crass, which disbanded in 1984. From that time up until 2000 he devoted himself almost entirely to writing, returning to the public platform in 2001 as a performance poet working alongside Australian saxophonist Louise Elliott and a wide variety of jazz musicians under the umbrella of Penny Rimbaud’s Last Amendment.
A review
In The Last of the Hippies, Penny Rimbaud celebrates the life of Phil 'Wally' Hope, and rails against his murder at the hands of the state in 1975. In so doing, he conveys some of the anarchist/pacifist philosophy which fed into Crass, and subsequently much of the rest of the anarcho-punk sub-genre. This is actually a fourth publication of The Last of the Hippies. It was originally included with Crass's Christ, The Album in 1982, and much of the material was also covered in Rimbaud's autobiography, Shibboleth: My revolting life (AK Press, 1998). Active Distribution produced a paperback version of The Last of the Hippies in 2009, and this 2015 PM Press edition is almost identical to that, but comes with a slick new cover and a considerable price-hike - up from Active Distro's £1 (yes, one pound) to $12! The hurried re-issue may be explained by PM Press's arguably wider reach in the US, but the price disparity is stark, and in fact the Active Distribution edition is still in print (and, incidentally, in stock at main body of the text provides a snapshot of Rimbaud, Crass, and the anarcho-punk scene at a particular juncture, immediately after the Falklands War in 1982, with the pacifist emphasis that might be expected therein. However, the 'peace punk' mentality is in sharp contrast to Rimbaud's introduction, written in 2008, which flatly eschews pacifism. Rimbaud writes: 'Crass caught me at a time when pacifism seemed to be the best way forward. Just at the moment, in 2008, I've swung heavily in the opposite direction' (p 9). This may come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Crass's lyrics and slogans, but it is always interesting to be able to trace the trajectory of an individual's political positions, and the 'anarchism' of Crass was always a wee bit half-baked, as Rimbaud freely admits.Rimbaud also jettisons his erstwhile enthusiasm for rock'n'roll's revolutionary potential, an element of The Last of the Hippies that now 'greatly embarrasses' him (p 12). This change of position has not diminished Rimbaud's cutting wit, however. Bulldozing his way through the revered grandfathers of punk, he writes: 'let's face it, the Pistols were no more than the Spice Girls of their day, glitzy, cheap and, dare I say it, downright crass. The Clash came in at a close second as ABBA with attitude' (p 12). And this is really what Crass, and anarcho-punk in general, were best at - firing punk's critique of the music industry back at punk itself, while committing themselves to build something more meaningful than the hypocrisy of the corporate sell-outs.Also in the introduction, Rimbaud writes that he 'loathe[s] the fad for retro-punk' (p 4), but within two years of writing this, Crass succumbed to the retro-punk cash cow with the announcement of Crass vocalist Steve Ignorant's farcical 'Last Supper' and 'Feeding of the 5000' tours (to which Rimbaud gave his blessing), and the subsequent re-issuing of Crass's back-catalogue as 'The Crassical Collection.' And in 2012 it was with bitter irony that Crass themselves were touted as sell-outs for their instrumental role (via Southern Records) in crippling the peer-to-peer music sharing website.Crass's reputation may have been sullied by the controversies of recent years, but The Last of the Hippies stands as a testament to a former integrity, and remains valuable as such.Jim Just Books


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