Viv Albertine Clothes Music Boys

Out today is the paperback edition of Viv Albertine’s Clothes Music Boys, the memoir formerly known as Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys – a title that several outlets apparently frowned upon, some using it as an excuse not to stock the book.

I preferred the original title myself but I thought it was a good idea to call a post of mine A Former Dreamboy & A Former Dancing Pig Discuss Punk, Doctor Who & Independence. Bet I’d have had more hits if I had mentioned Craig Ferguson and Ian Rankin by name.

I digress. Again.

Voted music book of the year by The Sunday Times, The Hollywood Reporter and Mojo (and this blog too) as well as making a lengthy stay in the non-fiction bestseller lists in Britain, Clothes Music Boys is written with a searing honesty, with its author unafraid to admit to a string of contradictions in her personality. Albertine also demonstrates a willingness to reveal the kind of details that most autobiographies are happy to ignore.

One example of this is the unflinching way she writes about close friendships: for instance, in 1976, together with Vivienne Westwood, she visits Sid Vicious, her former flatmate, former bandmate and someone she obviously adores, when he is imprisoned in Ashford Remand Centre, accused of throwing a glass that hit a female punk fan at the 100 Club in London – the girl losing her sight in one eye as a result of the incident. Sid is depressed and scared of his fellow inmates, who he clearly believes are more vicious than him. He assures his visitors that he is innocent and pleads with them to do all they can to help get him out.

Luckily for poor Sid, the charges against him are eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence. No one can really say for sure who threw the glass.

A year later Viv tells us that he admits to her that it was him.

Uniquely for a bio from a central character of the punk era, CCCMMMBBB not only manages to remain fascinating after the part of the subject’s life that I thought would hold the most interest to me – in this case her time as a Flower of Romance and the early days of The Slits – it gets even better in what Viv calls Side Two, where she teaches aerobics, studies film, undertakes IVF treatment, is diagnosed with cervical cancer and eventually, decades after selling her guitar, makes the decision in her 50s to relearn the instrument and relaunch herself as a musician.

The fact that her autobiography has been such a success must be very pleasing for Viv as her solo album from 2012, The Vermilion Border, was ignored by many critics and also underrated by some of the others who did bother to review it. I think it’s one of the finest releases of recent years.

From it, this is Viv with Confessions of a Milf:

 
In her book, Viv mentions meeting Gareth Sager from The Pop Group at Glastonbury, where they run about in the mud and Gareth laughs a lot and says surreal things.

‘Gareth,’ she later explains, ‘is into free jazz and introduces me to music by Ornette Coleman, Dollar Brand, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Don Cherry. Even though he’s a really exciting and proficient musician, Gareth thinks tuning and timing are really arbitrary restrictions – passion and ideas are much more important.’

The Pop Group, as you may already know, are just about to release their first album in 35 years. Citizen Zombie is out on Freaks R Us on Monday, February 23rd.

Judging by the single, Mad Truth, the passion and ideas are still as important as ever to Gareth and the band. According to vocalist Mark Stewart: ‘Even I am shocked by the album. It really flips the script. Expect the unexpected. Let the freak flag fly.’

Bet Viv Albertine loves this. Directed by the wonderful Asia Argento this is Mad Truth:

 
For my 2012 interview with Viv Albertine, click here:

For Viv Albertine’s Facebook page, click here and for the official Pop Group site, click here.

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