Viv Albertine, widely known as the guitarist for all-girl punk band The Slits, tells it all in her own words. No ghost writer, no apologies – the whole story. If you didn’t love her before, you will now. Viv Albertine’s memoir Clothes, Boys, Music opens as it means to go on, right from the first line of her introduction. “Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke, I’m a bit of both.”
Self-deprecating and angry at times, there are no areas of her life that are off-limits. She means business and gives her all in a truly courageous and honest account of her life. Viv shares her views on masturbation, her childhood, adolescence and long-term on/off relationship with Mick Jones (The Clash), her friendships with Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren. She talks about how she went on to form her own band, The Slits. She was not just there when ‘punk’ happened, she was there making it happen. She was choosing her own role and becoming an example to all women. Giving them a glimpse of themselves, or of who they could be if they wanted. She was at the forefront of a movement of women, breaking down barriers in the face of massive resistance.
The Slits broke the mould. Their music was edgy, sometimes uncomfortable but always unique. They were loved by many, jealously despised by more. The Slits fought every step of the way for women’s rights and challenged taboos with their semi-naked record covers. Many fans would have to admire the group from a distance, as their girlfriends would get jealous and not allow them to follow the band.
To begin with, Viv tells her story in short, sharp chapters but stretches them out as she becomes more comfortable with her writing. Her purity and honest approach to life comes through on each and every page. Phlegm, blood, bodily fluids, functions and failures, all are part of her story. Nothing is left out but the truly ‘happy ever after’ that seems so absent at the end. She is fearless of everything, except herself, and is undoubtedly her own worst critic. Fearful of not producing the goods on the night, a truly great artist, she shares those same misgivings with many other great performers.
Viv Albertine’s story is one that will touch your heart and have you wanting to reach out and hold her, to cuddle her through the night. Whether she admits it or not, she comes out of this very much a survivor, an innocent child who likes to smash her dolls and then bury them in the garden, still looking for ‘THAT’ boy, out there somewhere, in amongst the crowd of users and losers, he is out there, somewhere.
Viv Albertine, Clothes, Music, Boys
First published 2014
Published by Faber and Faber
UK price £8.99
Review by Wayne Reid