Selected by the New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
Viv Albertine is a pioneer. As lead guitarist and songwriter for the seminal band The Slits, she influenced a future generation of artists including Kurt Cobain and Carrie Brownstein. She formed a band with Sid Vicious and was there the night he met Nancy Spungeon. She tempted Johnny Thunders…toured America with the Clash…dated Mick Jones…and inspired the classic Clash anthem “Train in Vain.” But Albertine was no mere muse. In Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., Albertine delivers a unique and unfiltered look at a traditionally male-dominated scene.
Her story is so much more than a music memoir. Albertine’s narrative is nothing less than a fierce correspondence from a life on the fringes of culture. The author recalls rebelling from conformity and patriarchal society ever since her days as an adolescent girl in the same London suburb of Muswell Hill where the Kinks formed. With brash honestyand an unforgiving memoryAlbertine writes of immersing herself into punk culture among the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks. Of her devastation when the Slits broke up and her reinvention as a director and screenwriter. Or abortion, marriage, motherhood, and surviving cancer. Navigating infidelity and negotiating divorce. And launching her comeback as a solo artist with her debut album, The Vermilion Border.
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is a raw chronicle of music, fashion, love, sex, feminism, and more that connects the early days of punk to the Riot Grrl movement and beyond. But even more profoundly, Viv Albertine’s remarkable memoir is the story of an empowered woman staying true to herself and making it on her own in the modern world.
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Never did it. Never wanted to do it. There was no reason not to, no oppression, I wasn’t told it was wrong and I don’t think it’s wrong. I just didn’t think of it at all. I didn’t naturally want to do it, so I didn’t know it existed. By the time my hormones kicked in, at about thirteen years old, I was being felt-up by boys and that was enough for me. Bit by bit the experimentation went further until I first had sex with my regular boyfriend when I was fifteen. We were together for three years and are still friends now, which I think is nice. In all the time since my first sexual experience I haven’t masturbated, although I did try once after being nagged by friends when I complained I was lonely. But to me, masturbating when lonely is like drinking alcohol when you’re sad: it exacerbates the pain. It’s not that I don’t touch my breasts (they’re much nicer now I’ve put on a little weight) or touch between my legs or smell my fingers, I do all that, I like doing that, tucked up all warm and cosy in bed at night. But it never leads on to masturbation. Can’t be bothered. I don’t have fantasies much either – except once when I was pregnant and all hormoned up. I felt very aroused and had a violent fantasy about being fucked by a pack of rabid, wild dogs in the front garden. I later miscarried – that’ll teach me. This fantasy didn’t make me want to masturbate, I ran the scenario through my head a couple of times, wrote it down and never had a thought like it again. Honest.
(Please god let that old computer I wrote it on be smashed into a million pieces and not lying on its side in a landfill site somewhere, waiting to be dug up and analysed sometime in the future, like Lucy the Australopithecus fossil.)
Here we go then, (genital) warts an’ all …
My family arrived in England from Sydney, Australia, when I was four years old. My sister and I had three toys each: a Chinese rag doll, a teddy bear and a koala bear. We were not precious about our toys. The dolls were repeatedly buried in the back garden, eventually we forgot where they were and they perished in the earth. The teddies we would hold by their feet and smash them at each other in vicious fights until they were torn and mangled, with eyes and ears missing. We didn’t touch the koalas because they were covered in real fur and felt creepy.
We sailed from Australia to England on a ship called the Arcadia, according to a miniature red-and-white life-belt hanging on a nail in the bathroom. It was a six-week journey. One of my earliest memories is of my mother and father tucking my sister and me up in bunk beds in our cabin. They told us they were going to dinner, they wouldn’t be long, and if we were worried about anything, to press the buzzer by the bed and someone would go and get them. This all sounded perfectly reasonable to us, so we snuggled down and off they went.
About thirty seconds later, we were gripped by terror. I was four, my sister was two. Once the door was shut and my parents had gone, the reality of being alone at night in this strange place was unbearable. We started crying. I pressed the buzzer. After what seemed like ages and quite a lot of pressing, a steward appeared and told us everything was fine and we should go back to sleep. He left. Still scared, I pressed the buzzer again. For a very long time no one came, so I carried on. Eventually the steward came back and shouted, ‘If you press that buzzer once more, the ship will sink and your mummy and daddy will drown.’ I didn’t stop pressing and Mum and Dad didn’t drown, they came back from dinner to find us bawling.
At four years old I learnt an important lesson: grown-ups lie.
3 PET SOUNDS
I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free.
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
My sister and I were quite feral little girls. We weren’t like girls at all for a few years, quite unemotional, verging on cruel. We had a dog called Candy. She was a white Yorkshire terrier and she ate her own poo. Her breath smelt. After she had an operation (so she couldn’t have puppies), she lay in her basket trying to chew the scab off her wound. I suppose we all do that in a way.
My sister and I taught Candy to sleep on her back, tucked up under a blanket with her front paws peeping over the top. On Guy Fawkes Night we dressed her up in a bonnet and a long white dress (one of our christening gowns), sat her in a doll’s pushchair and wheeled her round Muswell Hill Broadway asking for ‘a penny for the guy’. We didn’t get much, but that wasn’t the point.
We got bored with Candy quite quickly and stopped taking her for walks. The only time we called out ‘Walkies!’ and rattled her lead was when we couldn’t get her in from the back garden at night. Eventually she caught on and wouldn’t come in at all.
One day somebody put an anonymous note through our door, ‘You don’t know me but I know your poor little dog…’ Telling us off for being mean to Candy. We gave her away.
We had a cat too, Tippy. We used to build traps for her in the garden. We would dig a pit, cover it with leaves and twigs, then wait for her to fall into it, which of course she never did. So we tried to push her in instead. She ran away.
Lastly we had three goldfish, Flamingo, Flipper and Ringo, all from the local fair. Flamingo died after a few days, Flipper died a couple of weeks later and was eaten by Ringo. Ringo had a nervous breakdown (no doubt guilty about eating Flipper) and started standing on his head at the bottom of the fish tank for hours at a time. Eventually I couldn’t stand it any more so I flushed him down the loo. When the bowl cleared, he was still there, standing on his head. It took lots of flushes to get rid of him. That image of Ringo on his head at the bottom of the loo still haunts me.
Copyright © 2014 by Viv Albertine