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Saturday, 12 September 2009

Typical Girls - The Slits

Zoe Street Howe's biography of legendary Punky Reggae outfit The Slits is truly wonderful and a book that needed to be written. Over time people have assumed a lot of things about The Slits and most of them are untrue. Zoe sets the record straight, or rather she allows the band themselves and those closely associated with the band to set the record straight.

I had the pleasure of seeing The Slits a number of times (supporting The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & the Banshees and as headliners) and each time I saw them live they got better and better. The first time it was totally chaotic and whilst not so gifted as musicians the energy was outstanding. Ari Up, Viv, Tessa and Palmolive were a true force to be reckoned with. It would be a couple of years after their formation before they actually put something down in the recording studio and so we lived with their John Peel Sessions for a good age. Actually Peel regarded their first session as one of his favourites of all time.

Love & Romance (Peel Session)

When they finally signed to Island Records Palmolive was gone and Budgie was brought in on the drums. The result of working with Dennis Bovell as the producer was 'Cut'. What an incredibly glorious sounding album it was. No longer was there chaotic sounds of early punk rock but a refined Reggae rawness that brought their songs to life.

The cover of course was very provocative and I'm certain if Island had had their way they would have had a very different image in mind for the band. But whilst The Slits maybe never really got their due when it came to radio or even the press, the music on 'Cut' is a testament to their willingness to grow. Some of these songs had been around for a few years but when you compare them to say the Peel Sessions they are actually miles apart.

'Typical Girls' was of course their first single. Island had wanted 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' as the A-side. The band stuck to their guns not wanting to be judged as a band that relied on cover versions to get them the success they had worked hard and long to achieve. Due to their contract with Island it was the band who had creative control and so on September 21st 1979 'Typical Girls' was released backed by 'Grapevine'.
Typical Girls Promo Video

If you get the chance to read one music biography this year I would encourage you to make it this one, 'Typical Girls: The Story of The Slits' by Zoe Street Howe (published by Omnibus).
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