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on 1 June 2014
Having recently hit the big 50 I have become big on rekindling links to my lost youth. I bought this book for the nostalgia tales: The Slits (very underrated band); punk; and Ms Albertine's friendships with Sid and Johnny, Joe and Mick. This part of the book (Side One) was fascinating - I never know punk London was so small - virtually every punk anyone appears - along with some surprises, including: Neneh Cherry and Chrissie Hynde.

The revelation of the book is Ms Albertine's marvelous writing and Side Two of her volume (life after The Slits). This is the most engrossing part of the book - the struggle for her health and against the perils of life make for a great read. Even this cynical reviewer was both moved and inspired.
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on 2 December 2014
Viv Albertine's book is the Saving Private Ryan of punk memoirs! Gritty, visceral and painfully honest it is a no holds barred account of life at the raw edge of the punk rock scene and her life thereafter. She describes her life as a struggling female artist in what was a very male dominated world with sparkle and great humour. She paints a very accurate picture of 70s London, which although a total dump was also a fun, scary place to be and her stories had me laughing and crying in equal measure, as well as biting my nails at the graphic honesty of some accounts. Sex and drugs and rock and roll is written large throughout this book for sure, but what sets her book apart from other memoirs I have read is the beating heart at the centre of the story. In particular her obvious affection and love towards Sid Vicious brings an alternative personal spin to a sordid and tragic story and really made me think. So many others from that era have passed on and Viv takes time to pay tribute to many of them. She comes across as both vulnerable and tough as nails at the same time, a real survivor who is still carving an individual creative path for herself today. Viv has a gripping writing style and her accounts of the characters, famous and infamous whom she has met along the way are funny and moving at the same time. A must read for anyone interested in the music of this era and indeed anyone who wants to read a fascinating life story which is tragic and funny in equal measure.
Well done Viv this book is my read of the year!
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on 11 September 2014
Quite literally. Viv doesn't shy away from all manner of bodily fluids, functions and infestations. Some people might consider it TMI, but it only reinforces how honest and unflinching she is. It's far more than just a punk rock memoir (in fact, her time in The Slits - her 15 minutes of fame - has been dealt with before we're halfway through), It's also about the need to stay true to yourself - to stay creative and to reject convention even when middle-aged and weighed down with life's usual trappings. Viv has been fighting all her life - against sexism, gender expectations, a treacherous womb and the Big C - and she's won every time. It's an inspiring story. At the end, you feel you almost know her well enough to say "hello" - and maybe point her at some slightly more reliable men. I loved it and was inspired enough to decide not to give up on my own creative endeavours.
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on 14 September 2014
This is undoubtedly the best book I have read in the last ten years. Every chapter had me hooked; I literally couldn't put the book down. A really honest account of one woman's remarkable life.Reading this book could change your life, it has already changed mine as I am now learning the guitar at 51.Real inspirational story, it had me laughing out loud, smiling from ear to ear and sobbing in tears.
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on 2 June 2014
I saw the Slits on the White Riot tour and again on their own tour. But I knew they would be something as soon as I saw a photo. Just as I had with the Pistols and the Clash. Punk was like that. You either recognised it and went for it or you came along later when it was safe. 16 and stuck in Yorkshire, gay and knowing I was an outsider because of that the Slits sent a message to me as powerfully as the Pistols. You can be exactly who you wish to be. Right now. Albertine humorously lists the key punk sections at the beginning of the book as well as an honest declaration of why she thinks people write autobiographies and why she wrote this. It set the tone for the book and had me grinning from the off. Didn't put the book down after that unless I absolutely had to. Yes, the account of the punk period is fascinating. Good to hear from someone who was at the epicentre about the energy and the personalities now that the cliches, tired tall tales and empty chest beating is what we are usually presented with.
However, the book does not slump once the Slits are out of the picture. She continues to write about rediscovering herself in the aftermath, through marriage and fought for motherhood into the rekindling of her clearly creative spirit latterly. All the while the prose is considered and the sentiments frank.
If only more people were so honest about themselves. There is a counterfeit honesty that many writers of autobiographies use to hide in plain sight. For someone who admits to doubt and insecurity Albertine hides from nothing.
A valuable, precious book that I really do think everyone would benefit from reading, particularly as we are now entrenched in a culture of manufactured reality.
Cut remains to me one of the best records made. This book too is essential.
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A confession. I'd never heard of Viv Albertine, nor was I familiar with the music of The Slits, and when I bought this book I did so off the back of the many excellent reviews I'd read. Would I enjoy the autobiography of someone I knew nothing about?

It's an excellent book, told in shockingly honest prose (there were times I winced!) and it's utterly compelling. The first half tells the story of her childhood, youth, and her time in The Slits. Famous names come and go - Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Mick Jones to name but three - and it's hugely entertaining, if often bleak. The second half focuses on life after The Slits, through Viv's attempts to have a child, her faltering fortunes, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the often harrowing story of her marriage to a man who initially sounded perfect. I know this sounds depressing, but the way Viv tells the story is superb, and by the end I felt as though I wanted to give her a hug and thank her for writing this excellent book.

One of the best things I've read in 2014.
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on 1 July 2014
As most of the other reviewers here have already stated, this is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read and I did not want it to end. (I even put the book down for a day, because I wanted to postpone the painful inevitability of having no more Viv Albertine words to read.) It's a wonderful book on so many levels--an inside look at the creation of punk; wildly interesting portraits of friends such as Mick Jones (who comes off as a sweetheart--wish he'd write a book too), Johnny Thunders, and Sid Vicious; ordinary stuff about what it's like to be a woman, but told in such an appealing, signature way; and a message that there are second acts in life (and third and fourth acts too--Albertine's intriguing performance in the Joanna Hogg film Exhibition led me to this book). And her priceless Vincent Gallo encounter, described so hilariously by Albertine, is just icing on the cake.
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on 2 June 2015
As I read the first few chapters of this book I began to like Viv immensely. As it wore on I liked her less and less, to the point where by the final chapter I couldn’t wait to see the back of her. It was like shutting the front door behind an annoying, outstayed guest.

Her lack of self awareness is breathtaking, as she constantly uses feminism to justify her own laziness, selfishness and immaturity. She considers herself disadvantaged on account of her gender despite her music career and life in general reading like an endless red carpet of male chivalry and benevolence. If Viv ever reciprocates any these favours she certainly doesn’t document them - there is barely a single act of kindness towards anyone else in the entire book. And despite this she has the nerve to quote the expression, “Behind every good woman is a man trying to hold her back.”

A bit of perspective - the Slits were gifted a support slot on one of the hottest tours in the UK at the time (the Clash) simply because Viv ‘s (repeatedly cheated on) boyfriend was Mick Jones. This despite her being so inept a musician that she was unable to tune her own guitar and needed a man to do it for her. The band were then given a contract with Island because the singer’s mum knew Chris Blackwell. When you compare this to the thousands and thousands of talented, hard working musicians who graft away for years before they achieve any exposure, if at all, it is hard to understand how someone so privileged can feel sorry for herself.

Again and again and again we are told that girls simply couldn’t join bands and that it was a possibility nobody had ever considered. Really? Mo Tucker had joined the Velvet Underground in 1965, 11 years before Viv bought her first guitar! And what about Goldie and the Gingerbreads, Janice Joplin, Joan Baez, the Dandy Girls, the Debutantes, Malvina Reynolds, the Cimmats, the Liverbirds, the Tremelons, the Ladybugs, Laura Nyro, the Beat Chics, the Butterfiles, Joni Mitchell, the Cheetas, Bonnie Raitt etc...they were all doing exactly what Viv thinks she was barred from long before she decided she was the Rosa Parks of rock music.

And on it goes. When she carelessly gets pregnant and self-servingly aborts the baby she even manages to paint this as an act of female heroism, comparing an abortion to men’s experiences of fighting in wars: “We don’t need to fight in wars, we have nothing to prove... I’ve killed a baby.” Yes she really did compare the harrowing terror that 16 year old boys faced in WWI to her own hedonistic fecklessness.

She has never watched porn because it objectifies women (how does she know if she’s never watched it?) but then prints a picture of a good looking man with the caption, “You would wouldn’t you?” Her capacity for double standards really is spectacular.

As I waded through the self pity of her marriage breakdown I found myself saying aloud, “Just get a job you silly cow.” Because of course this bastion of equality didn’t work throughout her entire marriage: “I want my marriage to work. Hubby works long hours so one of us has to compromise our career and I’m happy for it to be me. “ The upshot: he honoured the deal, she didn’t, she got the house, she’s still the victim. Honestly I’m not making this up, it’s all in the book.

Despite all of this I would still recommend this book, not just as an interesting account of the punk scene from someone who was at the heart of it, but because it is a bloody good read. It flows effortlessly and most of it is superbly written. I really wanted to like Viv Albertine, but my overwhelming feeling at the end was one of outright pity for that poor sod who married her.
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on 9 October 2014
Even my husband who normally doesnt like stuff like this couldnt put it down. I bought a couple of Slits singles when I was about 13 - which was all I could manage as they *are* an aquired taste ("Typical Girls" is a post-punk classic though) but I always could see their 'influence'. Love Viv - she is so funny and honest. But she was so mean to Mick Jones! Bad Viv! I have always been interested in any punk 'history' although its been done to death and much repeated by those involved - but this is why this book is so good as she goes deeper in to it all rather than banging on about the usuall stuff like the Bill Grundy ding-dong, etc etc etc - And the second half is just as absorbing. Highly recommended.
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on 28 May 2015
I'm always look out for books on the punk era so was looking forward to this (as I love clothes as well). The punk years are for me very interesting as she writes from a down to earth and honest perspective. The story's about her involvement with Keith Levene, Mick Jones, Sid Vicious and John Lydon were mostly new to me a great to read despite getting a few dates muddled/wrong (I'm read too many Pistols books). The Slits years was also great as I knew only a little about it and had never read the perspective of a band member. Though the later Slits years of 'Earthbeat' etc is curiously brief and lacking in detail as the band just seems to drift apart. As Viv is a feminist this crops up a lot, it wasn't unexpected but after a while it seems that every negative male interaction with Viv/The Slits is down to sexism. Most bands seem to have suffered people attempting to control them and their output no matter what sex they were (Pistols and the Clash included). Her dealings with Palmolive is a case in point - Viv demands that Palmolive wears a bra whilst drumming as it makes the band look bad with her breast bouncing about, had that comment come from a man what would Viv had said. Likewise the sacking of Palmolive, had a man suggested she be sacked I expect Viv would have said it was because "he couldn't control her wild female spirit and didn't understand her feminine rhythm's". Whereas Viv sacked her because she wasn't that good a drummer and couldn't play in time. The word 'masculine' crops of in the book a few times and always in a prejorative way.

The last third of the book details her post Splits life - work, relationships, IVF, baby, ressurection etc. Viv is actually older than I thought but throughout the book see somes across as strangely immature with a mix of arrogance and large helpings of self-doubt. The problem is she can't seem to see how priviliged she is - having opportunities many people, let alone women, would just love to have. Financially comfortable (including daughter at private school - boo!), a big network of friends (the beautiful/cool sort), people who care for and want to interact and encourage her. She ludicrously describes herself as "unemployable". But she can't seem to see this, like many people her head is her own worst enemy. Again she see's her husbands dislike of her getting back into music through feminist eye's, when I'm sure they're plenty if women out there who've expressed the same opinion to their male partner and for a whole variety of reasons which Viv hasn't bothered exploring.

My final problem with the book is it is written in present tense and the views she expresses are at the time of the event. Sometimes she adds footnotes in italics as to her current thinking. The problem is some of her thoughts/feelings at the time of the event sound more like her feelings now so it can make it a bit of a confusing narrative. From watching interviews with Viv I thought she was warm, self-deprecative and funny but this book shines a whole new light on her. I applaud Viv on her honesty but someone needs to give her a regular shake and make her write a 'gratitude list'.
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