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Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Slits in Los Angeles

London Punks in Los Angeles

It is winter, 1980 (November 11, to be exact) and The Slits from London are playing at the Whisky A Go Go. Their appearance drew a huge crowd including celebrities, ranging from Robin Williams, who at the time was known as "Mork from Ork" on the ABC television series, "Mork & Mindy" to Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, pictured here with Pistols road manager, Rory Johnston (hiding) and Slits guitarists Viv Albertine.

Although they were around from the beginning of punk rock time (and drummer Paloma "Palmolive" Romero's boyfriend was the man who changed his name to Joe Strummer), it wasn't until about 1978 that the Slits got themselves a record deal. Released on Island, their debut "Cut," produced by the renowned reggae record producer Dennis Bovell was more known for its sensational cover than for the band's punky reggae dub sound.

While naked girls covered in mud might sound like an appealing record cover, the group was lambasted for posing nude as they were considered fat. I don't think they're fat at all - but that was the sentiment at the time --- "how could they?" No one saw their strength or their joke in that album cover.

Slits frontwoman, Ari-Up is still quite actively making music. A funny aside - her mother Nora is married to John Lydon! That oddly makes Johnny Rotten Ari Up's step dad. When the Sex Pistols played a reunion tour in 2003, I met a young man who said Johnny Rotten was his grandfather. That freaked me out, but I learned that the kid's mom was Ari-Up, so it made a bit more sense.

A new line-up of The Slits has been playing gigs in the UK - Ari-Up is still fronting them and Tessa is still on bass.

Whenever I mention The Slits, I hear people slag them, but I think they were quite ahead of their time, and took the heat for bold moves that paved the way for other women to be called "Daring" when they were just following The Slits lead.


Alice Bag said...


I have to share this with you. I too am a big fan of the Slits and Ari Up. Recently, I found what I thought was Ari's Myspace profile and wrote a gushing fan letter to her:

Dear Miss Up,
I saw you play with the Slits in the late 70's in Los Angeles. Although I'm not really sure the exact year I saw you, I do remember your performance very well. You were and continue to be an inspiration to strong, intelligent women all over the world.

I'm 47 years old and I don't have many heroes, but you are one of them.

A few hours later I received this reply:

From: Ari-Up
Date: May 23, 2006 4:42 PM

thanks for supporting ari. we are actually two fans, i'm based in l.a. the bags are still one of my fave punk bands from l.a. (besides the weirdos, x, etc.) i hope the slits come to the southwest, wouldn't it be awesome?

peace xo

Boy, did I feel dumb!!!

Slits Fan said...

Thanks for doing a write-up on The Slits. They are my favorite band, and they are back. Check out if you haven't already.