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The guitarist for seminal female punk group The Slits recounts playing with Sid Vicious, touring with the Clash, dating Mick Jones, inspiring “Train in Vain,” and releasing her solo debut in 2012 Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music, and the discourse around it, forever. Her memoir tells the story of how, through sheer will, talent, and fear The guitarist for seminal female punk group The Slits recounts playing with Sid Vicious, touring with the Clash, dating Mick Jones, inspiring “Train in Vain,” and releasing her solo debut in 2012 Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music, and the discourse around it, forever. Her memoir tells the story of how, through sheer will, talent, and fearlessness, she forced herself into a male-dominated industry, became part of a movement that changed music, and inspired a generation of female rockers. After forming The Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious in 1976, Albertine joined The Slits and made musical history in one of the first generations of punk bands. The Slits would go on to serve as an inspiration to future rockers, including Kurt Cobain, Carrie Brownstein, and the Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s. This is the story of what it was like to be a girl at the height of punk: the sex, the drugs, the guys, the tours, and being part of a brilliant pioneering group of women making musical history. Albertine recounts helping define punk fashion, struggling to find her place among the boys, and her romance with Mick Jones, including her pregnancy and subsequent abortion. She also gives a candid account of what happened post-punk, beyond the break-up of The Slits in 1982, including a career in film, surviving cancer, and making music again, twenty-five years later. A truly remarkable memoir told in Viv’s frank, irreverent, and distinctive voice, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a raw, thrilling story of life on the frontier.


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The guitarist for seminal female punk group The Slits recounts playing with Sid Vicious, touring with the Clash, dating Mick Jones, inspiring “Train in Vain,” and releasing her solo debut in 2012 Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music, and the discourse around it, forever. Her memoir tells the story of how, through sheer will, talent, and fear The guitarist for seminal female punk group The Slits recounts playing with Sid Vicious, touring with the Clash, dating Mick Jones, inspiring “Train in Vain,” and releasing her solo debut in 2012 Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music, and the discourse around it, forever. Her memoir tells the story of how, through sheer will, talent, and fearlessness, she forced herself into a male-dominated industry, became part of a movement that changed music, and inspired a generation of female rockers. After forming The Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious in 1976, Albertine joined The Slits and made musical history in one of the first generations of punk bands. The Slits would go on to serve as an inspiration to future rockers, including Kurt Cobain, Carrie Brownstein, and the Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s. This is the story of what it was like to be a girl at the height of punk: the sex, the drugs, the guys, the tours, and being part of a brilliant pioneering group of women making musical history. Albertine recounts helping define punk fashion, struggling to find her place among the boys, and her romance with Mick Jones, including her pregnancy and subsequent abortion. She also gives a candid account of what happened post-punk, beyond the break-up of The Slits in 1982, including a career in film, surviving cancer, and making music again, twenty-five years later. A truly remarkable memoir told in Viv’s frank, irreverent, and distinctive voice, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a raw, thrilling story of life on the frontier.

30 review for Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I’m not big on music memoirs, in fact I’d rather ram a dead water vole up my nose than read one, but there was something about the ten thousand good reviews of this book which persuaded me. Turns out, they weren’t wrong. Rock music is so tediously predictable. As the sun rises in the east so there will be white boys in a rock band. It’s such a white boys’ club. How many female rock bands have had any sort of career? Ten? Maybe. What about female rock musicians in otherwise male bands? There’s a I’m not big on music memoirs, in fact I’d rather ram a dead water vole up my nose than read one, but there was something about the ten thousand good reviews of this book which persuaded me. Turns out, they weren’t wrong. Rock music is so tediously predictable. As the sun rises in the east so there will be white boys in a rock band. It’s such a white boys’ club. How many female rock bands have had any sort of career? Ten? Maybe. What about female rock musicians in otherwise male bands? There’s a notable few but it’s unusual. (Compare that with pop music where women have practically taken over.) When English punk jumped up into something in 1975-77 The Slits were the girl band. Some people think they were great. (They sounded like a bit of a tuneless racket to me, but I’m not a punk head, all I’ve got is the Clash’s first album. I defy anyone to listen to The Slits’ 2nd album Return of the Giant Slits and spot a single tune in there.) Viv Albertine was the guitarist. Embodying the punk attitude, she blew £250 (a colossal amount in 1976) on an electric guitar when she couldn’t play at all, had never tried, but she wanted to. She couldn’t be bothered learning on an acoustic first & also couldn’t be bothered with all those tiresome chords. So her style was unusual. But that was okay, same thing went for the bass player and the drummer. And the vocalist was a 14 year old nutter who squawked and roared and flailed around wildly on stage all the time. I wished I’d have gone to a Slits gig. It would have been something. Viv Albertine from an interview because we hadn't seen any girls on stage before we used to have massively long discussions about how we should stand on stage. Should we stand with our legs apart? No, all the guys with guitars in skinny jeans stand with their legs apart, and you'd think, we can't stand like that. We'd spend hours and hours, days and days, discussing how to stand. So this is the story of the beginning of punk, Viv is in on the ground floor knocking around with Sid Vicious, John Rotten, Mick Jones and all the later well known crowd, then comes the tale of The Slits and all of that is great, alarming and funny and she has this voice, kind of deadpan and a little bit spaced out and weirdly compelling. The Slits split up after 5 years, which she doesn’t properly explain, and she then becomes poor and alone, and we are on page 249 with 162 pages to go. The rest of the book is, well, the rest of her life which is like snakes and ladders, down down down then up up whoosh then tumbledown crash then painfully dragging herself along and up a bit, so, like that. It wasn’t all Little House on the Prairie. She’s always falling, always rising, always falling. She has been through a lot & had three different careers excluding the domestic non-bliss 17 year hiatus. In 1987 she formed a Bridget Jones-style pact with her singleton best mate. These were the rules : 1. We’re going to go out with anyone who asks us. And we are going to give that guy three dates, even if we want to kill ourselves after the first date. 2. We have to ask out two guys a month. It doesn’t matter who they are, if we like them or not, it’s the act of asking that’s important. 3. Whenever we go out, men must be included in the party. It’s so much easier to take refuge in the company of your girlfriends after a hard day’s work but it’s not going to help us meet anyone. Conclusion: after three months our expectations are considerably lowered. You can expect many contradictions here – she believes in love, no she doesn’t; she needs a boyfriend, no she doesn’t; she can live without music, no she can’t. And some forthright opinionating: Look at most of the couples I know, they’re not in love., they’re scared of being alone., financially entwined or hanging on to a partner to try and convince the world they’re acceptable human beings. I can’t think of one couple I’m envious of. When a woman comes up to me and says “I’m so sorry to hear about your marriage” I think No, I’m sorry to hear about yours. Ok that might sound like Viv is all up in your face all the time, she’s not. She has a great voice, it rises and falls, she’s great company. But some people will be a bit revolted, I can’t deny. Your maiden aunt may not like the I shot up once & my arm went black for months tale. And you know how people describe Lena Dunham’s “aggressive nudity” in Girls? Well for Viv it’s more “aggressive bleeding”. So much blood on so many pages, as she herself says, it’s like the final scene from Carrie all over again and again and again. There are a few things I really wanted to hear about which she skips – nothing about the 2nd Slits album after lavish brilliant pages all about the first; nothing about how Johnny Rotten became Ari Up’s stepfather (she was the Slits' teenage singer - come on, that rates a mention Viv); nothing about what she thought of the other punk bands’ music. But hell, I’m so glad to have 418 pages of stuff from Viv Albertine. Maybe there will be a volume 2. PS- her new-ish album The Vermilion Border sounds great….there are tunes!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    Although she'll forever - and rightly - be known as the guitarist in that most original, uncompromising, and essential band The Slits, Viv Albertine has brought the same questing, creative, feminist principle she showed as a musician and songwriter to bear on all aspects of her subsequent life. One of the results has been a series of second careers as a filmmaker, ceramicist, solo musician, and latterly actor. Another is this inspired memoir, by far the best I've yet read by a veteran of the Pun Although she'll forever - and rightly - be known as the guitarist in that most original, uncompromising, and essential band The Slits, Viv Albertine has brought the same questing, creative, feminist principle she showed as a musician and songwriter to bear on all aspects of her subsequent life. One of the results has been a series of second careers as a filmmaker, ceramicist, solo musician, and latterly actor. Another is this inspired memoir, by far the best I've yet read by a veteran of the Punk Wars of 76-77. It's a sequence of episodic recollections rather than an attempt at spurious autobiography, by turns affectionate, scathing, heartbreakingly honest (particularly in the chapters dealing with her cancer and hard-won motherhood) and infused by a sharp, dark, and genuine humour. She's particularly good at character sketches of family, friends, acquaintances and adversaries, and entirely lacking in the self-importance and desire for justification that afflict so many old rockers who turn to the printed word as an attempt to eke out a failing career. This is a book by a real woman who has done extraordinary things and still has plenty of life and creativity left in her.

  3. 5 out of 5

    K.A. Laity

    I kept thinking I'd already written this review because the book has so completely seeped into my consciousness. This is a warts and all memoir that tests you at the start to see if you're strong enough to make the journey, throwing the messy chaos of her early life at the reader with both hands. I doubt the teen Albertine and I would ever have bonded as friends -- she's just too much of a girly girl for me, I never dealt well with the 'boy crazy' types -- but I so admire this woman, I cannot te I kept thinking I'd already written this review because the book has so completely seeped into my consciousness. This is a warts and all memoir that tests you at the start to see if you're strong enough to make the journey, throwing the messy chaos of her early life at the reader with both hands. I doubt the teen Albertine and I would ever have bonded as friends -- she's just too much of a girly girl for me, I never dealt well with the 'boy crazy' types -- but I so admire this woman, I cannot tell you how much. She had a lot more chutzpah pursuing the things I only dreamed of like swanning her way into the music scene and picking up a guitar and keeping at it. Her life is tough from the get go but she persists through it all. She was there at so many of the pivotal moments in punk and beyond. Our culture does not idolize women except for beauty (which she has plenty of but never mind) or she would be mentioned in the same breath as Mick and Joe and Johnny and Sid, but they Slits don't even get more than a grudging mention as one of the 'girl bands' of the era. The obsessiveness any art requires (the title comes from her mother's lament about the young Viv's preoccupations) is scorned in women as 'narcissistic' which seems to be what all women who create are disparaged as being. How dare they spend time on themselves?! Like the Raincoats the Slits stretched so far beyond the simple punk chords so fast that in part their identity didn't really sit with that particular genre. An amazing bunch from the singular Ari Up and fabulous Palmolive on drums with a vengeance. They moved onto more experimental stuff, changed, changed innovated added the amazing Neneh Cherry for a time and like most bands, broke up, moved on and found new things. Albertine pursues everything with the same zeal, throwing herself headlong into filmmaking, pottery, marriage, and a desperate fight to give birth, which is almost immediately followed by an agonizing battle against cancer. And one day she wakes up to find herself a ghost of what she was, living in the country, which had once been an escape and had become an exile. And she resurrects her love of music and starts to battle back to it one pub gig at a time. She's still a work in progress (thankfully!) at times frustratingly abject (there were times I just shouted at her through the pages, "What are you thinking, woman?!"), at times so amazingly strong that you have to cheer. It's a remarkable journey that will leave you feeling exhausted but thrilled, just like a great gig.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I like The Slits and I'm very interested in the punk era however significant parts of this book are not about punk. What's more even if I had no interest in punk, or indeed no idea about Viv Albertine, I am sure I'd still love this book. I devoured it. It's just brilliant. Split into self-contained chapters, Viv variously describes growing up in Muswell Hill, her family, school, teenage experiences, working at Dingwalls, punk, The Slits, close relationships with some of punk's biggest names, mak I like The Slits and I'm very interested in the punk era however significant parts of this book are not about punk. What's more even if I had no interest in punk, or indeed no idea about Viv Albertine, I am sure I'd still love this book. I devoured it. It's just brilliant. Split into self-contained chapters, Viv variously describes growing up in Muswell Hill, her family, school, teenage experiences, working at Dingwalls, punk, The Slits, close relationships with some of punk's biggest names, making records, teaching aerobics, filmmaking, cancer, trying to conceive, marriage and domesticity, and creative reinvention. That inexhaustive list is just the half of it though, it's all interesting, and Viv describes everything with honesty, candour and plenty of hard won wisdom and insight. This is not a punk memoir - it's a life memoir. It's also a memoir about a courageous woman and original thinker. A true artist. The writing is clear and concise - the contents fascinating, and frequently profound.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    This gritty memoir was written by Viv Albertine who was at the epicenter of the London punk rock scene and was in one of the few all girl punk rock bands (The Slits). I loved this book because it was written in a a strong and distinctive female voice. Topics include: crushes on boys, periods, fashion, pregnancy, the quest for the perfect pair of shoes, abortion, finding and losing love, motherhood, domestic malaise, relationship violence, and sexism in many forms. The book captures four time per This gritty memoir was written by Viv Albertine who was at the epicenter of the London punk rock scene and was in one of the few all girl punk rock bands (The Slits). I loved this book because it was written in a a strong and distinctive female voice. Topics include: crushes on boys, periods, fashion, pregnancy, the quest for the perfect pair of shoes, abortion, finding and losing love, motherhood, domestic malaise, relationship violence, and sexism in many forms. The book captures four time periods: the early days, The Slits, making a family, and rediscovering self & music. I found the part about her band the least interesting. What happens as she ages is much more compelling. My new favorite song is "Confessions of a MILF" an anthem for the unhappy housewife, I've peeled the potatoes, there's not much left to do/ Lovely lemon drizzle cake, heat up the fondue.

  6. 5 out of 5

    El

    Viv Albertine is interested in three things. Can you guess what they are? Spoiler alert: They're a part of the title. She talked a lot about these things, which upon first thought made me think she was incredibly shallow and superficial. But what I came to realize as I read was these are things that have had a significant impact on her life over the years. Most people know Viv for being the guitarist for the Slits, which is what made me want to read the book to begin with. I didn't know much else Viv Albertine is interested in three things. Can you guess what they are? Spoiler alert: They're a part of the title. She talked a lot about these things, which upon first thought made me think she was incredibly shallow and superficial. But what I came to realize as I read was these are things that have had a significant impact on her life over the years. Most people know Viv for being the guitarist for the Slits, which is what made me want to read the book to begin with. I didn't know much else about her, and here she is, spilling her guts for everyone to read, telling us about her stylish side, the beginning, the middle, and the end of her time with the Slits, and the men-folk she has met along the way who have made an impression on her. This is not always an easy read. Viv has done things that she is not proud of. There is a very open discussion of an embarrassing encounter with Johnny Rotten that she had no reason to want to share other than it was an important experience for her. She is fairly no-holds barred, something that I felt was missing from Kim Gordon's recent memoir, Girl in a Band. In Gordon's book, there was always this sort of weird distance that never made the reader feel super comfortable with Gordon's confessions; Albertine, on the other hand, makes her readers uncomfortable with her stories at times, but is very direct about it, sharing every hairy detail. Even in some of the briefer excerpts, I walked away feeling I had a better understanding of her as an artist and as a person. There's the sort of resigned air about Albertine - not in a bad way, but more in a "Hey, this happened, and this is who I am now" way, which I fully appreciate. I didn't want this to be a roster of all the men she has loved and slept with. There is a lot of that, but I still found it fascinating - probably because Albertine wasn't being braggy or name-droppy about it. She did have a powerful relationship with the Clash's Mick Jones. She did know Sid Vicious and had an opportunity to know his softer, smarter side than was ever show publicly. She did have a brief and strange almost-affair with Vincent Gallo. These are the people in her neighborhood, so to speak, another great time in music history. I've seen a few complaints that for as honest as Albertine is in this book, she still fails to talk about other things - like it may have included the shortest mention of Sid Vicious's death in the history of mentioned of Sid Vicious's death, which is strange, right, considering how close they were. Or that Ari Up's mother, Nora Forster, eventually married Johnny Rotten, and isn't that sort of weird after that thing that Albertine did to Johnny Rotten, and did Albertine and Forster even have a relationship after the Slits anyway? Yes, I agree, there are a few weird things missing from this account of Albertine's life, but that's the nature of the beast. We're always so hungry to learn more about the people we look up to that we almost take it personally when they leave out things, or treat the discussion of other things in a way we wish were different. Because we're the audience and audiences are assholes. What I especially liked is that, yes, she didn't gloss over the music industry end of her life, but she was just as honest about what life is like for her after the band. She is still making music and it's still pretty awesome. She's doing it her way, which is the way it should be. She's a middle-aged woman with a teenage daughter, and she had heartbreaking experiences with fertility issues and cancer and divorce and learning how to find herself again and to continue growing from all of those things, even when she felt defeated. She's not trying to be the old Viv Albertine, she's not trying to maintain what she was in her teenage years and in her 20s. She's not shunning any of that, she appreciates everything she has been through. But this is who she is now, and it's just as awesome. This song is pretty great, btw, off her album from a few years ago. The mouth-clucking thing she does in this song is fucking great.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynx

    Wow what a fantastic memoir! You don't have to be a fan of The Slits, or even punk for that matter, to love this book. Albertine courageously pours her heart and soul onto each page, recounting not only her involvement in the early UK punk scene but her relationships, her struggles trying to become a mother, her battle with cancer and her search for identity outside of being just "wife" and "mother". Such a powerful woman proving that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not a sign weakness but Wow what a fantastic memoir! You don't have to be a fan of The Slits, or even punk for that matter, to love this book. Albertine courageously pours her heart and soul onto each page, recounting not only her involvement in the early UK punk scene but her relationships, her struggles trying to become a mother, her battle with cancer and her search for identity outside of being just "wife" and "mother". Such a powerful woman proving that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not a sign weakness but one of strength. Wonderful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Superb. Great book. Viv Albertine was in the band, The Slits, that were a great big deal in my young age. For years I totally forgot her and the band. Then recently, and by mistake, I heard her latest album "The Vermilion Border" which is fantastic. The lyrics were witty and wise, and the music itself sounded so fresh - there were traces of The Slits in the mix, but it came out sounding totally new to my ears. Then there is this memoir. Probably one of the better music memoirs, almost ever. On t Superb. Great book. Viv Albertine was in the band, The Slits, that were a great big deal in my young age. For years I totally forgot her and the band. Then recently, and by mistake, I heard her latest album "The Vermilion Border" which is fantastic. The lyrics were witty and wise, and the music itself sounded so fresh - there were traces of The Slits in the mix, but it came out sounding totally new to my ears. Then there is this memoir. Probably one of the better music memoirs, almost ever. On the same level as Dylan and Patti Smith's memoirs. What makes the book special is the essence that is Viv Albertine. Totally human, honest, and genius like. The book works in two parts. The first part is the childhood and punk years, and then the second deals with middle-age, illness, and ...Making music. The fact that after a marriage and having and raising a child, she decides to go back to making music is an inspiration in itself. I would recommend this book to any young female musician and anyone in my age bracket who want to pick up a guitar, write songs, and especially when the world around you says "No." Also she writes about others quite well - of course her band mates in The Slits, but also Johnny Rotten (Lydon), Keith Levene, Mick Jones - and she brings a lot of color to their personality. Her observations are sharp, which is one of the ingredients that make a writer great. And she is without a doubt, in one word, "great."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I love music biographies, and it was definitely interesting to read about the 70's british punk movement from the perspective of Viv. This was feeling like a 4 star book until I got to the last part, which I really loved. Not only is this a great reflection on a seriously influential moment in time, but there are so many great bits about being a woman, artistic inspiration, and how to keep your identity intact while having a family (or NOT doing that). My heart was kind of breaking for girls in I love music biographies, and it was definitely interesting to read about the 70's british punk movement from the perspective of Viv. This was feeling like a 4 star book until I got to the last part, which I really loved. Not only is this a great reflection on a seriously influential moment in time, but there are so many great bits about being a woman, artistic inspiration, and how to keep your identity intact while having a family (or NOT doing that). My heart was kind of breaking for girls in the first part - the expectations heaped upon them, and the boxes they are expected to stay in. It was a real delight to see her break out of that & bust some stereotypes. When she comes to the realization that she doesn't need a man to believe in her but rather can inspire herself it is just a real delight.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I wanted to both devour this and savor this; which is telling that a book is really, really good. Don't let the reviews and interviews about this book fool you; everyone wants to focus on what this book talks about regarding her relationships to household punk names that precede her: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Johnny Thunders, Joe Strummer, Siouxsie Sioux, etc. These parts of the book are rich, yes, but Albertine was more than a muse; she was literally a superhero, and punk as fuck. This book t I wanted to both devour this and savor this; which is telling that a book is really, really good. Don't let the reviews and interviews about this book fool you; everyone wants to focus on what this book talks about regarding her relationships to household punk names that precede her: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Johnny Thunders, Joe Strummer, Siouxsie Sioux, etc. These parts of the book are rich, yes, but Albertine was more than a muse; she was literally a superhero, and punk as fuck. This book tells the story of a girl who didn't know shit about playing music but did it anyway (none of her friends knew shit about it either, but being a girl and without any other punk lady guitarists to look up to, was up against much more). Throughout the book she approaches her endeavors this way, including writing the very thing (turns out, Albertine is a compelling as hell writer, too.) This was truly inspiring, and when you think it's going to settle into adulthood: marriage and motherhood, it picks right back up again. This woman said "yes" to a lot of things, and her humility is palpable on every page. It didn't have to be, the book hopefully proves to not only the readers but to herself that she is fucking remarkable, but it made her path through life relatable, like I could do it all too if I just said "yes" more often.

  11. 5 out of 5

    julieta

    Me encantó. Una historia buenísima, la vida de esta mujer, no solo porque habla de música de la época más punk (y cero desde el punto de vista de una groupie, todo lo contrario), la mirada de una mujer música, buscando mostrar su visión. Super entretenido, cercano, triste, y de todo. Como la vida.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    My muse. I will never reach this level of badass.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fred Garnett

    Terrific book, I love, love, love Viv Albertine! (Just been voted by MOJO magazine as the best music book of 2014) I think this is possibly the best book on the punk era in British music, although England's Dreaming by John Savage is kind of "definitive" about the scene overall. Viv Albertine's more personal memoir tells us more directly about the scene, how it began and emerged, then developed, as she knew many of the key players (Mick Jones, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious). She was part of the ama Terrific book, I love, love, love Viv Albertine! (Just been voted by MOJO magazine as the best music book of 2014) I think this is possibly the best book on the punk era in British music, although England's Dreaming by John Savage is kind of "definitive" about the scene overall. Viv Albertine's more personal memoir tells us more directly about the scene, how it began and emerged, then developed, as she knew many of the key players (Mick Jones, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious). She was part of the amazing Slits (Cut is one of my all-time favourite albums) but then faded away. As the book is a warts (literally) and all autobiography of her full life we find out why she quit and what she did in her quiet years, as well as being a Mum. I was one of many who responded a couple of years ago to her crowd funding of comeback album The Vermillion Border and the story behind this is also fascinating. Her directness and honesty, and her enduring principles, ensure that this is rivetingly honest, include lots of crap sex, and is never less than insightful. Well worth reading, even if you aren't enamoured of the UK punk scene, because this is a great autobiography by a modern woman.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    If you've ever wondered what Johnny Rotten's junk smelled like in 1977, Viv Albertine will tell you. She will also tell you about the time she got crabs from a junkie in a squat in Amsterdam, and she and her mom (!!!) combed them all out in their tiny kitchen and smashed them with the backs of spoons. And about the years of IVF treatments and gory miscarriages she endured to have a baby. And, gorgeously, about how something inside her made her keep practicing the guitar until she found her uniqu If you've ever wondered what Johnny Rotten's junk smelled like in 1977, Viv Albertine will tell you. She will also tell you about the time she got crabs from a junkie in a squat in Amsterdam, and she and her mom (!!!) combed them all out in their tiny kitchen and smashed them with the backs of spoons. And about the years of IVF treatments and gory miscarriages she endured to have a baby. And, gorgeously, about how something inside her made her keep practicing the guitar until she found her unique sound, even though her next-door neighbors begged her to stop trying. And about all her regrets and her triumphs and the lovely boots she wore for both. I've never read a memoir quite as frank and funny and weird as this one. I adored it. Viv Albertine is a strong, chaotic, feminist punk and my new hero.

  15. 5 out of 5

    TL

    I received this via Goodreads First reads in exchange for an honest review ----- An interesting sometimes "Meh" read for me... Overall it was an enjoyable ride. Some stories made me laugh,other had me raising my eyebrows. It was a journey into the past, getting a glimpse of her life and the times back then. It had an abrupt feel to the story-telling style, but in a good way... she keeps ya on your toes not sticking to a straight 'Point A to Point B' writing style. Would recommend :) Happy reading!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Read a library copy and once finished I bought my own. That's how good it is.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    "Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both.” What an opening. And then into a first chapter in which the former Slits guitarist gets straight into how she never saw the point of masturbation, but did once have a fantasy about a pack of rabid dogs, and then got embarrassed lest anyone ever find where she’d written it down. All of this as if unaware that she has just written it, not in an old computer, but in an actual book. She’s not unaware, of course, nor e "Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both.” What an opening. And then into a first chapter in which the former Slits guitarist gets straight into how she never saw the point of masturbation, but did once have a fantasy about a pack of rabid dogs, and then got embarrassed lest anyone ever find where she’d written it down. All of this as if unaware that she has just written it, not in an old computer, but in an actual book. She’s not unaware, of course, nor even being screwed over by a ghostwriter, having rightly decided (as we later find out) to dispense with the one her shitty manager insisted she needed. It’s not that she has no shame, as such, but that having spent much of her life penned in by one constraint or another, the main lesson she’s learned (and then painfully relearned) is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. At first it was not being a pop star because her dad told her she wasn’t chic enough, then Sid Vicious complaining she never wrote any songs, the other Slits playing up for one or another reason, her husband just plain being a dick…and yet she made it, often by getting some reminder from the cosmos (twice it’s Patti Smith) that she can. So perhaps part of the impetus behind this book, aside from the money thing and the twat thing, is some obligation to pay that same inspiration forward? Which could risk painting this as a misery memoir or a load of pseudo-inspirational bollocks, either of which would be unfair. It’s the record of a life, and one lived through interesting times and much-mythologised scenes. It’s novel hearing about punk from someone who wasn’t one of the boys (and indeed, since writing this vandalised the bumph at a punk exhibition to protest its erasure of punk’s women) but who got to see most of them close-up. Very close, in some cases: she dated Mick Jones (who comes across as a bit of a sap, bless him) and bedded Pistols, Johnny Thunders, one of the Pop Group, a Subway Sectarian…every bit as impressive a roll-call as any of the great celebrity swordsmen manage in their memoirs, but the really fascinating thing is how many of them she didn’t actually fuck, because the moment was wrong or they were too fucked-up or someone walked in at the wrong moment. And one wonders how many of those famous shaggers are in much the same boat, but never had the guts to admit to it. Meanwhile, out of bed, there’s the usual story about how punk opened the doors - but then the more seldom mentioned other half of the story, where the scene’s judgemental attitude could in many ways be at least as restrictive as any previous emphasis on musicianship. Yes, there were interesting and creative people, but also too many who (precursors of a certain subspecies of modern troll) felt like giving a fuck was losing the game, so what better life than acting like an absolute prick to everyone and, when they finally snap, making out its their fault for not getting the supposed joke? The epitome of this being the pathetic figure of Sid Vicious, only briefly able to drop his emotionless façade once he's on remand and properly shit-scared. And if the punk scene is a distinctly mixed blessing, the world beyond is worse. All the grime, the beigeness, the street harassment you see on old footage are powerfully and painfully evoked, and you can understand why against this any counterculture would appeal, even if it was in many ways just as tolerant of absolutely shitty behaviour as the straight world. This age of Wimpy burgers and unwashed genitalia is definitely not something to read about over dinner, even before you get into the various read-through-fingers tales of crabs, blood and shit. Curiously, there’s even a reference to the significance of Omo washing powder seen in a window, something I’d only previously seen referenced in another of the most lunchtime-unsuitable books I’ve ever read, Jonathan Meades’ grotesque Pompey. Nor do matters get any less visceral once the Slits’ all-too-brief moment in the sun is over; there’s just as much gory detail of cancer and miscarriage when Albertine attempts to settle down as a wife and mother. But the real pain here is psychological, the sheer bloody boredom of what rapidly becomes a domestic prison. These are the lost years most rock memoirs seem obliged to have in the second half, but where usually it’d be heroin or coke colonising the personality and suppressing the talent, here our narrator is totally subsumed into motherhood instead. And it fucks with her head just as much. The post-partum loathing of her husband is apparently natural (though like so many natural things detailed herein, you see precious little mention of it elsewhere); the slow breakdown of what love existed between them is probably not so simply biochemical, but sounds worse still. And by the end of the book she’s wondering if there’s any third way between being lonely single, or bored in a couple. I suspect if they were honest an awful lot more memoirs would express similar ambiguity, but seldom is life’s quiet desperation given this much unabashed page space (at least not without being palmed off on a fictional avatar). All that, and I’ve barely mentioned the art. I only really know the Slits through the two ‘hits’, which I clearly need to remedy, but her solo album sounds even more interesting, simply because you don’t get that many middle-aged women singing about life as a middle-aged woman (I mean, I love Kate Bush and Grace Jones and Marianne Faithfull and the work they went on to do, but none of them are exactly chronicling the thoughts underlying life as a Hastings housewife, are they?). And then in the interval between the two, for a time there was film (during which time Albertine gave Christopher Eccleston his big break) and after that, of all things, pottery. Ten years ago I would barely have remembered ceramics was an art form, but between this and Edmund de Waal and Grayson Perry, something’s stirring there, isn’t it? I digress. Love, death (I’ve not even mentioned the fiasco of Malcolm McLaren’s funeral!), striving to find a purpose and a contentment in life…all the big stuff is here. And I suspect if I played or even really understood the guitar I’d find all the stuff about her process and her (re)learning and her sound more interesting still. At least as good as everyone says it is.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    refreshing, shocking a bit, profound even, i think, autobiography of viv albertine's first memories coming by ship to england from australia, growing up a bit feral in single parent home in london in muswell hill, art school in 1972 (she didn't get through it), hanging with crews in squats, the success of sex pistols and sex clothes shop, the start of the clash, the start of the slits, the dissolution of the slits, her marriage, her horror of trying for a baby and IVF, having a baby and right aw refreshing, shocking a bit, profound even, i think, autobiography of viv albertine's first memories coming by ship to england from australia, growing up a bit feral in single parent home in london in muswell hill, art school in 1972 (she didn't get through it), hanging with crews in squats, the success of sex pistols and sex clothes shop, the start of the clash, the start of the slits, the dissolution of the slits, her marriage, her horror of trying for a baby and IVF, having a baby and right away getting cancer, her survival of cancer, divorce after 17 years, her re-awakening as an artist and singer songwriter, her writing this book...quite a trip and very honest seeming and thoughtful. here's her work dot com http://vivalbertine.com/ here's an excerpt about being in the slits and Ari, the singer Excerpt from “clothes clothes clothes…’ by viv albertine page 163-165 “Ari [15 year old singer for band the slits] would like to play the bass and drums as well as sing in the band if only she had extra arms, so she does the next best thing and helps compose the bass lines and drum rhythms too. (Luckily for me she’s not very interested in the guitar so I’m left to my own devices.) There’s another trait that adds to Ari’s liberations: she’s not bothered about looking pretty or moving seductively for them, she only does that for her own pleasure. She doesn’t see her body as a vehicle for attracting a mate, and she doesn’t squash bits of her personality to avoid overshadowing boys. I realize I’m learning a lot from her, and it would be foolish of me to dismiss her because she’s young. Since knowing Ari, I’ve become more aware of how uptight I am about my body, bodily functions, smells and nudity. Ari moves her body with unselfconsciousness of a child, and I don’t see any reason why I can’t reclaim that feeling, even though I’m older. I’m constantly questioning stereotyping through my work but I’m still enslaved by the stereotype of femininity in my mind. (‘It’s hard to fight and enemy who has outposts in your head’---Sally Kempton) Ari has no such hangups. When we played the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent, halfway through the set she was dying for a piss, she didn’t want to leave the stage and couldn’t bear to be uncomfortable, so she just pulled down her leggings and knickers and pissed on the stage---I was so impressed. No girl had pissed on stage before, but Ari didn’t do it to be a rebel or to shock, it was much more subversive that that: she just needed a piss. In these times when girls are so uptight and secretive about their bodies and desperately trying to be ‘feminine’, she is a revolutionary. The Slits get a lot of shit on the streets but even though being in the group is uncomfortable for all of us in different ways, we’d fight to the death for each other. We feel as if we haven’t chose the band, it’s chosen us----that’s the funny thing about bands, sometimes the chemistry works because it’s not all cosy, it’s more critical and outspoken, like family. Life’s more frightening when I’m traveling around London without the rest of them. Like when I was getting eyeballed by a gang of skinhead girls on the tube, I thought to myself, I may have to fight for my life here, if they follow me off the train and attack me (and no one would intervene with me dressed like this…I’ll have to do what Sid told me, smash one of them over the head with my belt buckle. The prospect of being attacked is terrifying. It’s a very real threat. Chrissie Hynde was attacked by a gang of skinhead girls and stabbed with a stiletto heel. Ari is the one of us who gets the most hatred channeled through her. She’s been staff twice, once when we all left a rehearsal studio in Dalston. It was getting dark,….”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I absolutely loved the first 2/3 of this. Reading about her early life, the inception of the slits and punk in the UK in the 70s/80s was fantastic. Loved it. But because its a memoir, and an autobiography, then she delves into the complete tedium of her infertility struggles, her marriage, her boring life in Hastings, an embarrassing infatuation with fucking Vincent Gallo--and it all just eroded the enthusiasm i had in the first 2/3. Maybe it's a common thing with autobiography, that as the writ I absolutely loved the first 2/3 of this. Reading about her early life, the inception of the slits and punk in the UK in the 70s/80s was fantastic. Loved it. But because its a memoir, and an autobiography, then she delves into the complete tedium of her infertility struggles, her marriage, her boring life in Hastings, an embarrassing infatuation with fucking Vincent Gallo--and it all just eroded the enthusiasm i had in the first 2/3. Maybe it's a common thing with autobiography, that as the writer who's living it, it ALL seems interesting, not so much to the reader. She is also still writing music and performing which is great and she has interesting things to say about being a middle aged woman writing her experiences in music....but some of the segments about her playing in pubs are just cringe inducing. She doesn't write all that well but I got over that pretty quickly since the first part of the book was so amazing. And of course i still love the slits.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    "It's OK not to be perfect, to show the workings of your life and your mind in your songs and your clothes. And everything you do in life is meaningful on a political level. That's why we're all so merciless about each other's failings and why sloppiness is derided." I really liked this memoir by a woman punk pioneer, the guitarist from the Slits. I liked how it was structured - Side One and Side Two, since it did feel like there were two different sides to her life. Side One is about growing up "It's OK not to be perfect, to show the workings of your life and your mind in your songs and your clothes. And everything you do in life is meaningful on a political level. That's why we're all so merciless about each other's failings and why sloppiness is derided." I really liked this memoir by a woman punk pioneer, the guitarist from the Slits. I liked how it was structured - Side One and Side Two, since it did feel like there were two different sides to her life. Side One is about growing up, running around the streets with other girls with no makeup, short skirts or your one pair of jeans, stubby fingernails, and dirty feet. It's about the freedom in the late '60s and early '70s, going to art school and painting life studies of your friend that focus on the blue tampon string hanging out of her naked body, and then eventually it's about deciding to be a musician and learning to play guitar. Then the story turns into one of exploration, success, and learning."I want boys to come and see us play and think 'I want to be part of that.' Not 'They're pretty' or 'I want to fuck them' but 'I want to be in that gang.'" Side Two is more immediate feeling, and seems less distant from her current life. Marriage, fertility treatments, a child, cancer, emotional abuse, and a life in small towns and suburbs where she sells all her guitars and is surprised by how happy this makes her husband. After almost dying of cervical cancer, it takes her ten years to fully regain her health and life. Eventual triumph in the form of a year of saying yes, making pottery, relearning the guitar, playing shows, and writing songs about being middle-aged. Side One also focuses on her friendships with Sid Vicious & the Sex Pistols, Ari Up & the other members of The Slits, and her relationship with Mick Jones. I really liked that she never really ended up committed to Jones, but instead had lots of liaisons with men. Things that come up again and again in this memoir: blood. The album Dionne Warwick sings Burt Bacharach. Listening to the Beatles for the first time in 1964: "Until today I thought life was always going to be made up of sad, angry grown-ups, dreary music, stewed meat, boiled vegetables, church and school. Now everything's changed: I've found the meaning of life, hidden in the grooves of a flat black plastic disc. I promise myself I will get to that new world, but I don't know how to make it happen." DIY: "Our guitars keep going out of tune and these two guys act [studio engineer and producer] act like they're so superior because they know how to tune them. They think the whole music industry turns on whether you can tune your guitar or not. Well, maybe it has, until now; we've only been playing a couple of months and yet here we are in a studio. Nobody's recording THEIR songs, no matter how well tuned their guitars are." "Lots of girls' history of music is playground songs; chants, folk songs and nursery rhymes, passed down through mothers, aunts, older sisters and friends. I want to incorporate these rhymes into our songs, they are all I have in terms of a musical background and I intend to use them, however small and insignificant they are to other people. This is one of the ways we can build an identity for ourselves - we're starting from zero, no rules, no role models. Of course we're going to be derided by people who haven't heard music used in this way before, played by a bunch of wild, scruffy girls: new things are often threatening or considered frivolous and take a while to sink in."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edmole

    So much about this book is brilliant. I don't really enjoy The Slits' music but I saw Viv Albertine speak at a panel chaired by Simon Reynolds of Post-Punk-People and she really stood out as she wanted to just be a creative person, not an echo or a statue, while obviously being a normal person, suburban, not hip or ironic. The book is in two parts, her youth and her time in the punk scene and then The Slits, then her post Slits life as a London creative and latterly a mum and housewife. You assu So much about this book is brilliant. I don't really enjoy The Slits' music but I saw Viv Albertine speak at a panel chaired by Simon Reynolds of Post-Punk-People and she really stood out as she wanted to just be a creative person, not an echo or a statue, while obviously being a normal person, suburban, not hip or ironic. The book is in two parts, her youth and her time in the punk scene and then The Slits, then her post Slits life as a London creative and latterly a mum and housewife. You assume that anyone leading a life full of art and fame and getting places no one does would mean that she is a smart cookie or a tough nut, but throughout she see saws between cluelessness leavened by determination, feeling worthless but wanting to prove her value, naievety with an attendant ability to see the right person, the right thing, be in the right place. It's a very hard thing to see in yourself and express, that feeling of not having been right, not knowing the correct philosophy for a moment, just reacting with what you have at the time. Sometimes reading this you wonder how the world didn't just eat her up, and then thinking maybe it did, and maybe it does all of us, and we're all just waiting until we get blown out of the whale's blow-hole. Other general thoughts re this book. Mick Jones comes across as a huge mensch. I don't understand how people can flit around sexual relationships and cheat and be there one day and not the next. Sid Vicious was a bell end. People in bands are just kids, everyone's favourite album was made by a 22 year old for a load of 17 year olds and we ask too much of them as a result. A real artist makes stuff because they need to whether it's good or not, whatever good means. Women's bodies are a huge hassle for them. Makes me glad I got this average size D and only back hair and a bald spot to worry about. Bad relationships drift for years and you don't get the years back, people. Viv Albertine could be a real pain in the ass to know in real life. 80% of the life that came VA's way is down to her bloody minded scraped knee determination to engage and create, but 20% of it is down to her being a total knockout, and that is a pretty big 20%, if I am doing the maths right. Poor old Viv Albertine's Mum, all that worry, all that waiting and hoping. Bloody hell. All these kids of post war parents, they lived in such hard and weird times, but they were so naive with it. All the messages about the illusions of 20th Century freedom they wrestled with which my generation inherited and took for granted, they really went through a lot to get them out there. Ari Up seems like a HUGE pain in the arse. HUGE. The sort of pain in the arse only trust fund Germans with fake Jamaican accents get to be. Being alone is hard, not being alone is hard. Being old is hard, being young is hard. Everyone who likes one or more of art, women, life, the past, the present, stories, gossip, confidences, fashion, London, Hastings and treble should read this book then lend it to a friend who likes one or more of those things.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Uri

    M'ha encantat ❤

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I loved this book. The Slits Cut has been one of my all time favorite albums since I was a teenager. I was taken with her self effacing style and how much she shared. Writing about people such as Sid Vicious, Mick Jones, and other musical "icons", she talked about her everyday experiences with them. Also, in her later years she struggled with her identity, IVF treatments and cancer. I am glad that she has found her creative voice again. I recommend this to anyone who is a Slits fan.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    I really loved the start of this book: 1 MASTURBATION Never did it. Never wanted to do it. There was no reason not to, no oppression, I wasn’t told it was wrong and I don’t think it’s wrong. I just didn’t think of it at all. I didn’t naturally want to do it, so I didn’t know it existed. By the time my hormones kicked in, at about thirteen years old, I was being felt-up by boys and that was enough for me. Bit by bit the experimentation went further until I first had sex with my regular boyfriend wh I really loved the start of this book: 1 MASTURBATION Never did it. Never wanted to do it. There was no reason not to, no oppression, I wasn’t told it was wrong and I don’t think it’s wrong. I just didn’t think of it at all. I didn’t naturally want to do it, so I didn’t know it existed. By the time my hormones kicked in, at about thirteen years old, I was being felt-up by boys and that was enough for me. Bit by bit the experimentation went further until I first had sex with my regular boyfriend when I was fifteen. We were together for three years and are still friends now, which I think is nice. In all the time since my first sexual experience I haven’t masturbated, although I did try once after being nagged by friends when I complained I was lonely. But to me, masturbating when lonely is like drinking alcohol when you’re sad: it exacerbates the pain. It’s not that I don’t touch my breasts (they’re much nicer now I’ve put on a little weight) or touch between my legs or smell my fingers, I do all that, I like doing that, tucked up all warm and cosy in bed at night. But it never leads on to masturbation. Can’t be bothered. I don’t have fantasies much either – except once when I was pregnant and all hormoned up. I felt very aroused and had a violent fantasy about being fucked by a pack of rabid, wild dogs in the front garden. I later miscarried – that’ll teach me. This fantasy didn’t make me want to masturbate, I ran the scenario through my head a couple of times, wrote it down and never had a thought like it again. Honest. Well. It opened up the book to me, and I'm not a prude. At least, that's not what I see myself as. The book is open-hearted in the sense that Albertine seems to write from the heart. She's not usually a writer, except for writing scripts and songs, but this book has content that makes up for the lack of stringency and solidity; somehow, that's what musical autobiographies often lack. The book, as a whole, is really good because I feel that Albertine is as all people should be: not afraid of one's sexuality and searching for herself. This makes for a very interesting teenage experience, partly as she grows up during the advent of punk, and also as she tells of many interesting persons, e.g. John Beverley (Sid Vicious), whom she was very close to, Mick Jones of The Clash (whom she loved romantically), not to mention the person she later married, Malcolm McClaren and Vivianne Westwood and Don Letts. I love how she wrote about discovering music, and art in relation to music: When John and Yoko took their clothes off for the Two Virgins picture, their sweet, normal bodies all naked and wobbly were shocking because they were so imperfect. It was an especially brave move for Yoko; her body was dissected and derided by the press. But I got it. At last, a girl being interesting and brave. She also writes about what is often left in the dark for us born without a uterus: the period. On it starting: My period started the day before my thirteenth birthday. I went ballistic. I howled like a banshee, I shouted, I slammed doors – I was furious, crazed, ranting and murderous for days. This thing that had happened to me was totally unacceptable. I hated it, I didn’t want it, but I had no control over it. I couldn’t bear to live if it meant going through life bleeding every month and being weak and compromised. It was so unfair. And on sexual beginnings: Once when me and Nic were kissing and touching each other on a bed in someone’s house, he put his hand inside my knickers and I orgasmed immediately just from the newness of the experience. Well, I think it was an orgasm, it felt like a big twitch and then I wasn’t interested in being touched any more. On loving music, especially certain albums, passionately: The first album I bought when I got back from Amsterdam was an Island sampler, Nice Enough to Eat. I only had about four records because they were so expensive, but samplers were much cheaper than a normal LP, only fourteen shillings so lots of people bought them, they were important. I listened very hard to all the tracks, I never skipped songs that weren’t immediately appealing to me because I wanted to make the experience of having a new record last as long as possible. This is when I became aware of a label as a stable of artists. I trusted Island’s taste. I saw Nice Enough to Eat in an Oxfam shop the other day, it made my heart skip a beat, like I’d unexpectedly come across a very old and dear friend that I hadn’t seen for thirty years. Someone I’d told all my secrets to. The blue cover with the jumbled-up sweets spelling the bands’ names was so familiar, it meant more to me than seeing a family photograph. I bought the record again of course. Couldn’t leave it sitting there. On getting her first STD; the story of this is testament to how honest Albertine seems and comes across: I look into my knickers and see there is a little black dot at the base of a pubic hair. Then I realise with horror there’s a little black dot at the base of every pubic hair. I try and pick one off. It doesn’t come easily, the little bugger. I hold the speck in the palm of my hand. Phew, false alarm, it’s just a tiny pale brown scab. The squat was so dirty I must have got scabs from scratching myself all the time. But as I peer at it, the little scab grows legs and scuttles off sideways. I scream. Not an ‘Oh help I’ve seen a spider’ scream, but an ‘I am the host of living creatures! Evil parasites are burrowing into my flesh and sucking my blood!’ type of scream. A very serious and loud scream. A ‘Kill me now, I can’t bear to be conscious for one more second’ scream. ...and on having said crabs removed: The next day, Mum sends me to the clap clinic in Praed Street, Paddington. (‘It only takes a minute at the Praed Street clinic’, ‘Rabies (from the Dogs of Love)’, the 101ers.) A nice nurse gives me a blue cotton gown and shows me where to hang my clothes, then she tells me to lie on the bed, which has a piece of white paper stretched over it. I lie down and look at the polystyrene tiles on the ceiling, daydreaming. The nurse explains patiently that I must slide my bum down the bed and put my feet through the stirrups. I start to do it, but realise this means I’ll be lying on my back with my knees bent up to my chest and my legs wide open. I look at her for reassurance, Is this really what I’m supposed to do? She nods. I wriggle my feet through the stirrups and rest my ankles on the black nylon-webbing straps. The soles of my feet are filthy, luckily they face away from the nurse. My legs are held really wide open by the stirrups, my vagina is pointing to the door. I feel as if I’m strapped to a raft on a linoleum ocean, my ankles tied to the sides. ‘Here comes the doctor,’ says the nurse as the door opens. I feel so exposed, it’s unbearable, I’m horrified, ashamed. I’ve never had my legs so wide open before, not even during sex. I’ve never been looked at down there before, never shown anyone, never even looked at it myself. The doctor appears. A man. He’s young and handsome. Why is a young handsome man a gynaecologist? He must be a pervert. I want to die. This is the most humiliating and terrible thing that has ever happened to me (ever happened to you so far). I burst into tears. On discovering Patti Smith: Every week I buy the NME. I find it difficult to read because the writers use such long words, but it’s not a chore because I’m interested in what they’re saying. One day I read a small piece about a singer called Patti Smith. There’s a picture. It’s the cover of Horses, her forthcoming album, a black-and-white photograph taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. I have never seen a girl who looks like this. She is my soul made visible, all the things I hide deep inside myself that can’t come out. She looks natural, confident, sexy and an individual. I don’t want to dress like her or copy her style; she gives me the confidence to express myself in my own way. On the day the album’s released – I half dread it in case the music doesn’t live up to the promise of that bold cover – I don’t go into college, I get the bus to HMV Records in Oxford Street instead. I’m so excited I feel sick. When I arrive, I see Mick Jones loitering outside the record shop. ‘What are you doing here?’ I ask. ‘Getting the Patti Smith record.’ I rush home and put the record on. It hurls through stream of consciousness, careers into poetry and dissolves into sex. The structure of the songs is unique to her, not copies of old song structures, they’re a mixture of improvisation, landscapes, grooves, verses and choruses. She’s a private person who dares to let go in front of everyone, puts herself out there and risks falling flat on her face. Up until now girls have been so controlled and restrained. Patti Smith is abandoned. Her record translates into sound, parts of myself that I could not access, could not verbalise, could not visualise, until this moment. Listening to Horses unlocks an idea for me – girls’ sexuality can be on their own terms, for their own pleasure or creative work, not just for exploitation or to get a man. I’ve never heard a girl breathing heavily, or making noises like she’s fucking in music before (except ‘Je t’aime’ by Jane Birkin, and that record didn’t resonate with me). Hearing Patti Smith be sexual, building to an orgasmic crescendo, whilst leading a band, is so exciting. It’s emancipating. If I can take a quarter or even an eighth of what she has and not give a shit about making a fool of myself, maybe I still can do something with my life. I love this line of hers on Mick Jones: I can be myself with him and am loved for it, not in spite of it. On using "shock": Sid is into subverting signs and people’s expectations too, which is why he wears a leather jacket with a swastika marked out in studs. He isn’t so stupid as to think that persecuting Jewish people is a good idea, but he does want to upset and enrage everyone and question what they’re reacting to: the symbol, or the deed? Once we hailed a cab and the driver said he wouldn’t take us because he was Jewish and offended by the swastika on Sid’s jacket. As the cabbie drove away, Sid said to me, ‘The cunt should’ve taken us and overcharged, that would’ve been a cleverer thing to do.’ My attraction to shocking goes back to the sixties: hippies and Yippies used it a lot, comic artists like Robert Crumb, the underground magazine Oz, Lenny Bruce, Andy Warhol. I also studied history of art at school, and learnt how Surrealists and Dadaists used shock and irrational juxtaposition. All this influences my work and I try to shock in all areas of my life, especially in my drawings and clothes. Referencing sex is an easy way to shock. I walk around in little girls’ party dresses, hems slashed and ragged, armholes torn open to make them bigger, the waistline up under my chest. My bleached blonde hair is not seductive and smooth, but matted and wild, my eyes smudged with black eyeliner. I finish it all off with fishnet tights and shocking pink patent boots from the shop Sex. I’ve crossed the line from ‘sexy wild girl just fallen out of bed’ to ‘unpredictable, dangerous, unstable girl’. Not so appealing. Pippi Longstocking meets Barbarella meets juvenile delinquent. Men look at me and they are confused, they don’t know whether they want to fuck me or kill me. This sartorial ensemble really messes with their heads. Good. On Vivienne Westwood: Vivienne’s scary, for the reason any truthful, plain-talking person is scary – she exposes you. If you haven’t been honest with yourself, this makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, and if you are a con merchant the game is up. She’s uncompromising in every way: what she says, what she stands for, what she expects from you and how she dresses. She’s direct and judgemental with a strong northern accent that accentuates her sincerity. She has a confidence I haven’t seen in any other woman. She’s strong, opinionated and very smart. She can’t bear complacency. She’s the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. Sid told me, ‘Vivienne says you’re talented but lazy.’ I’ve worked at everything twice as hard since he said that. Getting kicked out of her band by Sid Vicious, this happened: I hear a phone ringing through the thick fuzzy air. It’s Thunders, asking me to join the Heartbreakers. He says to come over to the rehearsal studios right now. I’m scared, but I go anyway. That should be written on my gravestone. She was scared. But she went anyway. Once again, it seems that Paul Weller's been an arse - apart from the mention in Zoë Howe's "Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus and Mary Chain Story": I want boys to come and see us play and think I want to be part of that. Not They’re pretty or I want to fuck them but I want to be in that gang, in that band. I want boys to want to be us, not have the usual response like that one at the party in Islington the other night, he told me he played guitar. ‘I play guitar too,’ I said. ‘Great! We could do with some crumpet in our band.’ His name was Paul Weller. Mick wanted to have a go at him when I mentioned it but I thought that would make me look weak so I stopped him. On Ari Up, when starting The Slits: There’s another trait that adds to Ari’s liberation: she doesn’t care about being attractive to boys. She’s not bothered about looking pretty or moving seductively for them, she only does that for her own pleasure. She doesn’t see her body as a vehicle for attracting a mate, and she doesn’t squash bits of her personality to avoid overshadowing boys. I realise I’m learning a lot from her, and it would be foolish of me to dismiss her because she’s young. Since knowing Ari, I’ve become more aware of how uptight I am about my body, bodily functions, smells and nudity. Ari moves her body with the unselfconsciousness of a child, and I don’t see any reason why I can’t reclaim that feeling, even though I’m older. I’m constantly questioning stereotyping through my work but I’m still enslaved by the stereotype of femininity in my mind. (‘It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head’ – Sally Kempton.) Ari has no such hang-ups. When we played the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent, halfway through the set she was dying for a piss, she didn’t want to leave the stage and couldn’t bear to be uncomfortable, so she just pulled down her leggings and knickers and pissed on the stage – all over the next band’s guitarist’s pedals as it happened – I was so impressed. No girl had pissed on stage before, but Ari didn’t do it to be a rebel or to shock, it was much more subversive than that: she just needed a piss. In these times when girls are so uptight and secretive about their bodies and desperately trying to be ‘feminine’, she is a revolutionary. On when you're ready for divorce: Married women tell me I’m making the worst mistake of my life and this is a terrible age to be divorcing: ‘You’ll never get another man.’ A very sophisticated, honey-highlighted blonde divorced mother from my daughter’s school confides in me outside the swimming pool: ‘When you’d rather live in a tent in a field than in your nice house with your husband, that’s when you’re ready for divorce.’ The first part of the book, as it's divided into "side one" and "side two", is my favourite by a long shot; the second part is interesting, but to me, Albertine's thoughts on pregnancy, miscarriage, starting up her musical life again aren't as interesting or lasting as her words on her relationship with her husband and her self-doubt. All in all, this is one of the more individual autobiographies by a musician that I've read. I'm quite sure that Albertine has put her own words to right here, and not relied on an (eventual) editor to mould her words into shape, as everything feels home made, in a good way; it reflects the music she made as part of The Slits. This book is recommendable even to people who have never heard of The Slits, and to people who dislike autobiographies by musicians. There isn't any trying-to-be-clever here, it's life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    Maybe it’s fitting that I’m trying to review this book amid the chaos of school holidays, since to a large extent it’s a book about overcoming domesticity – the story of a woman who resurrected a musical career after 20 years and cancer and a child and a broken family. It’s a harrowing read. It’s also fascinating for anyone with an interest in the UK punk era, because Viv Albertine, as well as being a guitarist/songwriter and rabble-rouser in her own right, was friend and intimate to many of the Maybe it’s fitting that I’m trying to review this book amid the chaos of school holidays, since to a large extent it’s a book about overcoming domesticity – the story of a woman who resurrected a musical career after 20 years and cancer and a child and a broken family. It’s a harrowing read. It’s also fascinating for anyone with an interest in the UK punk era, because Viv Albertine, as well as being a guitarist/songwriter and rabble-rouser in her own right, was friend and intimate to many of the key players in that scene. And it’s an inspiring and revealing inside look at a true source of controversy: four young women (the youngest not eighteen) dressed “in a mixture of leather jeans, rubber dresses and knickers on top of our trousers, matted hair and smudged black eye make-up” thrashing out abrasive music, shouting, swearing, spitting and causing general mayhem in a country which, for the most part, seemed mired in the 1950s – four true iconoclasts. But best of all, Viv Albertine can write. Here she is on first hearing the Beatles when she was a child: This song [“You Can’t Do That”] pierces my heart, and I don’t think it will ever heal. John Lennon’s voice is so close, so real, it’s like he’s in the room. He has a normal boy’s voice, no high-falutin’ warbling or smoothed-out, creamy harmonies like the stuff Mum and Dad listen to on the radio. He uses everyday language to tell me, his girlfriend, to stop messing around. I can feel his pain, I can hear it in his raspy voice; he can’t hide it. He seesaws between bravado and vulnerability, trying to act cool but occasionally losing control. And it’s all my fault. It makes me feel so powerful, affecting a boy this way – it’s intoxicating. I ache to tell him, I’m so sorry I hurt you, John, I’ll never do it again. On surviving cancer: At the end of the radio- and chemotherapy, I have one last treatment to go through. Brachytherapy. This involves the doctors shoving a stick of radioactive material inside my vagina (it looks like that glowing green bar that Homer Simpson gets caught in his shirt in the title sequence of The Simpsons), then they all scoot out of the room and lock the nuclear-attack-proof door behind them, peering through a triple-glazed window at me as I lie on a trolley, legs in the air, green thing up my whatsit. I spend most of the week after this treatment on the polished wooden floor of our bathroom, writhing in agony and vomiting bright green liquid as blood pours out of my arse, which feels like it has been slashed with a razor. Like I said, harrowing. But bold, fresh, immediate. The use of present-tense is a revelation. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. It touched me – by the end I’d been moved to tears more than once, and was considering writing Viv Albertine a letter in the hopes of meeting her; I felt she had things to teach me. I don’t know if I’ll ever write that letter, but something about her story invigorated me and reminded me what’s crucial in art. Vision. And anyone can envisage, even a 50-something housewife who hasn’t played guitar in 20 years. Viva la Revolución!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    What a great read. I could hardly put it down until it was all finished. The life story of one of the women's voices from the punk rock movement, telling us what became of her life after (the first time) she left the Slits. This is a pretty unflinching, warts-and-all story of growing up poor in an unhappy family in London. Tells us how she made something of herself with remarkably little encouragement or support. On the contrary, she was spending more time supporting others, but still she found What a great read. I could hardly put it down until it was all finished. The life story of one of the women's voices from the punk rock movement, telling us what became of her life after (the first time) she left the Slits. This is a pretty unflinching, warts-and-all story of growing up poor in an unhappy family in London. Tells us how she made something of herself with remarkably little encouragement or support. On the contrary, she was spending more time supporting others, but still she found her own opportunities and made things happen. Well worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peggy Warren

    I loved this book. It's fortunate for readers that Viv Albertine ignored the suggestions to have a ghostwriter author her memoir. A captivating, inspiring read about a remarkable woman.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Spector

    I loved this so much! Went in just expecting a solid rock and roll memoir (and it's a standout in the genre) but also so much here about grappling with being a woman, reinventing yourself, and grappling along into middle age. Love it and am forcing it upon practically everyone I know.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clarke

    'Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both.' With such commendable almost-honesty you can't help but warm to this book, which as with recent memoirs by Morrissey and Tracey Thorn, proves that there's more to rock autobiogs than just ghost-written self aggrandisement. Viv Albertine was the motivating, organising force behind the Slits - proto-feminist punk rockers who paved the way for the more commercial Raincoats, Blondie, Chrissie Hynde, Marine Girls and ev 'Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both.' With such commendable almost-honesty you can't help but warm to this book, which as with recent memoirs by Morrissey and Tracey Thorn, proves that there's more to rock autobiogs than just ghost-written self aggrandisement. Viv Albertine was the motivating, organising force behind the Slits - proto-feminist punk rockers who paved the way for the more commercial Raincoats, Blondie, Chrissie Hynde, Marine Girls and even, god help us, the likes of Toyah. Their uncompromising ethic was borne of an industry that in the mid-70s was as unreconstructedly sexist and misogynistic as the Tory Party, trade unions, the BBC, in fact all the pillars of the establishment. Ironically punk, supposedly the revolutionary force of change, was at least as backward in that respect as prog and everything else of the status quo it sought to undermine. The Slits burned brightly but briefly, their Cut and Return of the Giant Slits (not to mention an unforgettable cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine) achieving fan appreciation but nothing like the commercial exposure of those who came after. But Ari Up, Tessa, Palmolive and Viv broke new ground. The two halves of this book are a ying and yang - the first, relating Albertine's childhood and punk years is like the Slits: messy, uncompromising, challenging and full of raw, untutored energy. The second half is reflective, tinged with experience rather than regret and a sense that the big old wheel is turning. Viv finds contentment in the end but not until she's rediscovered her creative self, and ditched the boring Hastings housewife (her words) and husband. So much of this could have been portentous and awful. The vast array of the famous, the unremitting detail on bodily functions, sexual encounters, career crashes....but she navigates a course skilfully that stays the right side of narcissistic or unself aware. It could almost have been subtitled My Struggle With Menstruation and Men, and the overwhelming sense - apart from the reproductive issues that also dogged her - is a quietly controlled - and justified - rage at how men continue to control, manage and manipulate women, allowing them to work, earn and create when it suits then slamming on the brakes when they feel like it. It won't be to everyone's taste (and if you want a fluffy feelgood rerun of the era look elsewhere) but it should make one wonder what we squander as a world by limiting and circumscribing 50% of the population's talent and ability like this. If nothing else read Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys for Viv's ear for dialogue (it was her mother's cri-de-coeur - "that's all you ever talk about!") and the comic underpinnings which clearly kept her sane - see for example the hilarious (and I mean no disrespect) description of Malcolm McLaren's funeral on p387, with an ageing Vivienne Westwood Nadine Bernie Rhodes at loggerheads in the Marylebone church.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Onieal

    I'll read any memoir written by a woman from the music world, particularly an English, punk rocking one! Entertaining read!

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