Before punk happened women in music were largely confined to certain acceptable roles such as singer songwriters, back up singers and the occasional semi-novelty act as the Runaways. Punk helped to change all of that with artists such as Patti Smith, Blondie, Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Raincoats and the Slits.
The Slits were formed in 1976 and the original line up consisted of Ari Up, Palmolive, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt. The band first emerged supporting the Clash on their White Riot tour of 1977. Although part of the punk scene their music was an amalgam of reggae and fractured pop. Their debut album ‘Cut’ produced by Dennis Bovell contained Instant Hit and the classic Typical Girls. The album was well received although the sleeve depicting members of the band semi-naked and covered in mud was controversial and misconstrued by many.
Live the band was loose and experimental which didn’t always go down well with the largely male punk audience. I witnessed a show in Coventry in 1979 where the crowd seemed to have come along to gawp at a bunch of female punk sex objects rather than listen to challenging visceral music. Not surprisingly this lead to tension between band and audience and the show more or less descended into farce and anarchy.
The band continued to become more experimental, releasing 2 further albums, the Slits (1980) and The Return of the Giant Slits (1981) and working closely with experimental Bristol band the Pop Group before finally splitting in 1982.
Original members Ari Up and Tessa Pollitt reformed the band in 2005 working with various members including Paul Cook and Marco Pirroni. The band are due to release a new studio album in October Trapped Animal and will be playing at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff 9th October.
The Slits remain one of the most influential and under rated bands of the late 1970s and helped bridge the musical genres of reggae and indie music as well as helping to inspire other women to enter the male dominated world of rock music.
Return of the Giant Slits (1981)
In the Beginning (1997)
The Incredible String Band