This debut single, from September 1979, now goes for fairly decent sums of money on the second-hand market, in the region of £30 upwards. I’ll be very honest and admit that I’ve never owned a copy, nor for many years did I ever want to, for the simple reason that the 16-year-old me didn’t ‘get’ The Slits. As I’ve grown older, and my musical tastes have developed/matured, I can now see it for the truly astonishing and ground-breaking effort it was, as nobody was making music like this back in the day.
I’ll use the booklet in the 4xCD boxset, Make More Noise : Women In Independent Music 1977-1987, which was issued by Cherry Red Records last year, to tell the backstory:-
Formed in London from the wreckage of The Flowers of Romance and The Castrators, The Slits brought together Ari Up, Palmolive, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt and quickly found favour on the punk circuit, sharing a particular affinity with The Clash, with who they toured on several occasions. Despite many fans feeling the group diluted their raw, energetic early sound in pursuit of success with their Dennis Bovell produced debut album ‘Cut’, the truth was the group simply began to expand their horizons at a rate difficult to follow.
Drawing from reggae, dub and world music, they pursued a chaotic path to early 1982, including a semi-bootleg album of demos and home recordings (risky stuff for major label artists at the time) and an attempt to recapture the band’s spirit on ‘Return Of The Giant Slits’ in 1981. But the magic was gone by 1982 and the group disbanded, although occasional revivals and reunions peppered the 2000s until Ari Up’s unfortunate death in October 2010.
The above story doesn’t mention that Ari Up was just 14 years old when she formed The Slits in 1976, having grown up in a musical family, with both her parents involved in the industry in her home country of Germany. Ari came with her mother Nora to live in England at a young age, and her mother would in the late 70s, become the girlfriend and eventually the wife of John Lydon. Nor does it mention that Palmolive left the band at an early stage, being replaced on drums by Peter Clarke, aka Budgie, who would later be a long-standing member of Siouxsie & The Banshees.
All of which I’ve added just to show the various links that The Slits had to the punk/new wave pioneers, and I have long been annoyed with myself for taking so many years to appreciate what they did.
mp3: The Slits – Typical Girls
The b-side of the debut single was an audacious cover version, and if anything, it was hearing this and thinking it was an absolute monstrosity which put me off the band.
mp3: The Slits – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
And again, to be fully honest, while it has grown on me, I’m still not fully with it.
11 thoughts on “TYPICAL GIRLS”
Have you read Viv Albertine’s book CLOTHES MUSIC BOYS? One of my favourite music bios – even though it’s so much more than that
I was very late to appreciating The Slits, probably starting with Ari Up’s collaborations with Adrian Sherwood or tracing Dennis Bovell’s links to producing Orange Juice. Typical Girls is an incredible song but, having heard it for the first time today, I’ll admit that I’ve instantly taken a liking to the Marvin Gaye cover too.
Viv Albertine’s autobiography was a compelling read, arguably even more so as I knew so little about The Slits.
Was that meant to be an “It really was a cracking debut single” post? Or maybe for The Slits that was a pun too far?
The Slits were great but sadly short lived. Ari’s New Age Steppers were pretty amazing too, with a “heavy dub Nico” vibe. Action Battlefield is their best work. Arguably the best of these West London squat scene early 80s groups were The Raincoats whose three albums from that era are endlessly inventive and stand the test of time.
Great song. Agree with JIM and Khayem that Viv Albertine’s books are great reads. Also agree with JC that I never got into the Grapevine cover.
I only have a Peel Sessions EP of theirs, but like it a lot,
especially Vindictive. Great post, JC – one that does its bit
for English/German relations today of all days.
Wow. Takes all kinds, I guess. For me, college radio play of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was my gateway drug to The Slits. I found the version to be one of the most audacious and transformative cover versions I’ve ever heard. I bought a compilation LP in 1980 just because it had that track which was pretty scarce on the ground in America.
Likewise with the “Cut” album, which I never saw for sale, here, ever. Once it came out on CD in 1990 [!] I ordered a copy from a mail order catalog as soon as I could, as I had already gotten a copy of the “Typical Girls” video five years earlier in a “system transfer” video from a friend. Ron had multi-standard equipment and connections. He paid to have a lot of PAL UK video transferred to NTSC then sent his friends the resulting tape compilation for their edification. I can’t believe that I once saw “The Return of The Giant Slits” on 2xCD and let my friend buy it instead of me, but I’m a pushover in these situations. But I still don’t have it. I’d love to hear New Age Steppers, as I’m also a big Neneh Cherry fan.
That Slits Peel Sessions CD is mandatory if you also want to hear the band in their brief “Punk Rock” phase before their flowering in dub.
I love the Grapevine cover, superb in every way.
When I bought Cut, I felt like I was being invited into a strange and wonderful world of music I had no idea existed before.
@postpunkmonk, I’m only really familiar with New Age Steppers first two albums, but they’re up there with my favourite Adrian Sherwood productions. Back in March, On-U Sound released a box set of their 4 albums plus dub/unreleased comp Avant Gardening, called Stepping Into A New Age 1980-2012.