Viv Albertine is most recognized for her 70s group The Slits—an all-woman rock band borne from England’s punk scene that blends elements of revolutionary sounds, shock, fashion, and feminism. Albertine’s scope, however, goes beyond just music. Her versatility as an artist encompasses the world of paint, sculpture, film, and fashion. She is a great deal more than just a woman who once rolled alongside groups like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, hitting the bars and streets with fellas like Sid Vicious and Mick Jones and chicks like Siouxsie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde. She balls up her life’s yarn in her standout memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
Clothes… Music… Boys… doesn’t simply serve as a vehicle for nostalgia: In addition to covering Albertine’s hilarious, moving, and painful memories of growing up in England during the years following World War II, the memoir examines the stifled culture of the era that she and her peers in the punk movement revolted against. It uniquely illustrates her coming into childhood, girlhood, womanhood and, most importantly, personhood—the stage where she learns to get in touch with herself fearlessly. The book likewise catalogs the fashion trends that Albertine witnessed and participated in, especially at “the Shop”—SEX—the iconic London boutique established by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood—where Albertine picked up a pair of boots (upon Westwood’s insistence) that she proudly sports to this day.
Apart from documenting the cultural and social atmosphere of these times, Albertine’s book is extremely personal. Her narration strikes a balance of confidence and vulnerability, and the resulting voice is emboldening. Dual spirits reside in her book: one that is pensive and anxious, and the other ruthlessly bold and grounded—a dichotomy that leaves the reader feeling empowered, understood, and granted permission to trust her own instincts. Despite Albertine’s naysayers (the friend that begs her to please stop playing the guitar because she can’t bear the sounds; the OBGYN who tells her she’ll never conceive; the medical world that tells her she’ll die of cancer; the husband who says she’ll never be an artist or a soloist), her willpower does not leave room for compromise. She turns the volume up on her own inner voice. Continue reading