“Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I’m both.”
It’s always a treat when you discover a writer who has the ability to unfold a narrative which is equal parts funny, exciting, and excruciatingly honest. When I picked up Viv Albertine’s Clothes Music Boys at the beginning of January, I was presented with all of this, and more.
I watched the BBC documentary ‘Girl In a Band’ and she’d featured amongst the other talented female musicians on the programme. I knew she was the guitarist for The Slits, but after reading her memoir, I discovered she was much more than that; she was a grafter, a trail-blazer, a survivor.
Whenever I read a book, I ink small black stars next to lines I think are funny, useful, or poetic. Below are a small collection of lines I encountered in Clothes Music Boys. Enjoy Albertine’s words, and buy her magnificent memoir.
“At four years old I learnt an important lesson: grown-ups lie.”
On vinyl: “Now everything’s changed: I’ve found the meaning of life, hidden in the grooves of a flat black plastic disc.”
“I didn’t aspire to be a musician – there wasn’t that equality at the time, it was inconceivable that a girl could cross over in to male territory and be in a band.”
“Shitting and bleeding…any potential boyfriend, anyone who fancies me, please skip this bit…”
“Having periods changed my personality: from the first one onwards I was resentful and angry inside, I felt cheated and I knew to the core of my being that life was unfair and boys had it easier than girls.
“A burning ball of anger and rebelliousness started to grow within me. It’s fuelled a lot of my work.”
“Fantasising about Marc Bolan (or any pop star) was a great way to discover your sexuality, a safe way in.”
“Whatever its genre, a good song is a good song.”
“Every cell in my body was steeped in music, but it never occurred to me that I could be in a band, not in a million years…”
On Patti Smith: “I have never seen a girl who looks like this. She is my soul made visible, all the things I hide deep inside myself that can’t come out….I don’t want to dress like her or copy her style; she gives me the confidence to express myself in my own way.”
“Listening to ‘Horses’ unlocks an idea for me – girls’ sexuality can be on their own terms, for their own pleasure or creative work, not just for exploitation or to get a man.”
On John Lydon: “He’s sending a very powerful message, the most powerful message anyone can ever transmit. Be yourself.”
“I care what people think about me to the point of despair, am over-sensitive to criticism and lacking in self-confidence but I don’t let my negative feelings stop me from doing stuff.”
“Men look at me and they are confused, they don’t know whether they want to fuck me or kill me. This sartorial ensemble really messes with their heads. Good.”
“That should be written on my gravestone. ‘She was scared. But she went anyway’.”
“I’m not the nice, balanced, well-behaved grown-up they thought I was. I’m a nutter.”
“No matter how silly you feel or uncool you look, no matter how small that voice inside you is, that voice telling you something isn’t right: listen to it.”
“There are two kinds of people in the ‘punk’ scene. There are the psychopathic, nihilistic extremists and careerists, who are very confident because they have no fear, lack empathy and don’t care what others think of them. The second kind are drawn to the scene by the ideas…”
“I think you can get a bit addicted to people and often these piss-takers are good fun to hang around with. In the end, the ‘relationship’ isn’t worth the damage that’s done to your self-respect, though.”
On running: “With the salty wind on my face, feet pounding on the shingle, Kate Bush, The Hounds Of Love, on my iPod, new thoughts enter my head”
“This man can’t give me back my self. No man can. They can only reflect my anxiety, my confusion and my insecurity, straight back at me. I’ve got to rebuild myself on my own. Bollocks.”