Viv Albertine is a guitarist and songwriter who co-founded the influential and pioneering all-girl punk band, The Slits. They blazed a trail for some of my favourite female musicians today: Courtney Love, PJ Harvey and local all-girl bands CUTTS and Las Tetas.
Clothes, music and boys are all subjects close to my heart and Viv Albertine has woven many interesting tales about them throughout her book. A ‘Clothes’ story she describes is going out in a Vivienne Westwood fetish-inspired ‘tits’ t-shirt, rubber stockings and studs and chains which, in the late 1970s, were considered very scandalous and dangerous attire indeed.
‘Boys’ include her long-time love Mick Jones from The Clash, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren et al and ‘music’ is at the epicentre of the punk scene exploding around her.
It’s not a typical ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ musician’s autobiography. Well, there IS a bit of that, but because it’s written from a female perspective there’s none of the usual male braggadocio involved. There’s a hilarious and awkward sexual encounter with Johnny Rotten, which I bet he didn't write about in his recently published memoir!
I fully expected Viv Albertine to be a fearless, feminist, badass rebel and she is. She recalls the constant barrage of sexism the Slits had to endure: interviewers asking them about their sex lives, music execs that “treat us like malleable objects to mould or f*** or make money out of”, verbal abuse, slut-shaming and threats of (and in some cases, actual) sexual assault.
She also writes with honesty and vulnerability about battling insecurity and self-doubt, gruelling IVF treatment and eventual motherhood, losing her identity and creativity in a bad marriage and lastly cervical cancer. Her strength and courage in overcoming these challenges alone is truly badass which is why I found her book so inspiring and fascinating to read.
Recommended by Karen I, Devonport Library
Karen I likes reading memoirs and biographies about people with interesting and unusual lives, because she spends a lot of time reading and doesn't get out much.
Title: Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys
Author: Viv Albertine
Also recommended: Anger is an energy : my life uncensored by John Lydon ; with Andrew Perry