As well as being the guitarist in the pioneering punk girl band The Slits, more recently Viv has turned her attention to writing.
Her books give us the sense of her growing up in the Muswell Hill area of north London in the 1960s, and Viv documents her sharp sense of “outsider-ness” from a young age, along with her forever questioning mind, and an early obsession with music,
“The first record I heard was round my baby-sitters house. The Beatles ‘You Can’t Do That’ the B side to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. That song burned into me. It opened up another world. The jealousy, the power it gave the girl. I was about nine.”
Moving on to Art School, she became part of London’s still forming Punk scene, hanging out with friends that included members of the Sex Pistols, boyfriend Mick Jones, and of course the first incarnation of the Slits.
Earlier this year, in an interview with Sean O’Hagen in The Guardian, Viv in her typically succinct way gave her take on girls, boys and modern bands,
“Boys listen to music differently, they bone up. I didn’t know how to listen to music so I wouldn’t actually have known if they were out of tune or not playing in time. It really didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t the point.” It suddenly seems so long ago, I [Sean O’Hagen] say, light years away from today’s more gentrified pop culture. “It does,” she says nodding, “and I miss that unprofessionalism so much. Now, everyone has gone to music school and they all play brilliantly and you think, Why are they even playing live? It’s all so bloody middle class now.”
The Slits might have been just one of punk’s happy accidents, a combination of minds and spirits and attitude who met at just the right time, but that does nothing to dilute how they cut right through the male dominated rock culture to form a toe-hold that influenced the girls in bands that followed. Through their pioneering boldness, The Slits made a footprint on popular culture that hasn’t faded with age, but instead it has grown and spread, even becoming more defined down the years.
In both of her books to date, the narrative runs as an unfolding conversation. Confessional, confrontational, and forensic in its intimacy, Viv’s writing is carefully structured with all the bends, curves and heart-stoppers of a novel. Her writing style ties together the threads of a story that start with a unconventionally conventional childhood, her time with the Slits and what happens when, years down the line, in an altogether different life, she sits at the kitchen table and writes. And then there’s her mother…
Viv Albertine is an extrodianary woman, and seems to always cuts straight to the chase; whether she’s making music or writing books, they have both become just mediums for her self-expression, and whether you are a reader or a listener, you can’t help but pay attention.
Screaming it from the rooftops – Happy Birthday Viv.
Viv Albertine WEBSITE