Monday, 9 June 2014

Still hooked on Viv Albertine's book!

Found these photos that I took of Viv Albertine at Strummerville festival, in 2010. I remember it was such a lovely festival feeling - hot bright sun and excitement. I was so giddy to rush down the front to hear Viv sing, the first time I'd ever heard her.

I blogged then:

She was great, such humourous lyrics, and a really unique approach to songwriting, lots of personality and a mission to make statements were bound up in things. It was just her and her Fender guitar and her quiet seemed more powerful than a full band. So true. I have seen Viv play live since, and those feelings were reinforced.

I've been so engrossed in Viv's book the last week or so. I ended up staying up till gone 1am one night, unable to move or put the book down. It's so zippy and so packed full of feelings and experiences. Viv-id!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, by Viv Albertine

Thanks to Faber Social for putting on a good show at the Lexington last night. It was the launch of Viv Albertine's new rock autobiography, Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys. You could order a gig ticket + the book beforehand, then collect your copy of the book at the venue on the night, which I thought was fun. Free badges and postcards to pack into your free tote bag too - and I also came away with a pair of Viv-style stripy tights, which was a nice touch.

I expected to see an absurd vision in a darkened gig room of squinting old punks, poring over pages of her lively verse, as we awaited Viv's arrival on stage.

I'm sad to report that Viv had to leave the venue, an hour before stage-time, due to some sad personal news, and understandably having to head off. It was an emotional thing to be party to. John Robb, who made an announcement, worked hard to keep the night one of celebrating Viv. Old friends, boyfriends and rock colleagues gathered on stage to give fans an insight into Viv.

Tessa Pollitt (bandmate, who'd done some stonking dub/reggae DJing through the evening), producer Dennis Bovell, an old school friend, and Viv's first boyfriend (!) all stepped up on stage to reveal fond and funny stories and anecdotes. I'm hazy now, and regret not jotting down notes afterwards - maybe I'll add anything that comes back. But I remember there was also a lot of stuff about The Slits, some of which even our compere, the punk expert/musician/music journalist John Robb seemed to be hearing for the first time. My personal favourite was hearing how the band had secretly 'borrowed' a mixing deck from Yes when they were on tour away from the studio, and Ari Up got a pen knife and etched ARI WOZ HERE onto the pristine mohogany wood! Insight from their producer, the dub legend Dennis Bovell was really valuable too - how excellent the band were as musicians despite what anyone wants to say about them nowadays; how long-established musicians struggled to learn to play their bass parts, and how unique Viv's guitar playing style was. It was also good to hear it be emphasised that the Slits were a punk band - not post-punk, as they get mis-labelled - they were there all along, young and in the thick of it all with the key bands involved.

I can't begin to imagine how tough things are for Viv right now. But I wanted to write up this blog as planned, to say what a good night Faber Social put on in difficult circumstances, and now also to say how sad I am to hear Viv's news. I hope she gets to take the time she needs, and all her fans will - I'm sure - totally understand her need for perhaps not going on with any promotional activities or anything right now. But here is to the book's success, as Viv is a lively, vocal, much-needed inspiration, and in Viv's word's rock biographies tend only to be written 'by twats', and generally only by men too.

Animals That Swim, Pullover, Abuse fanzine, and the spirit of 90s indie

Thoroughly enjoying creased up old issues of Abuse indie fanzine from the mid 90s lately - tatty old, black and white Xeroxed pages, heavy on typed cut and paste text and messily pasted backgrounds, only one staple in the top left-hand corner - nostalgia!

I remembered Animals That Swim again, and put them on as I read the fanzines, excited as a kid at Christmas. I bought one single at the time. But I do have one album that I came across in more recent years, the one that has the brilliant Faded Glamour on it, a classic indie song.

Their album Workshy sounds fantastic too. Particularly enjoy Pink Carnations (maybe ignoring the lyric about the big white turkey) and Smooth Steps. I miss that sophisticated, lyrical, wistful kind of indie that the 1990s produced a lot of. Whipping Boy and Jack were other bands of that ilk, also sadly missed by me.

I also marvelled at a Pullover interview in Abuse fanzine, as few shards of this sublime pop band survive. I have written about Pullover in the paper 'zine of this blog, they are a sadly lost, forever-to-be-treasured, indie-pop band of the mid 90s. I am still besotted with their pop songs, and I cherish the 7" singles of theirs that I have. I felt a bit of a pang to see the band's home address (a flat in Camden - but they're back in Manchester now, I think) 18 years too late. And the fanzine editor had a demo tape of their album - never released, to this day - which I really do not wish to exit the world without ever hearing!

Reading about the 90s indie gig scene again feels strange. It seems like such a small world now. And the spirit so different - the unabashed enthusiasm and rallying for little bands and challenging the music press status quo. Also the power that fanzines had to make new bands - they were useful and focal outlets and bands took the writers seriously as such forces for the good. The internet and digital music and all that goes with it - plus the lack of power/centrality to any kind of music press now - make things so much bigger, more out-there, less defined; not to mention how carefully corporate and hegemonic things have become in that dilution process. Even just reading about it now, in those battered, photocopied pages, it gives a real sense of how it felt like a community, one big exuberant party, involving a small number of specific little scrappy venues, that we'll never see the like of again.