Monday, September 22, 2014


The Slits cut their own path and muddied the waters with the untypical sound of this punky reggae party.  The quartet was formed during the first wave of London punk in 1976 by Ari Up (Ariane Forster) and Palmolive (Paloma Romero),  Kate Korus and Suzy Gutsy.  Korus came up with the name The Slits.  Gutsy left to form The Flicks and was replaced by Tessa Pollitt from The Castrators.  Viv Albertine, Palmolive's former bandmate from The Flowers of Romance, was brought in to play the part of a second guitarist; but Korus left the group just before The Slits went on the road with the Clash on their White Riot tour.  As the band built a reputation for their live shows, they appeared on The Peel Session in 1977 and again in 1978.  They also were included in Don Lett's The Punk Rock Movie.  All the while, they held off on signing a record contract, waiting for a deal that would allow them creative control.  By the time they inked a deal with Island Records at the end of 1978, Palmolive had moved on to form The Raincoats and been replaced by Budgie (Peter Clarke) from The Spitfire Boys.  

The sessions for 'Cut' took place at Ridge Farm Studios in spring 1979 with legendary dub reggae producer Dennis Bovell and featured  Ari Up on vocals;  Viv Albertine on guitar;  Tessa Pollitt on bass guitar;  and Budgie on drums;  with Dennis Bovell providing sound effects.  The sound was markedly different from what had come across on the Peel Sessions.  

Viv Albertine reveals:  "We were all virgins when it came to composing and writing, but we liked the ideology of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood: always questioning things. That fed into our music. We knew we were a first, which could be uncomfortable, and we were much more revolutionary than the Pistols and the Clash. They were rock bands, whereas we were using world music and reggae, filtered through our own musicality.    We were like a female Spinal Tap, really: we argued, toured and wanted to make a classic album that never dated. Island, our label, got Dennis Bovell to produce it. They said he had very broad musical knowledge – he liked everything from white rock to reggae, which sounded perfect. We were also drawing on other influences: our favourite album was Dionne Warwick Sings Burt Bacharach, which we deconstructed. My guitar style was based on the anonymous guitarist on that.   So in the spring of 1979, we were dispatched to Ridge Farm in Surrey. Dennis was trapped with all these girls! He and Ari [Forster, singer] were very strict. I'd only been playing for 18 months and was with these control freaks. I often went to bed in tears, wondering what humiliation waited for me the next day, what weaknesses would be revealed in my playing. When I was playing Newtown, they kept saying: 'You're not getting it.' By the end, I was so furious I just thrashed at the guitar and made strange noises. Over the intercom came: 'That was fantastic!'    Dennis corralled us into shape and tidied up all the ends, but without trampling on creativity. It was so rare for a man in the 1970s to put himself inside the heads and hearts of four crazy young women. Budgie [Peter Clarke, drummer] also helped pull it all together. Ari was very communicative about how things should sound and Budgie could take that from a girl who was 17. He had a feminine sensibility. They were extraordinary men to come across. Ari, in her German-Jamaican accent, would tell them exactly what she wanted from the hi-hat.   The album cover was shot in the rose garden. We wanted a warrior stance, to be a tribe. We were egging each other on, and the next thing you know we were sitting in the mud, smearing it over each other. We knew, since we had no clothes on, that we had to look confrontational and hard. We didn't want to be inviting the male gaze."

 Ari Up would consider:   "For me, I grew up with every music you could possibly think of because my whole entire family was music. We were all into music, so I had heard everything but nothing touched me like reggae. Reggae spoke to me, so personally that was it for me. That was the thing I could relate to most out of everything..No one could even understand what we were doing...Our people, musicians loved it. John Peel loved it. Our people, our circle of people liked it and understood it for the most. But that’s just a few people, a handful of people...When you set the pace, when you’re thirty years ahead of time they will find out soon. Most of the respect comes from musicians...There’s a lot of humour in The Slits. That’s just us, a reflection of our personalities...People still try to label us and I try to say 'OK if you have to label us we’re punky reggae'. We started punky reggae with a couple of other people, The Clash, Public Image. A couple of people who did punky reggae. If we are to be labelled then that’s it, but we don’t fit in obviously with that category. No one even knows what punky reggae really is. There’s very few who know us. We’re still totally out of place, put it that way...We were never about fun. Even back in the day. Nothing was ever fun, it was about a revolution. The Slits hit back it’s already feeling like a revolution, it’s always like that with The Slits. We’re just trying to get out there, to the public. To find our people out of it, to find our public. Only certain people seem to understand what we’re doing. People who note only understand what we’re doing but can really relate to having this type of music in their life...[something universal]...That’s true. That’s good, it’s supposed to be like that. We’re like that. We’re ageless and timeless, a multi-cultural hybrid. Universal creatures. We’re all Jah’s animals!" 

 'Cut' made it to number thirty on the UK album chart.  The cover featuring  Albertine, Tessa Pollitt,  and Up in only mud and loincloths raised more than eyebrows. 

"Instant Hit"

"Typical Girls"

full album:

All tracks written by Viv Albertine, Tessa Pollitt, Ariane Forster (aka Ari Up) and Paloma Romero (aka Palmolive), except where noted.

Side one
"Instant Hit" – 2:43
"So Tough" – 2:41
"Spend, Spend, Spend" – 3:18
"Shoplifting" – 1:39
"FM" – 3:35
Side two
"Newtown" – 3:48
"Ping Pong Affair" – 4:16
"Love und Romance" – 2:27
"Typical Girls" – 3:57
"Adventures Close to Home" – 3:28
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield)

The Punk Rock Movie

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