lunes, 19 de febrero de 2018

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes.  Music, Music, Music.  Boys, Boys, Boys.  (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014)
by Viv Albertine
England, 2014

Utterly entertaining/bodily fluids-rich punk rock-and-motherhood memoir from original Slits lead guitarist Viv Albertine (b. 1954).  While the pull no punches Albertine can manage to be both amusing and revolting at the same time--"My humiliation is overruled by terror" (59) she fesses up in one early nervous laughter- and squirm-inducing sequence recounting how as a teenager she had to enlist her mother's tweezing and spoon-crushing aid in ridding herself of an infestation of crabs--and the various first generation punk anecdotes were the expected muzak to my ears, what I was increasingly appreciative of by the end was less the juicy tidbits about what it was like to pal around with the likes of the Clash and the Sex Pistols in her adventurous youth and more her openness in laying out how she responded to the more prosaic challenges of motherhood, a failing marriage and a surplus of midlife bullshit once her life went analog to digital age- and youthful exuberance- and fading celebrity-wise.  In short, a very engaging read even w/o the "scandalous" mid-1970s bits about shooting up with Johnny Thunders and what it was like to sort of have sex with a Sex Pistol.  Looking forward to the follow-up.


Viv Albertine then & now (photos: top, David Corio, 1980; bottom, Michael Putland, c. 2014)
*
When we arrive in Philadelphia, we decide to pay Sun Ra a visit in homage to his great music.  We don't know how to find him so we do what we'd do in England and look him up in the phone book.  Phone directories are inside public phone booths in America, same as England.  We look under Sun, but find nothing, we feel a bit foolish but we also check under Ra, and there it is: Ra, Sun - followed by his number and address.  Someone suggests we call and check he's in (not to ask if he wants to see us), someone else shouts 'No no!  It's destiny, of course he'll be in!'  We all agree we should just take a chance and turn up, so we pile back into the van (Ari, Tessa, Bruce, Steve Beresford, Christine Robertson - who co-manages us with Dick O'Dell - and Dave Lewis, who later plays guitar with us) and navigate through Philadelphia, past rickety clapboard houses with stoops, stopping and asking directions whenever we get lost.  It's Hallowe'en, we're dressed in our usual stuff but the people we stop peer past Christine, who's driving, into the back of the van and ask if those are our Hallowe'en costumes.  We arrive at Sun Ra's small terraced house; it's very ordinary and modest with a front gate, short path and plain front door.  Not what I imagined at all, I thought there'd at least be a plaster planet on the gatepost or something.  We knock, hopping from one foot to the other like children on the doorstep of a birthday party - Christine and Dave stay in the van so we don't overwhelm Sun Ra - no answer.  We knock again.  The next-door neighbour opens her front door: 'You lookin' for Mr. Ra?'  'Yes!' we chorus.  'He's away on tour right now.'  She gives us a quick look up and down and immediately shuts the door.  Still, we got to see Sun Ra's house and Sun Ra's street and talk to Sun Ra's neighbour.  Result.
(Clothes, Clothes, Clothes.  Music, Music, Music.  Boys, Boys, Boys., 236-237)

7 comentarios:

  1. I tend to like rock biographies as well as all they entail. It sounds as if this one has s little more depth then some others as it goes into Albertine’s more responsible later years. The Punk movement is one of several rock scenes that I am particularly interested in.

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    1. Albertine's book does have quite a bit more depth than the usual, Brian, both for the reason you mention and for the fact that it's great to hear a female voice from the days when there were relatively few female role models for this type of original music. I also enjoyed hearing about her approach to the creative process and how much thought she would put into recharging her creative batteries after her heyday with the Slits was long over. A really interesting book!

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  2. I love that Sun Ra anecdote.

    Have you read Patti Smith's books?

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    1. Glad you enjoyed that, Scott--thought that was a fun anecdote, too. While I've yet to read either Patti Smith book, I'd like to tackle at least one of them at some point later in the year if time allows. And although it probably won't surprise you to hear this, Viv Albertine talks about what an enormous influence Patti Smith was upon hearing her debut album when it came out.

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  3. Great quote. Love the idea of Ra, Sun. Coincidentally, I was listening to The Heliocentric World of Sun Ra last night! I have been meaning to pick up this book and your review makes it sound even more appealing.

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    1. Plenty of great stories in Viv's book, Séamus, essentially a guaranteed good time for someone of your discriminating tastes! I've been craving some Sun Ra myself lately, so maybe I should follow your example and listen to Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 1 when I get off work tonight. Of course, it might also be time to read that thick Sun Ra bio I've been lugging around with me since somewhere around 2000 or so!

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  4. I may not see a page of this book. Still, I got to hear about Sun Ra even if he’s off to tour.

    Destroy all music!

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