robin dudley rodudley at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 19 01:48:55 EST 2008

yes, mike and j neo have a great grasp of the actual situation. that is basically what i was trying to describe. "can't play" meant exactly what you described, not that people actually couldn't play - though some WERE pretty rough. however it got to be a bit of oneupmanship about who had practiced least before jumping onstage. as a lot of people have pointed out who were also there at the time, the real energy surge was amazing and VERY short-lived! after that the cliches set in big time. even years later the "this band is so awful they're great" was repeated ad nauseam.

what the slits REALLY "couldn't" at the beginning was figure out being onstage!! paloma didn't know to secure her drums, and half her fury was because they kept moving away from her! no one could hear anything or had any idea how to deal with the stage environment or equipment. practice they did, with a reeltoreel tape recorder for an amp and a bunch of borrowed gear. hearing onstage is an acquired skill! what a revelation!!

i agree about booting paloma IN A WAY. unfortunately when she was doing the booting she was ruthless, and i think a little of that came back and bit her in the arse. and i was shocked at how much BOVELL ran thru and thru cut - but he is a performing producer and fairly svengalish in his way. to good effect, mind you!

but people grow and they sometimes grow in different directions. i think paloma was growing out of the whole angry teen scene at the same time the others were wanting to expand their musical horizons. she began to feel they were inspiring negativity instead of creativity...in the beginning it was enough to say "i'll never figure out how to play well and i don't care," but if you're going to stay  in the business of making music you are probably going to get better at it and out the window goes the anarchy. 

anyway annette sorry if  i sounded bolshy just putting out my own experience of the experience. i feel like i must know you but i can't place you! as for dates unless they carry markers i am terrible with them. 

From: misschief at earthlink.net
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 22:14:51 -0600
To: typicalgirls at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [TypicalGirls] THE SLITS REFORM FOR NEW SHOWS

To those with any interest whatsoever:
I THINK (I've decided to enter any posts with 'i think' or 'it's my opinion' so I won't irritate anyone by sounding like a Know-It-All . . . my tone may have set people off  .  .  . what should be a fact-finding discussion between two people who shared [part of] the same scene but not, apparently,  the same view, becomes an 'argument' because she thinks she knows, and I think I know, so bump go the heads). Anyway, I THINK . . .
crap, forgot what it was I was thinking . . . oh yeah:
First, Mike and J. Neo offer really, REALLY good analyses of 'can or can't play', that omnipresent and infuriating response that still won't go away. Thank you Mike/Neo! Classic!
Now, some further impressions: 
No matter how much the Slits may have 'practiced' before the Roxy gigs (the first shows I saw), they sounded as though they had never practiced in their lives . . . it was chaos and anarchy, more chaos and anarchy than ANY other band at the Roxy . . . and in 1977, chaos and anarchy were very good things indeed. One of the main tenets of punk: DON'T PRACTICE! JUST PLAY! And some bands stayed pretty close to this; oh, they practiced a little but basically many took the stage with little more than great music sensibilities, a precise understanding of what they were part of, and, playing with unbridled passion -- you got punk rock. 
But, alas, the Slits actually did sound pretty awful. Seriously. Even some punks had to hold their hands over their ears. There was little perceptible beat among them, and not always Palmolive's 'fault'; Ari's vocals ranged from charm (a bit of a stretch) to all out screeching that was . . . electrifying, but only sometimes in a good way. The sets were spilled & spattered . . . . If you think the bands on the Roxy album were rough . . . well, maybe I should describe no more.
So, why were they so GREAT? And great they were. Like I said, it was unadulterated noise/chaos/anarchy which was pure punk, but, obviously, not just any band could pull this off . . .the marvelous Slits did though,  because running through these bizarre early sets something wonderful was; it was the inspiration; the courage; the musical brilliance that was to come. It was the jelly that jelled; and oh my did it ever: one word: CUT.
No one would have bet a pence on it at the time!
But back to the Roxy or thereafter. Without being too specific, it was decided that the band wasn't going to get any better with Palmolive drumming. This hurt my feelings because I knew her the best; was very fond of her and her sister, lovely people; and also it seemed to me to be 'selling out' for musical refinement instead of adherence to pure punk.  (So you can guess, my heart was pretty much breaking all the way thru 1977 as one group after another 'sold out'. It took awhile for me to see that maybe one of the major strengths of punk was that bands COULD practice; music COULD progress . . . and punk would not die.) The fact that some of the best music in the world emerged didn't hurt much, either.
Anyway, CUT was cut, and in and around this time the group became listenable, the songs recognizable, the experience enjoyable; and the girls remained our giant Slits. As for the guy -- sorry -- I never looked at him, really. Kind of denied it. Wished Palmolive could've played that good . . .
I'm gonna shut up now and see how many people tell me how wrong I am about all this. 
Not really.
I loved the Slits. I loved little Ari (she was very young then, 15? 16?), she was so kind to me and I think to everyone; she never shut anybody up or out but always welcomed us into her world of joy and rebellion. She was a MAJOR leader of punk rock at the time, full of ideas, a live-wire presence at the Roxy  and, to me, pretty much punk personified. 
But the band was beyond Ari. The four girls in front of us -- Palmolive thwacking away, Viv into her instrument with serious concentration; Tessa stoic and doing her best with the bass, Ari roping in the crowd . . . ALL were the face and body of the Slits. You couldn't keep your eyes on any one of them for long, you didn't want to miss a thing any of them did; they were a beautiful, messy, intimate, intimidating, innocent and massive FOURsome . . . 
Punk in pink? Yep, they never aped the boys, they were all girl all of the time. 
today's incarnation, I guess, may be insignificant in comparison -- you tell me -- but THEN . . . well, can any of us imagine a musical world without the magical Slits?

gosh it's scary to hit that 'reply all' -- innit? Close my eyes, cross my fingers . . . hmmm, can't hit it that way . . . ok, open my eyes, shiver me timbers  . . . well, there are pirates about. . . heave ho and here goes

On Nov 17, 2008, at 2:10 PM, J Neo Marvin wrote: Well, you have to remember that the mid-70s had a very different definition of "can't play". When Horses came out,
 one common complaint was that Patti Smith's band couldn't play. To be considered a "player", you had to have 
 technique like Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck. The Velvet Underground "couldn't play". The Stooges "couldn't play". Some 
 people even went so far as to say the Beatles "couldn't play". Punk redefined what it meant to play an instrument in 
 many ways, shifting the emphasis from slickness and/or masturbatory soloing to a group playing well TOGETHER and 
 delivering supposedly simple parts effectively and aggressively. By any standard, the Ramones were an extremely 
 tight band, but since the guitar played all barre chords and the bass played all root notes, they were seen as 
 incompetent, while some cliched, meandering blues-based jam would be considered the height of musicianship. 
 (Some bitter old hippies still see things that way to this day. Punk "ruined" music, blah blah blah..)
 As far as bands that played the Roxy, well, I wasn't there, but from the evidence of the live album, a lot of bands 
 that would ultimately be viewed as highly accomplished like X-Ray Spex or Wire certainly sound very rough, but they 
 clearly knew what they were doing and what they were aiming for right from the start. Any non-punk fan at the time 
 would only hear incompetent noise. Their loss then and now.
 And yeah, isn't it great to be part of a group that includes actual eyewitnesses!

-J Neo Marvin 

> From: mike at appelstein.com
> To: typicalgirls at lists.ibiblio.org
> Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2008 13:06:23 -0600
> Subject: Re: [TypicalGirls] THE SLITS REFORM FOR NEW SHOWS
> This is why I love Typical Girls - here we have an argument regarding the
> Slits' first shows by people THAT WERE THERE. Where else on the web are we
> (slightly) younger post-punk obsessives going to get that?
> <<for some reason people like to think these girls just picked up
> instruments and jumped on stage. they practiced and wrote for months before
> performing.>>
> So is it time to retire the myth once and for all that the original punks
> "couldn't play?" From what I can hear, the guitar bands could play fine.
> Malcolm McLaren always promoted that myth about the Sex Pistols, but it's
> clear Cook, Matlock and especially Jones were perfectly accomplished
> players. Perhaps, in the mid-1970s, musicians were still so enamored of
> extended guitar solos that listeners weren't used to a simpler approach. I
> mean, the Sheffield bands like Cab Volt were using synths they "couldn't
> play" a la Pere Ubu or Eno-era Roxy Music...but I tend to think that's a
> whole different scene and philosophy. 
> Were there any bands that truly, obviously "couldn't play" at their first
> shows? The Flowers of Romance? Early Germs?
> - mike
> mike at appelstein.com
> http://www.appelstein.com/blog
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> TypicalGirls at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/typicalgirls

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