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Viv The publication of Kathleen Hanna's punk memoir put Toon Traveller in mind of just how great Viv Albertine's Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, is.

Viv

The publication of Kathleen Hanna's punk memoir put Toon Traveller in mind of just how great Viv Albertine's Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, is.

by Toon Traveller, Travel Correspondent
first published: May, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

Sneers from the man on the mixing desk, 'attitude' from guitar carrying, non-playing 'axe men' tells a tale of how far some musicians and some men, still have to go in understanding the meaning of respect as we approach the second quarter of C21

VIv AlbertineThe very day before OL alerted me to Kathleen Hanna’s new Rebel GIrl memoir, which I think DJ Fuzzy is working their way through, I’d just finished up, Vivienne Albertine's biography of her time as a punk rocker, as a members of the Slits, and her life before and after being in that seminal band.  Viv’s book is honest, insightful, and at times a painfully searing account of her life, struggles, failures and achievements. 

Albertine writes openly about parental separation, a violent father, social housing, school days, boys, boys, boys, UK 70s musical and social tribes — skinheads, hippies, 2Tone, Prog Rockers, and Reggae explorations. There are her pre-band years, the supportive mother, long gone father. One incident sticks in the mind, a school day attempt at fatherly reconciliation by him. Dismissed out hand by Viv, giving the reader with an early example of the determination, pragmatism and stand up for yourself attitude that drove her in early life, and her formative repulsion towards dominant males. Make no mistake, Viv  learnt to take no crap, trust her intuition, but nevertheless was rarely a man rejector, just less tolerant of 'poor' quality men. As we all should be.

Her music career development, who, when, why, how, is perhaps the least interesting part  of the account, as so often is in lesser rock bio’s too. Other than the music she loved and influenced her. There's a wonderfully revealing decade by decade account of music she loves and her changing taste throughout her life. A restless listener. Like most honest punk, and post-post punk writers, singers, performers, Viv has eclectic taste.

Viv’s struggles against the male guitarist, prick poses resonates and leaves the saddest impression. Not just the sneers in London's top guitar shops, nor the male band, bonded, punk, fuck you 70s, but the attitudes in the early 2000s. Returning to music as she recounts the open mic nights, in small pubs, solo voice and electric guitar performances, her own songs. Sneers from the man on the mixing desk, 'attitude' from guitar carrying, non-playing 'axe men' tells a tale of how far some musicians and some men, still have to go in understanding the meaning of respect as we approach the second quarter of the 21st Century…

Don't go thinking Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys is all gigs and tours, studio strops and band splits and  studio shits. It's so, so, much more. Her post band, post music, family workaday life, developing as an artist, writer, mother,  wife, and all the compromises made as her life changes. How she feels, why she compromises, and her awareness of prices paid. 

What is revealing is the reuniting, albeit for a short time, of The Slits, decades after they'd gone their separate ways. Some seemingly unchanged, perhaps true to original punk ethos. Viv, still struggles, as everyone with deeply held principles do, as their own lives, loves, passions and circumstances change. 

There's a touching sad, tragic, account of an attempt to reconcile with a long distant father. Conflicted loyalty to a mother, the hope of change and laying ghosts to rest. Some ghosts were to be confronted, not to be disturbed again, 

It's a largely non-polemical account of struggles against prejudices and their manifestations over time in and out of music over 30 years of her life. There's very little sense of regret, especially at what many including me, would see as major life events, and thankfully not too much hotel trashing, rider throwing, bad gig bitching, punches thrown. Of course, the punk ethos, the confrontations, managers and producers are all appraised, objectively. Reputations are unfairly made in press horror stories, and can create hackles of negative anticipation as the band moves around the country.

The book contains little of the "we've met". "we've played with" that permeates many band, musician accounts of their professional lives. There is a sense for me of love lost in then slipping from her life of Mick Jones, guitarist with The Clash. There’s a wistfulness, but no hankering, or sense of chasing the past. I suppose that's one of Viv’s life's themes.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, is a good account of a woman's struggles in life and a male music world.


Essential Info
Main image Viv Albertine youtube screengrab from the video If Love

Toon Traveller
Travel Correspondent

Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.
about Toon Traveller »»

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