PRINT December 2015


Pamela M. Lee

This past year may well have been the annus mirabilis of the woman-in-rock memoir, with brilliant takes by the likes of Kim Gordon and Patti Smith appearing almost as fast as we can read them. (As of this writing, Carrie Brownstein’s much-anticipated book has yet to be released; Chrissie Hynde’s contribution, on the other hand, has garnered all the wrong kinds of attention). But my favorite of the genre by far is Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys Boys, Boys (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press). As the guitarist for the Slits, the emblematic, all-woman band active from 1976 to 1982, Albertine offers a ground-up perspective on the cultural firmament that was ’70s punk. Her candor is inspiring—her stumbling, DIY ethos; her steadfast refusal to romanticize the ugliness of punk; and her coming to terms with middle age and a new domestic reality—as is the “teachable moment” she offers a younger generation. If today’s pop culture would have you believe that feminism is reducible to membership in Taylor Swift’s girl squad, Albertine sets the record straight in a series of vignettes, at once brutal and reflective, on her experience in the hypermasculine world of rock. Hers is a singular life of commitment, fearlessness, and art, as powerful as the music she plays.

Pamela M. Lee is the Jeanette and William Hayden Jones Professor in American Art and Culture at Stanford University.