“There are very few genuine heroines in the music scene,” says Mike sat next to me in the Central Library as we wait for the legendary Viv Albertine to join us at Lyricull. “She was loud and very real,” I think he has a soft spot for her, just hours before he had been in hospital desperately waiting for the all clear, so he didn’t miss seeing Viv in Hull.Describing herself as being ‘music mad’ Viv talked about being inspired by Bowie, Bolan and The Kinks and upon hearing Patti Smith’s Horses, how she felt it was like her insides made physical, “…here was someone letting go publicly: sexually.”
Leading the girl punk band the Slits she says, “We weren’t out to make money but to inspire and shift things.”
When The Slits appeared on the punk scene it was shocking for many, they’d stand there with their mouths open awestruck. “We weren’t cool, we were ‘orribile girls in black plastic bags with balls, screaming and stamping like a mad pony.”
“I don’t give a f**k if I fail,” she says pointedly, “Where’s the life without risk… with that comes a hunger… you are so furious.” Speaking candidly about The Slits she described them as all being disturbed. “None of us had fathers or present mothers.” She paints a life of running riot around London alternating between playing prostitute or thug. Stories about Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Sid and Nancy, Mick Jones off of The Clash… the punk luminaries keep coming and keep the audience enthralled. It’s access all areas, including a salutary tale about the realities of catching crabs – not the sort you find on the beach – she might as well have been talking about shelling peas.
“If you aren’t different or better, to what’s happening don’t bother,” Surprisingly Viv says she hardly listens to music anymore…preferring the sound of silence. “Music is no longer a radical medium,” she suggests.
I wish I’d asked Viv about her feelings towards Pussy Riot, the balaclava-clad punk band who insulted the Russian Orthodox Church with the performance inside the Moscow cathedral, imploring the Virgin Mary to be a feminist and imprison Putin. I do think some music can still be radical, and change things in society, I bloody well hope so.
Viv Albertine stayed on to sign copies of her award-winning memoir for a string of adoring fans one who said:
So warm, so inclusive. Feels like one of the gang! Even signed a book for my best friend Helen who I used to dance to Typical Girls with as a teen while her parakeet flew around her bedroom. Viv drew Hester the parakeet. Above & beyond xXx