Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Viv Albertine at The Lexington

This evening was the long awaited launch of Viv Albertine's autobiography, 'Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys' which is a quote from her Mum when she was a teenager expressing all that she was interested in. I had an advance reading from the book - the chapter about the White Riot tour with the Clash - in January 2013 when I saw Viv at the 12Bar Club. Tonight was billed as a reading from Viv followed by an interview on stage by John Robb (punkster, punk journo, and Poly Styrene collaborator).

The evening was hosted at The Lexington at Angel and was part of the Faber Social series, Faber being the book publisher. Also on the bill were performance artists Anat Ben-David and Bryony Kimmings and DJing by Tessa Pollitt (of The Slits) with some heavy reggae beats to skank along to. I preferred Bryony because she was very rude and great fun although she did destroy a perfectly good bunch of flowers.

We got to the Lexington pub early to have some food and a drink before heading upstairs for the main event. While studying the menu the Faber people came in and so did John Robb, followed a few minutes later by Viv. She was sitting at the table behind me but I restrained my fanboy instincts and left her in peace before her big book launch.

Handing in the tickets, getting hands stamped for re-entry, books and badges collected, we headed upstairs for beer and collecting the various promotional postcards scattered around and waited for the show to begin. And waited. Both acts were late to the stage and everything seemed very laid back while I looked at my watch thinking Viv should be on by now...

Then the stage was set with four chairs and four microphones - why? Surely two chairs and mics are enough? Then John Robb got on stage to explain that Viv's Mum who is 95 is in a critical condition and Viv had left to be with her. She'd hoped to get back after visiting her Mum but that wasn't going to happen so they'd prepared an alternative for us. That explained the delays, trying to give Viv time to get to the nursing home and back but time had run out. Instead we were getting a panel of people who knew Viv to talk about their memories of her, interviewed by John. Tessa was there (of course), a friend of Viv's from school, Dennis Bovell and Viv's first boyfriend. It was lovely hearing Tessa talk about the early days with the Slits as well as Dennis who produced 'Cut' and played on Viv's album, 'The Vermillion Border'. Don Letts was expected on stage to say a few words but he didn't appear - I saw him in the bar earlier so he was there.

Despite the circumstances it was great fun to hear people who knew her talking about Viv. Tessa commented that The Slits always thought of Viv as 'the pretty one' in the band. She also bemoaned how people class The Slits as post-punk but they were there at the start of it all. Dennis had many stories of The Slits back in the day and how he added percussion to 'New Town' on the first album, percussion being a spoon, and ash tray and a box of matches. And how Ari Up carved her name into the new mixing desk at Jon Anderson's recording studio. Sometimes it's the details that matter.

The improvised panel discussion worked very well and they did Viv proud. John Robb did say that details of how to claim refunds and/or get books signed would be posted tomorrow but I think anyone who claims a refund is being churlish. We didn't have Viv but we had a damn good show anyway.

I do feel for Viv, though. This was her big night, little Viv from North London launching her book and she misses it at the last minute for the best of reasons. There'll be another day and another opportunity to big up the book. There was obviously a lot of love for Viv in the room and there was definitely an age thing going on with the majority of people being in their 50s, ie. the right age to know The Slits. That's where I originally know Viv from, taping the John Peel session and playing 'Newtown' and 'Shoplifting' to scare people. Then she reappeared a few years ago with a crowd funder appeal to make an album. I vaguely thought 'I know that name from somewhere' and, when it dawned on me who she was, I had to support her appeal. And everything else since. She's earned that loyalty.

Viv tweeted this evening to apologise for missing the launch and explained that her Mum was critically ill. She cares but she made the right decision. It's excellent reception will mean that there'll be another day for the book. In the meantime I'll read it!

1 comment:

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