It’s already been a bad year for losing musicians -and I’m absolutely gutted to learn today that Ari Up, lead singer of The Slits has died, at the age of cancer at the age of just 48.
If punk was supposed to have a scorched earth policy, there were certain acts who showed just how conservative peole might be, underneath it all. One act that might apply to was Suicide, but another was the Slits. At just fourteen Ari (born Ariane Daniele Forster) was the singer of the Slits, and they were touring and terrifying the life out of people. I was privileged to interview guitarist Viv Albertine earlier this year. She talked of it being a difficult time being in The Slits were people were incredibly anatgonistic, and where John Peel was the only person prepared to support them.
But Island Records released their debut album Cut, which plays as I type this. Not only did the cover unnerve people – the Rough Trade allegedly had a meeting about whether they should be stocking it, but this take on punk and reggae was something new and very raw. Yet like many records of that year – The Pop Group’s Y and PIL’s Metal Box being two other examples – shows just how ahead of the game they were. After a second album in 1981, Return Of The Giant Slits, the band split. But not without influencing a huge number of female artists – most notably Madonna. Ari also contributed vocals to one of my favourite cover versions ever the New Age Steppers’ ‘ take on Junior Byles’ ‘Fade Away.’
Having spent much of her time travelling and raising her sons, as well as being ivolved in the Dancehall scene, Ari reactivated the Slits in the last decade, releasing the Revenge of the Killer Slits EP and the Trapped Animal album.
A true original, responsible for music that was both ground-breaking and gere-bender, the press may be commenting on whose step-daughter she was, but first and foremost, she was the leader of one of the most wonderful bands Britain ever produced.
My favourite Slits song…
Two awesome covers…