Friday, 22 January 2016

Chop's Book of 2015

Err, you'll notice this isn't a Top 5. That's because I only read five books all year and, although I enjoyed most of them, I didn't think it was fair to list them as a legitimate Top 5. There was one book though that I could not leave unheralded.

Chop's Book of the Year 2015

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

The Slits weren't like other punk bands. Not just because they were all girls (well, most of them) but because they had a different approach to making music. Whilst the boy punk bands could be thrilling and appeared to be ripping up the rule book, musically they were still following a fairly standard path. The Slits on the other hand really forged their own path.

Similarly, Viv's style of writing in her autobiography is a breath of fresh air. In the first sentence of her introduction she states that "Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both" and she stays close to that ability to speak truth to the very end. Chapter one is a short treatise on masturbation, it ensures you're under no allusions about the author or how she plans to tell her story.

The chapters are short and snappy and read a little like a scrapbook of memories. An approach I thought worked really well, making it very easy to read but also getting under the skin of Viv's personality in a way few other biographies I've read have managed. The pages on the early years of punk are fascinating providing an insider's view of a dramatic period in music. I was a little too young to witness this first hand but the influence of punk remains in most of the bands I love today.

When the Splits disbanded in 1982 Viv didn't follow the expected route to solo music but booked herself onto a film studies course which eventually led to her working as a freelance director. The second half of the book covers the long period when she wasn't a rock'n'roll star. She got married, had a daughter and lived a fairly normal life as wife & mother down on the south coast. She didn't pick up a guitar for a very long time and when she finally did, another moment of emancipation, it took her some time to regain her confidence in her own abilities.

In 2009 she released her first solo album, The Vermillion Border. Hearing Viv play some of those tunes in session for 6music was the spur for me to investigate her music more thoroughly. Until that point I think I only really knew the Slit's single Typical Girls. Viv's solo album is a joy and in many ways the book is a companion piece to that album.

A fabulous read that feels like a conversation with the author, one that drew me in so deep I needed a few days off before I read anything else. I think I read that Viv is writing a second book, I really hope she is as I'll be first in line to pick up a copy.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. via Amazon


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