Book Review – “Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys” (Viv Albertine)

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

vivbook

Postcards from the hedge…

At a time when any sane fifty-something housewife and mother would be asking herself,  “Is that all there is?”, Viv Albertine shouted, “I want more!”.

In case you didn’t know, Viv Albertine was the guitarist and songwriter for the seminal British punk band The Slits. In the late 1970’s, The Slits – along with The Clash and The Sex Pistols – invented Punk music, fashion and culture. Her experiences could fill a book; and In fact, they did. In 2014, she published her critically acclaimed and award winning book,”Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys”. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and in this book, life imitates art.

With no ghost-writer in sight, Albertine leaves it all on the page and never blinks. She chronicles her experiences with masturbation, poverty, sex, Heroin, abortion, depression, sexism, cancer, marriage, motherhood, divorce and (above all) music.

Albertine’s  remembrance of the golden age of Punk (1977-1979) is loaded with grimy, mundane detail. She befriended Sid Vicious and blew Johnny Rotten. She had a three year relationship with Mick Jones of The Clash. She took guitar lessons from Keith Levene (PIL). She shot Heroin with Johnny Thunders. She dated Vincent Gallo and beat back cancer. Her life has been an extreme roller coaster ride through a gale of blood, sweat and shit. Moreover, she is clearly not done yet.

The Frank Sinatra/Sid Vicious evergreen “My Way” could have been written by Viv Albertine. Where most Rock music autobiographies obscure your view with the high gloss finish of ghost writing, co-authorship and/or over zealous copy-editing, Albertine sticks to the Punk ethos and puts her own pen to paper (warts and all). There are dodgy moments as regards syntax and punctuation. However, much like a great punk record – where passion trumps perfection – Albertine’s narrative has an edge and energy that would surely be diluted by literary precision.

If you assume the most engrossing part of the book revolves around her memoirs of London’s Punk scene, you would be dead wrong. The Punk era merely serves as preamble and allegory to the remainder of her life. Punk was about demolishing stagnant cultural forms and rebuilding from scratch. Viv Albertine not only applied this ethos to her music, but her life as well.

There’s heartbreak, humor and heroism on every page. Albertine has stated that she views her book as a self-help guide for young girls navigating the choppy waters of sexism and failure. Yes, it’s all that. But, it’s also an inspirational treatise for those of us navigating the infinitely choppier waters of ageism and mortality.

In the tired genre of the Rock Music autobiography, “Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys” (along with Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles”) stands  a world apart and miles above. A drop-dead masterpiece.

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In the clip below, the author talks about her book…..

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