This year I thought I’d do something radical and actually read the books before I went to see authors at The Edinburgh International Book Festival – there was availability and I’d already read Irvine Welsh’s latest, so I’ve almost managed to pack it all in with a good couple of weeks to go.
First up was Viv Albertine’s Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (and I won’t be typing that again…) published by Faber and Faber, which currently seems to be the rock and roll writers’ publisher.
This was pretty unputdownable (thank you Raymond Chandler, apparently, for that word,) a grown-up reflection on the years of the punk wars in the first half and a punky reflection on being a grown-up in the second half. The second half is better; Side One, as the first part is called, recounts Viv’s life until the end of The Slits and that’s all fine, plenty of stories of Ver Clash and Ver Pistols and the particularly asexual scene that hung around British punk; but Side Two is the real meat…
Side two explains what a famous(ish) musician does after the ride is over, where the upstarts are hailed as musical visionaries just before they are forgotten. In Viv’s case, she taught aerobics; learned about design and ceramics; got married; had a horrific bout with IVF; gave birth; had a horrific bout with cancer; got into a weird relationship with Vincent Gallo; ended her marriage, then had further health problems.
Over the last few years of her fifteen years of marriage, she had begun to learn to play the guitar again, snatching time throughout her housewife and mother’s day to sit in the kitchen and get sore fingers and make up new songs…a little later, driving long round trips to find pubs with open mic nights so she could try out these songs (Vivian from Hastings..,) then making an EP, then the album The Vermilion Border – after twenty-five years away from music. As I said, this is grown-up stuff.
Which is where she seems to be now, doing a few gigs and festivals this summer while out promoting this wonderful book, the voice of an honest, principled and driven individual; she’s probably a bit handy too… Nobody seems to have got her a gig in Edinburgh, which is a shame, but as ranted before, we are not in a great position for venues in the capital.
She’s at the Book Festival on Sunday 10th August. Viv’s website is here.
11 August – last night’s event was cancelled, no reason given…I hope Viv is well.