Top critical review
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An endless catalogue of hypocrisy and ingratitude, but still a good read.
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.