Viv Albertine: Clothes, Music, Boys

If you haven’t read it yet – what have you been doing?

Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, is a masterpiece. It is a story of growing up different, adventure, experiment, doubtful self-confidence, and the misogyny that even afflicted punk rock, liberated though it may have been in so many other ways. If you still put out a Xmas stocking, suitably ripped and torn, this should be in it.

One of the highlights of the book explains the guitar part on Newtown:

I stand alone in the darkened studio. Everyone else is up high in the control room. Dennis’s disembodied voice comes booming through my headphones, with Ari excitedly shouting instructions in the background. I try with all my might to concentrate and get the part right. I get a few bars into the song but the tape stops abruptly. ‘You went out of time on the beginning of the intro, I’ll drop you in,’ says Dennis. I count the bars until I have to come in and start playing just as before, so I’m up to speed then I’m dropped into the track. I’m completely focused on the task, absolutely determined to get it right this time. Phew, did it. The tape stops. ‘You were a fraction early. Try again.’ I can’t believe it, seemed all right to me. I try again. On and on it goes. We spend half an hour on the first few bars of the song. I want to cry but hold it in. I honestly don’t know what to do differently. I’ve lost all my self-confidence, all sense of judgement. I keep playing and replaying the part, not knowing what on earth to do to make it better. They play the tape for about the twentieth time, I flip. I thrust at my guitar furiously, not caring about timing, chords or tuning, I just smash my hand over the open strings, I run out of steam and stop. I wait for them to tell me off for losing my cool. ‘That was brilliant! Don’t stop! Do it again!’ And that’s how the guitar part of ‘Newtown’ comes about.

(Dennis is Dennis Bovell, of course.)

Here are my mystified memories of seeing the Slits and the Banshees in Croydon.

And here is the wonderful Flowers of Romance tree, which documents it all.

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