In honor of SLO Lady Fest kicking off this Saturday, Aug. 6 at The Grange Hall in SLO featuring like, A ZILLION rad local and out-of-town luscious lady bands, I'd like to share a few recent reads that have inspired me as of late. I'll be posting one each day till the big show. If you have more lady reads you suggest, comment below!
(Remember summer reading lists? Yeah. I didn't really read much of them, either. I was too busy renting Rock and Roll High School and David Lynch VHS from Video Palace in Atascadero. Oh Video Palace...I spent agonizing hours there with my sister trying to decide between renting Top Secret or Death Becomes Her for the 100th time...but before I start wandering down memory lane...let's get to the reading, eh?)
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys
I bought this book at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo (your independently owned headquarters for rad music titles) after hearing Viv's hilarious, touching interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. You can listen or read a transcription here.
What really struck me about the book wasn't just Viv's vivid memories of the early UK punk scene (with SUPER intimate portraits of ex bandmate Sid Vicious, who, according to the author was both the nastiest prankster/jerk and the most vulnerable, damaged soul to wear a studded choker), but how clearly Viv, and other women musicians like her, were so clearly erased from the oral and literary history of punk rock.
Why? My guess: So many women just didn't feel their story was worth writing about or celebrating, and they silenced themselves. This, coupled with the fact that the music industry was and is wildly male-dominated, created a vacuum that has only recently been begun to be filled, pebble by pebble. Women are waking up and saying, "Yeah. I was there. And yeah, I matter."
In this way, this book is a small yet mighty act of protest. It is extremely personal and draws its power and strength from this raw vulnerability. I'm so proud that Viv had the nerve to pen this detailed tome, zits, piss and all (there is so much piss, and reference to piss and piss-like smells). There's also sex and drugs, but from a woman's perspective. It's real, ugly, cracked. It makes you laugh and cry; sometimes both at the same time.
It takes a lot of moxie to believe that your experience is worth putting into the world, and that goes doubly for a rebellious youth growing up in a loveless home during the 60s Beatles era, when ideas about what a woman should be basically exploded.
But that's exactly what Viv did...and what the Slits did with their music, which was somehow it's own unique animal in a sea of male dominated voices... sensual, personal, political. The book underscores the fact that the Slits weren't a "lady punk band," they were a punk band...a very early and influential one at that.
Warning: This book is long, long, long...and I read it over a week in Mexico where I basically ate tacos and laid on the beach while Reid surfed, which I highly recommend doing if you can. I mean, it's work. And I did stay up till 2 a.m. reading and writing and laughing, as if Viv had me under some sort of spell.
The later stories in the book, which touch on Viv's troubled marriage (why couldn't she have married her first love, Mick Jones???!!!!), middle-aged angst and and motherhood, are truly harrowing and are not to be ignored...although the press really only wants to talk about the men she slept with in the 70s.
This mundane, suburban story is probably the most valuable of all. It's the real, everyday one, the one that happens to so many women who find themselves lost under waves of family obligation and societal pressures. This punk rock goddess, this wild woman...had somehow found herself exactly like her suppressed mom, making sandwiches and saying "no" to her own creative desires.
Spoiler: Basically, she gives everything up. She stops being creative. She stops playing music. AND IT BASICALLY DRIVES HER CRAZY. The result is worth reading. Her rise from the ashes is more than inspiring. Her self-doubt still persists, but there's a difference. It took her a few decades, but she just doesn't listen to that voice anymore. This is the most important take-away. I just hope it doesn't take some women that long to realize that silence is not an option.