Each week, in Picture Book, we present an iconic photo from rock 'n' roll's past or…
- Posted on Oct 27th 2010 11:15AM by David Chiu
David Corio, Redferns
"I'm still so in shock," Albertine tells Spinner, "because she was the youngest of all of us. It's a tragedy that she's gone so early. Thank God she's being recognized for the mark that she's made. I think she really wanted to be recognized within her own lifetime."
"Even though some of us knew she had been ill, it was still like a bad dream to know she had actually gone," Howe says. [It's] very hard to believe someone who practically epitomized life in all its robust technicolor vibrancy was no longer with us."
Before joining the Slits, Albertine had already known Up -- born Arianna Forster -- through Up's mother, Nora. After seeing the Slits perform, Albertine joined them at a rehearsal studio and became the new guitarist. "Me and Ari just absolutely buzzed off each other in terms of writing a song," Albertine says. "And I back combed all their hair like the New York Dolls. From that moment on, we were a band."
A distinctive quality that Up possessed was her physicality, says Albertine. "She had this complete unselfconsciousness in almost every area, about her body mainly, which was very liberating for us girls," she recalls. "She never lost that. She was still very sensual and very proud in the way that she carried herself."
Albertine also credits Up for her role in the Slits' sound. "She had an amazing ear. She was absolutely interested in every part of every instrument: the drums, tom tom beat, cymbal crash, hi-hat. She was a perfectionist and none of us could get away with any sloppiness -- not so much in the playing, but in terms of composing as well. She was very on it."
Howe says she laughs when she listens to the song 'Shoplifting,' from the Slits' 1979 album 'Cut.' "Ari puts so much ferocity into her final scream that she accidentally wets herself, and near the end of the song you can hear her giggling, 'I pissed in my knickers!' That's what I call commitment to the cause!"
Only a teenager when the Slits started, Up drew plenty of attention, especially when the band was on the Clash's 'White Riot' tour in 1977. "You'd thought she was carrying an atom bomb in her pocket the way people reacted to her everywhere she went," says Albertine. "She was attacked in the street all the time just for looking amazing with the wild hair. All her life, people did try to tame and squash her. Amazingly, she never, never went down. She just couldn't be suppressed."
Although Albertine opted not to join the Slits full-time when they reunited a few years ago, she played some shows with them in Spain and Manchester. "I brought my daughter to the Manchester one," she says. "I was so pleased that she saw the Slits and Ari. She was knocked out by Ari, and Ari called her up onstage. I am so glad that we did do it those two times. It's history and it'll never be again."
On Sunday, Albertine wrote on her Twitter page that she and Slits bassist Tessa Pollitt will release a Slits song, 'Coulda Shoulda Woulda,' recorded after the band's American tour in 1981. As of now, she hopes it will be available on the web sometime next month. "It's really good. We found it, so I think we're gonna release it on cassette or [maybe on vinyl] if we can find the half-inch," she says.
Ari Up's legacy was not only in punk music, says Howe, "not just for women, but culturally she was and is an icon of great importance. That power that emanated from the Slits and Ari can never be underestimated. I believe it will continue to mobilize and inspire people in different ways long into the future."