King Mob’s Chris Gray RIP

I just got an email from Charlie Radcliffe telling me that Chris Gray died last Thursday morning (14 May 2009). Chris is probably best known for his brief membership of the Situationist International and being one of the key figures in the Notting Hill (west London) based King Mob. Chris was the editor and translator of the first English language anthology of French Situationist texts Leaving The 20th Century: The incomplete works of the Situationist International (1974), a book that over a long period was to have an enormous impact.

I got to know Chris around 2002 when I was researching the life of my mother Julia Callan-Thompson. At that time Chris had been ill with hepatitis c for some years, but it didn’t stop him from getting out on the streets to join anti-war and other demonstrations. He was extremely upbeat about the ongoing possibilities for the revolutionary transformation of society, and never complained about his illness. Chris told me several times he felt really sorry for those who got hep c from blood transfusions etc.; his attitude was that despite becoming ill from needle sharing, at least he’d had and enjoyed the smack that went with it.

When I saw Chris it was usually at his spartan flat in New Court, Hampstead. For health reasons, he was dividing his time between London and Cornwall. Despite the minimal decor in his London pad, Chris was really hospitable and always cooked for visitors. He viewed both me and his own daughter Mob as numbering among what he humorously referred to as ‘the lost children of Ladbroke Grove’. The first time I visited Chris, he told me he’d been aware of what I’d been doing for a long time, and said it was a shame we hadn’t met before because we had so much in common; viz, shared political and cultural interests alongside his acquaintance with my mother. Nonetheless, Chris hadn’t known my mother nearly as well as two of his former partners did in the late-sixties and early-seventies; both Brenda Grevelle and Hazel Gray saw her more much more regularly than he did back then.

During the years I knew Chris he was working on a book about LSD, and he seemed particularly curious about his own mother’s medical treatment with this drug in the 1950s. There is no need to repeat here the many anecdotes about Chris that have led some to view him as legendary, you can find them elsewhere but obviously not everything that has been written about him can be described as strictly factually accurate. Suffice to say I found Chris great company and appreciated him for his sharp mind. Rapping with him really brought home for me the fact that his translations of Situationist texts were intended to have an effect on the political climate of Britain and America; he was not aiming for the dry pseudo-objectivity of an academic.

Some of the lines that most impressed me when I first read the translations Chris made from French were his interpolations; added because he wanted to ensure these incendiary Situationist tracts worked for an Anglo-American audience. My absolute favourite among them is in his translation of On The Poverty Of Student Life. Here he threw in something along the lines of: “If the anarchists will tolerate each other they will tolerate anyone…” Chris assured me this addition was based on a throwaway line of conversation the pamphlet’s author Mustapha Khayati had tossed at him, he’d merely substituted ‘anarchists’ for ‘English’.

To the best of my knowledge, Hazel Gray died many many years ago. But Chris was still in close contact with Brenda Grevelle when I knew him. So my thoughts are with her and their daughter Mob.

And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!

About mistertrippy

Stewart Home was born in south London in 1962. His mother Julia Callan-Thompson was a showgirl and club hostess. He has never held down a regular job for more than a few months at a time. On those rare occasions when he's been forced to work, Home has taken employment as a factory labourer, agricultural labourer, shop assistant, office clerk and art class model. Deciding he didn't like working in factories as a teenager, Home pursued cultural and political interests, writing many books and participating in even more gallery exhibitions.
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40 thoughts on “King Mob’s Chris Gray RIP

  1. This is really another sad loss.
    I got to know King Mob’s texts, and I live in the world’s derriere.
    A spanish group made some translations and used the name, I think maybe I knew them first because of that. But rapidly moved to the english thing.
    I admire anyone who makes the big effort of translating other people’s material for practical objectives, more so if this was done in a time when books and pamphlets were the only way to circulate it around. And you have to walk around and handle it to people, and do a lot of supplementary talking.
    The documents translated by Chris were read, decades later, by people like me, before a more puritanical and revisionist impulse was brought by academic types who found in the I.S. another theme to get into their boring papers; and that line about anarchists was specially helpful to me in my personal vendetta against life-style subcultural anarcho-communists acquaintances that found me “too situationist”.

    I hope Chris is in the situ Nirvana right now, having a really good trip.

  2. lhlkbhlb says:

    I killed Guy Debord

  3. lhlkbhlb: if you are the original gun Debord pointed at his own chest, and then triggered, I would be interested in acquiring you, for my collection.

  4. lk;lk says:

    If you read this note, you have understood that an act of intervening with an object has been concluded, whose unique proposition was to unleash the thought/action synapses;

    that you adequately resolved the supposed thought/action contradiction or conception-of-the-act/execution-of-the-act in spite of the prohibition to realize it;

    that the realized act will liberate the tension, fruit of the contradiction, and that this resolution is agreeable;

    that, despite the alienating pressure of the system that imposes separation between thought/action, you can propose and execute other acts that move against the system in the same way that you did not obey the order of “prohibited;”

  5. Michael K says:

    I thought King Mob was a member of The Invisibles but I’ve been listening too much to what people say somebody said about the sayings of a soothsayer

  6. Cathal Liam McFee says:

    Oh damn…

  7. lsdkfjls says:

    Throughout the years Tricia inevitably got to know about King Mob – often endearingly referring to it as King Mop – but we hardly talked about the activities at all though when doing so it was with interest. Her daughter though became somewhat fascinated taking things like pamphlets away and reading them. Then she started asking for more and more. Initially, in giving Tracy this material I also saw as a means of ensuring that in the event of my death, these things and others – would be preserved and passed on to relevant quarters whom so ever they may be. By then I knew some of these things had become pricey as I was informed by especially the Here and Now group in Leeds. Tracy had also picked up on this via the Internet as she worked on computers as a personal assistant – a job she hates – and then I kind of knew she’d get round to flogging them though did ask me if I minded. My answer – go ahead if you so wish though keep some – also became a way of saying go easy on dipping into your mum’s purse and cancel the poor old gal’s debts she’s voluntarily taken upon herself to pay off! Tracy must then have done a lot of searching around on the Internet and at some point she hit on Tate Modern, though that’s hardly surprising.

    Finally I was utterly relieved the debt problem was sorted. If I am in grave error for doing this what else could I have done? Sat back? Or asked former radicals to pay up who’d got plenty of dosh and/or inherited wealth? No the refusal and subsequent humiliation would have been too much particularly as I’d crossed swords with all of them. I first of all though made sure I explained in detail to a few clued-in people what had taken place as I knew very well I would be accused of TATE GOLD – or something like – and pocketing money. So I was waiting for all the slandering I’d become accustomed to over the decades to start up again mentally preparing to file it alongside the rest. And what were these? In the pay of a Rachmanite landlord as a parting shot from a bust-up relationship which was then spread among community politicos and Labour party lefties who would gleefully point me out in the street as a complete scumbag; a brutal sub-contractor who loved sacking workers and not paying wages; a petty criminal who enjoyed robbing his nearest and dearest; a strike breaker; a millionaire who owned a global garden furniture cum living sculpture business; a brute who loved smacking women; a bully boy who regularly gave people nervous breakdowns I came into contact with, and oh, not forgetting the more low key though constant accusations of cowardice, lying, cheating and being a very weak person with jelly for backbone. Finally though I know all too well the mud will stick and it is the mud which will be remembered…..

  8. Dave Rimmer says:

    Strange. I pulled my old copy of Leaving the 20th Century from the shelves only yesterday to show someone and explain a point about punk. It’s sitting on the desk in front of me right now.

  9. Andy Roberts says:

    Sad to hear about Chris G, Stewart, one of the unsung workers of the real revolution. Any idea what will happen to the MS of his acid book?

  10. mistertrippy says:

    Andy, apparently “The Acid” was officially published at the end of March but copies do not appear to be commercially distributed yet. I’ll try to find out more.

    lsdkfjls.. I appreciate your posting of this reply to accusations from Ian Bone from the (Not So) Wise brothers site. I have no problem with what happened to their copies of King Mob publications and what the money generated was used for. I’ve never doubted that the (Not So) Wise brothers try to talk straight, my problems with them stem more from the fact they don’t always check things out sufficiently and seem largely unable to see things from anything but their own point of view. Parts of the history of King Mob that Dave (Not So) Wise did a few years ago are really useful. Other parts are simply wrong. I’m in no rush but at some point I had intended to deal with certain aspects of that. And despite the rude things Dave (Not So) Wise has to say about me there, I see him as nothing worse than a well meaning old fool.

  11. lsdkfjls says:

    yes i was suprised to see the revoltagainstplenty.com site has articles from the amazing melancholic troglodytes but also links to the shitty principia dialectica !
    shame chris didnt get to finish his book but as they say, death is not true, and that’s why capitalism tries to murder the dead. We still exist in the living memory of those who have yet to join us as members of the alien undead. It’s after the end of the world and we are the zombies who will come back to bury our dead, so that the living may blaze trails to new modes of being…
    but i’m glad julia knew him and its good u met him too . heres to an all time, space and logic workers conference
    http://antisystemic.org/SW/

  12. mistertrippy says:

    Well as I understood it the acid book Chris was doing was at the re-write stage, so maybe it can be published… But I haven’t seen it, only talked to him about it, so I don’t really know.

  13. Michael Roth says:

    Sorry to hear about this. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with his book (I only know Knabb’s book). I was able to find a “preview” online. It looks interesting. I’ll have to check the archive at the library…

  14. Antisystemic is the new systemic. All I found was alot of broken links, a couple of pictures of english brick houses, some irrelevant ebooks you can get elsewhere and a lot of pro-occidental news about corrupt pakistani generals and some of their problems with India.

    So, boredom seems to be still revolutionary.

    PD: no! Now I remeber that the global parasites network page was fun!

  15. Pingback: Chris Gray RIP « boredom is always counter-revolutionary

  16. west india says:

    so ricardo your attitude to the struggle of peoples organising as communities against their governments and against global capitalism is…. boring? u rather fight easy targets innit … u need spectacles for spectacular struggle innit…

  17. Hey motherfuckers, don’t you pricks know that the full text of The End of the Age of Divinity is only available at: http://antisystemic.org/SW/TheEndOfTheAgeOfDivinity-Enkutatach409.pdf

  18. O says:

    took the name brenda grevelle to find revolt against plenty elucidations of gray far as his rajneesh connection in poona who is the christopher gray knew when he stayed at the mendocino house in 1978 don’t remember his bhagwan given name at the time he was with usha aka gina raetze classmate of steiner at crystal springs school hillsborough ca where patty hearst also attended after class of 65 graduated . . .

  19. Hey, you radical librarians, how did you know that some of the folks were connected to Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers? You read it in a ebook?

    West India: No I don’t think is boring what happens in Pakistan, India or Indonesia. I think is boring that some prick uses the space to meditate about the death of Chris Gray to make some patronizing occidental posseurism like if they had any real concerns about that…
    I think India is one of the few countries who colud stand against China and Usa and Europe some day and that’s definetely not irrelevant.
    But the word “communities” is problematic, being an occidental concept which can’t possible mean the same for a first worldist than to a person born and living in the thirld world. You say community as formerly you say “scene”. There is no point in trying to separate “life style” anarchists from the “real” ones, because you can’t scape the Simulacrum.
    Anyone now can use the world spectacle against another, when situ texts are all over the net, but spectacle, an ever-present concept for you, means nothing for people in Bhutan.
    What I now for certain is that organizations in the North can’t scape their own alienation. So, they should leave the rest of the world alone, and stop exporting their “struggle” (which normally means some kind of leftism). 100+ years and they have accomplished nothing for non western peoples.
    In other words, if you are an Indian, it’s all right. If you are a white living there, or reading the news from there, or writing the news from there, or traveling there, or having a lot of friends there, and having a “concioussness”: that’s NOTHING.

  20. And Irrelevent, chill out, I’m reading (On the Death of Isou) right now, so your memes are spreading and all your passionate hard work … well, being read.
    That was your point, wasn’t it?

  21. Hey! it came out to be a very funny pastiche after all! mixing ancient pseudomisticism with occult avant-garde history and not a little amount of jewish propaganda!
    I hope you don’t mind if I plagiarize a bit of it … I mean, once you have put your memes inside my Trippian Mind, is difficult to make me go back…
    And now I understand that the boring faÇade of the antisystemic site was a very literal metaphor for the hidden content that surely is going to bring Revolution AND Apocalypse when I just finish reading!
    But I have my own theory, sorry , “secret knowledge”, you now: The Ones who really call the shots are here, in the south of Chile, in underground bases protected by the mapuche people, just waiting…

  22. jlkjlk says:

    thanx 4 the heads up on Mapuche – i never knew about that and also glad u r reading the end of the age of divinity – take it it is yours of course

    however your bullshit about occidentalism is what is problematic. many of us are born in the 1st world but our parents and family and even children are from the 3rd or 2nd worlds. that is the result of colonialism and the real effect on our lives. u want us to never see our comrades, brothers sisters, mothers, fathers and live according to westphilian european borders? fuck off. thats all.

  23. Very profound and situational.
    I think you are the classic manipulative leftist that want to make us believe that if one doesn’t follow your free-time distraction crap, one is one of the “baddies”.

    I read yout “tractatus” and let me tell you, librarian, that no worker would write that, read that or apply that in any way, so your public will remain students and oldies with enough free time to speculate and “challenge” governmets and capitalism from inside the living room, with the occasional going outside to take part in the permitted demo.

    “That’s all”. Sorry, I don’t follow your party orders, comrade. I don’t give a shit where are you born.

    Are you white? That’s explains everything.

    You call Israel third world? aaahhh!!

    Are you a pakistani, indian, iranian….well, go to re-learn your own culture.

    There is NOTHING MORE SPECTACULAR THAN TALKING ABOUT “S”.

    If you are any of the original members of the I.S. (it seems so, for the authority with which you speak…) please, excuse moi.

    If not, well, enjoy your fish and ships.

  24. Come back to the nasty third world….buuuu!
    WE ARE WAITING FOR YOU!

  25. lkfjlskjl says:

    i am in the nth world
    and u comrade,
    u r excused

    THE PROLETARIAT HAS NO COUNTRY

  26. zichi says:

    sad news, I knew Chris very well, we are born in same place. I last saw him in Hampstead London in 1994 before I moved to Japan. My thoughts are with Usha, Eliane and Mob, Chris until we meet again!

  27. Pingback: More on the death of King Mob’s Chris Gray « Mister Trippy

  28. b says:

    That multi-millionaire property developer scumbag Bennie Gray, whom Chris Gray used to associate with? Were they blood-related or did they just get on well?

    Also will his old mate Paul McCartney be coming to his funeral? For those who are interested, the McCartney connection was there long after the IT heyday. In fact I don’t even know whether it existed DURING that heyday. How anti-spectacular…

    As you well know, Stewart, it’s all about money… That’s why Debord made ‘Society of the Spectacle’ into a film (an absolutely classic cash-in), and that’s why you wrote the Belle de Jour books. And yes, some of us are NOT so stupid as not to have realised a very long time ago…

    Maybe if you keep trying you’ll make as much money as the ‘Q’ craparses did – what a bunch of fucking-wanker self-publicists. Yeah, that’s just what the proletariat needs. Now they’re selling pseudo-ironic pro-Americanism (Cary Grant), and get the trendy intelligentsia to copy their pseudo-ironic style. They don’t mean it, you know, they didn’t get into publishing on Umberto Eco’s coat-tails. God, what a case of ‘the emperor has no clothes’. The middlings all follow suit and look down their noses at people who say “what a load of shit” as being terrible common and unsophisticated. Pretty much the same tool being used as the one you yourself have wielded so deftly really.

    You are a hypocrite when you say you like Dave Wise’s concentration on class.

    All four British situs from the late 1960s went to public school…including Timothy Clark (whose brother later became Home Secretary, which isn’t his fault but it’s still amusing) who went to Winchester.

    Wellington, where Charlie went, is military-heavy but considerably further down the pecking order compared to TJ’s old place.

    Stewart, you’re being deliberately misleading when you write:

    “I’ve never doubted that the (Not So) Wise brothers try to talk straight, my problems with them stem more from the fact they don’t always check things out sufficiently and seem largely unable to see things from anything but their own point of view. Parts of the history of King Mob that Dave (Not So) Wise did a few years ago are really useful. Other parts are simply wrong. I’m in no rush but at some point I had intended to deal with certain aspects of that. And despite the rude things Dave (Not So) Wise has to say about me there, I see him as nothing worse than a well meaning old fool.”

    You called him and his brother “entrepreneurs” when you stole their stuff and Gilles Dauve’s stuff and published them to line your own pockets in “Situationism – A Reader” which you edited. I say “stole” not because I believe they should “own” any “rights ” over the texts (I don’t), but because your inclusion of them together with a load of old shit in the same book was done in order to gain cachet for the shit – an act of what can still usefully be characterised by that good old word “recuperation”. You are one of the top recuperators of previous-generations radical stuff in the land. Which is why you especially singled out the Wise brothers to slag off in your intro. The Wise brothers are honest and decent; you aren’t.

    So Gray wrote a book about acid. Who’s the old fool again?

  29. mistertrippy says:

    The (Not So) Wise brothers may or may not aim to be decent and honest, but the reality is they are well meaning but nonetheless self-righteous and deluded. Personally I’ve never aspired to being decent, but it is almost too decent of you to pay me the backhanded compliment of saying I am ‘one of the top recuperators”. Which has about as much ‘truth’ as saying I wrote the Belle de Jour books. The (Not So) Wise circle is so easy to wind up it is boring.

  30. b says:

    Oh Christ, the guy’s putting “truth” in inverted commas… What hope for someone like me who puts some value in the concept, against an opponent like that? But then for you I suppose everything’s literature. I called you “one of the top recuperators of previous-generations radical stuff in the land.” You are. But it’s a very niche role. (As with most of what else I’ve said here, this won’t be news to you in the slightest). Capitalism doesn’t have much call for recuperating such stuff at the moment, and probably never will do. You’re no Felix Dennis when it comes to business sense, not even a Naomi Klein (maybe if you had the same religion you’d have climbed further?), but what with the Belle effort you must be worth high six figures I’d say. And whilst those books are not notable at all (anyone sensible ignores them just as they ignore 99.999% of the rest of the here-today gone-tomorrow chewing-gum water-cooler bestseller-list shit), the skills you used were honed in recuperation… What I said…

    As for your joking about the Wise brothers’ surname. Sophisticated. Maybe it’ll catch on? Nothing like a little bit of sugar to help the poison go down.

    Personally I think it’s good to be decent, and haven’t got much problem with self-righteousness either. You know you’re twisting.

    But enough. You’re a fucking liar when you say you see Dave Wise as nothing worse than a well-meaning old fool. (Dig the “old”. Cheap. Not an old “revolutionary” like that ridiculous arsehole Chris Gray then?) You called him an entrepreneur, and for the reasons I said. Oh sorry I’m so boring I didn’t see it was a “joke”. I’m not in his “circle” by the way. What goodness is there in calling someone an entrepreneur, to your idiot market who take you seriously, someone who’s not an entrepreneur and never has been?

  31. b says:

    What goodness is there in calling someone an entrepreneur, to your idiot market who take you seriously, someone who’s not an entrepreneur and never has been? I’d call that more the action of a cunt.

  32. mistertrippy says:

    Better to be a cunt like me than a fool like you.

    You keep claiming I wrote the Belle de Jour books, but you’ve yet to provide any evidence for this. You just repeating the claim and seem think this will prevent people from noticing you haven’t substantiated it.

    Regardless of whether you are or are not one of the (Not So) Wise brothers, one of their personal circle, someone from the very slightly wider circle of people who admire their writing, or in fact have read nothing by the (Not So) Wise brothers but are posting here because a friend or the voices in your head are telling you to do so, I appear to have wound you up.

  33. I tried to follow Wu Ming afetre “Q” but it got really boring and eclectic for me thereafter.
    I really enjoyed the Luther Blissett times, but maybe without Stewart’s influence, that writing wouldn’t be so good at all.
    Or maybe the Blissett brothers are just old and rising children, which is always counter-revolutionary…what a paradox for the Prole trope.

  34. yeah says:

    Ricardo, culture is all about money. The puffing up of Q internationally has probably left Germaine Greer thinking ‘wow’. They’re just luvvies. End.

  35. Geoff Jordan says:

    I just heard about Chris Gray, and I’m very sorry to hear he’s gone. He was hardly perfect, but a good man, very intelligent and, as many of you say, always up for a laugh. He didn’t drink much, which I never understood.

    As you know, improbably enough Chris had a longish scene with Sue Cohen. I’d met Chris a few times before he started his thing with Sue, and then, while I was living in Sue’s flat in Belsize Ave. Chris became, well, a feature. Dave Robbins was living there too. We had some decent chats about stuff, but even before he and Sue went off to India I thought he was a bit too mystic and my general response was to tell him to stick it all in his third eye. When they came back from their trip, so to speak, Sue was all dressed in Orange shit (tho, typically, Chris avoided that) and they regularly sat down cross-legged in the living room and chanted loads of bollocks to the smell of joss sticks. Chris was behind my expulsion from Belsize Ave. but at least he and Sue made sure that John Gravelle took me in to his Chalk Farm squat, for which I’m very grateful to them both, John being still the best anarchist revolutionary all time brilliant nice guy I ever met. When he came back from India, or wherever it was they went, Chris gave me a book written by his guru, which I never read, but I remember the dedication: “To Duff, to put the cat among the pigeons”. Some pigeons, I’d say, some cat says you.

    I suppose all the obiturary eulogies to Chris are fair enough, and I think it’s OK to play up the good bits, tho the way they played down his mystic phase, if that’s what it was, and his numerous flakey bits was not exactly telling it like it was. I always felt that the guy was a bit like Auden – he tried on hats, and he never really knew where he was or what he thought. He didn’t really have much to do with the best exploits of King Mob; I’d give peope like Nicholsonsmith, the Wise brothers and Dick Pountain most of the credit for those, tho what the hell do I know. I hung around with the King Mob people a bit, and I was always impressed with their energy and intelligence – at least they’d seen through all the Trots rubbish and were basically anarchists. Many of them, including Chris, came around to the LSE when the shit hit the fan in 68 and certainly livened things up.

    Finally, in light of some of the crap I’ve read on this thread, let me say that in my few meetings with the Wise brothers they were unfailingly charming and modest. Their characters apart, they’ve done a lot to stimulate and enrich anarchist debate, and you’d have to go a long way to meet more intellectually-challenging folk.

  36. mistertrippy says:

    Mutton Geoff, you revealed your full reactionary colours when after leaving this you went on to comment on my later blog “Shake & Shimmy with the Credit Crunch”, and from that it is also evident your views are less than half-formed.

    http://stewarthomesociety.org/blog/?p=2076

    I’ve also met the (Not So) Wise brothers once, I didn’t learn who they were until afterwards but I found them to be pig-headed and ignorant. Nonetheless, unlike many of those in the thrall of situationist ideology, they do not deliberately lie. But you only have to look, for example, at Dave (Not So) Wise’s “Jumbled Notes: A Critical Hidden History of King Mob” to see what is wrong with him and his “ideas”. Here we have all the usual romantic crap I’ve come to expect from the (Not So) Wise brothers, in this case about a former prostitute. Under capitalism we all produce and reproduce our own alienation; being a prostitute is no different to pursuing any other form of alienated labour, but let’s not romanticise what is just another form of exploitation.

    The (Not So) Wise brothers also write very badly and don’t understand how to organise material (this is very evident from “Jumbled Notes”). There are endless other matters too; such as the uncritical attitude of the (Not So) Wise brothers towards what they’d call ‘the Spectacle’ – and as a consequence they often reach false conclusions, although my view is there is no conscious dishonesty involved in this. For example, the claim Dave (Not So) Wise makes in “Jumbled Notes” about Charlie Radcliffe working with the rock band Jefferson Airplane. Yes that band used Charlie’s name on the sleeve of one of their albums, but this was simply because they considered him to be cool and to have cachet; the Airplane never spoke to him about this and he didn’t have any contact with them (let alone work with them). Dave and Stuart (Not So) Wise are a couple of boring old fools, although judged on the basis of the comments you’ve left elsewhere on this blog they are not nearly as foolish as you!

    In terms of your own failure to muster and organise arguments, it would have made more sense if you’d left the inanities I’m responding to here at the end of the second blog comment thread about Chris Gray:

    http://stewarthomesociety.org/blog/?p=1530

  37. y says:

    The “showerhead” thing in both Belle de Jour and one of your own reviews (well known to you) is an absolute clincher for anyone who still doubted whether you wrote Belle.

  38. mistertrippy says:

    ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz…