Earthbeat

Local bands often have the best names. There’s a pub I drive past on the way to work which is advertising gigs by upcoming groups including Mustard, Gin Pit and T.V.O.D, all of which are great names. I have no desire to see these bands play and accept that they are probably just pub covers bands. In my head they are something else entirely, fully fleshed out with members, songs and background, ready to change the world. Another pub, now demolished, a mile up the road had a chalkboard that stayed up on the outside for months after it closed promoting Kim Jung Ill and Chineapple Punks. Unfortunately not on the same night.

The Slits is one of the great band names. It’s a strange thing that given that almost every album ever made has been re-issued and is more or less constantly available, in double pack with b-sides and Peel Sessions and/or triple or coloured vinyl special editions, that their second album is unavailable and has been since a 2006 re-issue. Return Of The Giant Slits was released in 1981 and was a sidestep on from the punky energy of their debut- it’s more groove based, pinned down by Bruce Smith’s drums, allowing Tessa, Ari and Viv to explore African rhythms and a more laid back approach. Earthbeat was the album’s opener and a single and seems early 80s compared to the very ’77 sounds of Cut.

Earthbeat

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Man Next Door

More dubbed out wonder for the first day of June. Man Next Door was the third single from The Slits and shows them moving deeper into dub territory and away from the punkier sound of Cut. Released in 1980 Man Next Door is a cover of a John Holt tune and produced by Adrian Sherwood. Tessa Pollitt was unwell so the bass was played by Ari Up and the whole session was done at short notice, Sherwood calling to say they had a couple of hours if they could come now. Drums were played by a man called Cecil and according to Viv Albertine they didn’t  know his surname and never saw him again. On the B-side Sherwood twisted the song into further abstract dub shapes which is what you’re getting here.

Man Next Door (Version)

In Granada

Joe Strummer fell in love with Granada in Spain, visiting first with girlfriend Palmolive, drummer of the Slits. He returned there often including spending time there in 1984, sheltering from the fall out of sacking Mick Jones and taking The Clash Mk II on the road, when these pictures were taken. He continued to visit for the rest of his life. In May last year he had a square named after him- Plaza de Joe Strummer. He also produced local local punk band 091, who he first heard on a jukebox in a bar. Like Joe’s hi-tops I’m not sure they’ve dated very well.

Complete Control was released 37 years ago yesterday. Complete Control, written to complain about the record company and Bernard Rhodes (who told the band he wanted ‘complete control’, who then pissed themselves laughing). Complete Control vies with (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais and Bankrobber as the greatest non-album single The Clash made. The original version was produced by Lee Scratch Perry and then remixed by Mick Jones.

This live version is one of the most exciting things you will ever see or hear.

‘I don’t trust you, so do you trust me?’
‘You’re my guitar hero’

Giant Return

I’m interrupting the run of clothes themed posts today but, don’t worry,  they’ll be back.

The Slits second album, 1981’s Return Of The Giant Slits, is a step on from Cut. Full of African sounds alongside their Jamaican interests it lacks the clearly post-punkiness of their debut but takes in a wider variety of sounds and is fuller, wider, worldlier (and WOMADier). It is also less scratchy, less sought after, less celebrated. Return… was produced, like Cut, by dub reggae man Dennis Bovell. It seems very much less ’79 and more ’81. It is also, as far as I can tell, out of print here and has been for some time. Second hand copies on popular internet selling and auction sites are offered at anywhere between twenty-two pounds and fifty-nine pounds. Uh?!

Luckily, if you can put up with Youtube’s lo-fi uploads, it is available for listening to.

Tracklist…
Earthbeat
Or What It Is?
Face Place
Walk About
Difficult Fun
Animal Space/Spacier
Improperly Dressed
Life On Earth

Fade Away Again

After The Slits broke up Ari Up sang maybe her best vocal take on this 1981 New Age Steppers cover of the Junior Byles song Fade Away (posted recently both here and at Jim McLean’s Rabbit). New Age Steppers were Ari, dub maestro Adrian Sherwood, his Creation Rebels and a rotating cast/collective of like minded musicians.  They were also the first release on Sherwood’s On-U Sound label- some of their dub is deliberately harsh and abrasive, confrontational. Fade Away is a dubbed out delight from start to finish.

Fade Away

I Heard It Through The Bassline

The Bagging Area Slits-fest continues with this astonishing piece of live footage from Berlin in 1981, playing Man Next Door- freeform dub live with The Pop Group’s Bruce Smith on drums, Neneh Cherry on backing vox and dancing and Ari, Viv and Tessa in full effect for eight minutes. There really was nothing else like them.

Man Next Door was originally a John Holt hit, based on a Dr Alimantado song, based on a Dennis Brown song.

As an extra I’ve been hammering this recently, their cover version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine (B-side to Typical Girls). It is the best dub-punk cover, bar none, and I have posted it before but it bears repeating. Tessa Pollitt’s bassline is out of this world- as Ari Up sings ‘I heard it through the bassline’

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Clothes Music Etc

Viv Albertine’s autobiography, Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (out now) is a brilliant read- frank and fearless and written very much in her voice (you can hear it clearly throughout). The mid-to-late 70s take up an appropriately large proportion….. Sex Pistols, The Clash, Malcolm, Subway Sect, Don Letts, Johnny Thunders, Chrissie Hynde et al but it is Viv and The Slits who are at the heart of the book and the spirit of those times as seen through her eyes- provocation, feminism, empowerment, guitars, dressing and how to present yourself but also the upfront sexism/misogyny they faced from within the music industry (from the local pub scene upwards), hostility from members of the public, violence, confrontation, spitting, and overarching it all the desire to do and be different. There’s also stained jeans, periods, sexually transmitted diseases and a sympathetic portrait of Sid Vicious. At the time of writing I’m only half way through it, so haven’t got beyond the split of The Slits yet but it’s a compelling read.

Not at all Typical Girls.