Everyone’s favourite Essex based musical collective, Crass, released their third album, “Penis Envy”, in 1981. On the whole, and despite the “post water-shed” title, it was a departure from their more “difficult” or hardcore offerings on “The Feeding of the 5000” and “Stations of the Crass”. “Penis Envy” in contrast, was musically more complex and featured the girl Crass vocalists Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre. The album, despite it’s softer sound and production, was a cynical and feminist angled attack on the patriarchy, marriage and sexual repression.
Well what did you expect?
The final track of the album, is a parody of a radio-friendly love song called “Our Wedding”. So with an arch, playful Crass-like bout of infiltration and sarcasm, they negotiated an unlikely magazine deal, whereas a free white flexi disc of the track would be distributed to the readers of “Loving” – a mainstream, teenage romance publication. Crass tricked the magazine into offering the disc, all the time calling themselves “Creative Recording And Sound Services” (clue somewhere in those initials) and stamped the disc with a suitably swirly and revolting typeface. “Loving” magazine accepted the offer, telling their readers that the free C.R.A.S.S. flexi would make “your wedding day just that bit extra special”. The track ends with a round of ever slowing, sickly sounding, distorted and de-tuned Wedding Bells, maybe the magazine should have played it through before agreeing to the offer. The News of the World newspaper exposed the hoax, and stated that the title of the flexi’s originating album was “too obscene to print”. Despite “Loving” magazine’s embarrassment and annoyance, the flexi had already been distributed and clever Crass had broken no laws.
Penny Rimbaud had this to say about the incident, in an interview with Vice in 2014
“We were recording an album called Penis Envy, the last track of which was ‘Lipstick On Your Penis’ based on the old standard ‘Lipstick On Your Collar.’ Penis Envy was fronted by the women of the band, it was a very feminist album and ‘Lipstick’ was about the institution of marriage being little more than prostitution. Having recorded that track, we realized it would almost certainly lead to a copyright prosecution, so we decided to completely rewrite the lyrics. What we ended up with was so convincingly schmaltzy that we had the idea of trying to sell it to a teenage romance magazine called Loving. It was one of those magazines which feeds lies to young girls, sets them up with ludicrously impossible fantasies which they can’t follow, won’t follow, and don’t follow. Magazines like that just create heartache, they remove young people from themselves, set them up to be knocked down.”
“Anyway, we called in at Loving’s IPC offices as Creative Recordings and Sound Services (CRASS) and said, ‘We’ve just made this recording and think it would be suitable for your publication.’ They jumped at it, saying, ‘It’s great, fantastic. We’re about to do a special brides [bribes] issue. How about us doing it as a free flexi?’ Which is precisely what it became. They advertised it as ‘Our Wedding’—an ‘absolute must for your wedding day.”
“They’d bought it hook, line, and stinker, but the lyrics were frightful, banal shit about the social fantasy of marriage, you know, things like never looking at other girls or guys once you’ve fallen for it. It was total rubbish, but they happily gave it away with their magazine. Now, what kind of loving is that? Shortly afterwards a friend in Fleet Street exposed the scam and the Star printed the glorious headline ‘Band of Hate’s Loving Message.’ I think there were a few sackings at Loving magazine.”
The flexi was released in the summer of 1981 – just before the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
Coincidence? With Crass?…we would guess probably not!