Books: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine was guitarist with seminal all girl punk band The Slits who burned brightly but briefly with their tribal fusion sound in the late 70's.

Albertine tells her story in an engaging and achingly honest style that takes the reader through an unhappy childhood to equally unhappy middle age via the excesses and defiance of the era of punk rock and a personal battle with cancer.

'Clothes, Music, Boys' is written in the present tense so the main protagonists of Johnny Thunders, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Mick Jones come across as just mates unfettered by the moments of cultural history (and for some their demise) that would later come to define them. We learn that Sid may not have been the talentless idiot that Rotten led us to believe and we learn that Mick Jones may well be the nicest man in the world.

At the age of fifty five Albertine is broke, divorced and aimless. The final third of the book is dedicated to her re-emergence as a performing artist, this time fully on her terms. She sets about (re)learning how to play guitar having not picked one up for twenty five years. She returns to hand writing songs in an exercise book and starts performing her own material at ten minute open mic sessions in Hastings pubs to pony tailed dullards who sneer at her honesty. 'Have you ever taken heroin?' she demands of one disinterested smattering of a crowd, 'Well I have, so f*** off home and polish your guitars'. She still wears her punk values well. 

She now sings of the stifling mundanity of her previous marriage and the oppression of what Robin Wright Penn describes as a 'beautiful fortress'. She takes the reader through a mid-life crisis of discovery, independence and re-found creativity. Through her warm and humorous style of writing you find yourself vicariously willing her on as if you are one of the lunatics she leaves behind in the cuckoo's nest. This is what mid-life crises are all about. Not dying your hair or buying a Harley but realising that you still have something you wish to say.

At one point Albertine seems charmingly surprised when a journalist tells her that youngsters still listen to The Slits. Well I'm no youngster but I really enjoyed this book and I think this still sounds bloody great.

Rating: 7/10