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SPEAKER TO SPEAKER

The Slits, 1977: why they still don't make sense.

IN LONDON RECENTLY A FRIEND pulled out a few bootleg records of old London punk music. I’d heard them before, and forgotten them: Siouxsie and the Banshees demos from late 1977, Slits sessions from about the same time. Days earlier I’d seen Siouxsie’s face on wall posters all over Florence—today she’s an international name. If the Slits are still on a wall somewhere it’s only as graffiti no one has bothered to cover up.

The music my friend was playing seemed to make almost every record released since 1977 sound like a cover-up. The Banshees cuts drove toward a refusal never suggested on their official discs; the Slits tracks were armed playground chants. Listening, it made perfect sense that last summer’s Live Aid for Africa telecast contained not a hint that “punk” had ever happened; from art that wants to do good, it’s a short step to art that wants to please, and an even shorter step

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