For those of you who may have not yet heard the news, I'm sorry to say that Ari Up, vocalist with The Slits, has died. The singer, born Arianna Forster, passed away yesterday (20 October) after a "serious illness".The announcement was made by representatives of Ari's stepfather, John Lydon, last night. A statement on his website reads: "John and Nora have asked us to let everyone know that Nora's daughter Arianna (Ari Up) died today after a serious illness. She will be sadly missed".
I'm not the sort of person who would normally succumb to the modern inclination for misplaced grief at the death of a 'celebrity' so that is why I feel so utterly discomfited at how this news has made me feel; numb and forlorn. Let me try to put this into some kind of perspective. In 1979, my sister and I came across a record at the record stall in the old indoor market in Cardiff with a sleeve which could just not be ignored; 3 wild-haired, almost naked girls covered in mud and with a fuck-you look on their faces. The record was, of course, Cut, The Slits debut album, recorded that Spring at Ridge Farm Studios and released on the Island Record label. Understandably, given our mile-wide rebellious streaks at the time, it came home with us and as it spun on the turntable, the needle poised to descend, I was not to know that my life was about to change forever. 32 minutes later (it's a short album containing merely 10 wonderful, beautiful, mesmerising songs) I understood the power that music can have and I knew I wanted to hear and make music; free, passionate, wild and exhilarating; just like this for the rest of my life.
30 years have passed since that epiphany, bands and artists have come and gone and my record collection has mutated into a CD and now an MP3 collection, and yet one fact remains. If you were to ask me in 1980 what my favourite album was I would have told you unhesitatingly; Cut by The Slits. If you were to ask me in 1990, I would tell you - Cut by The Slits. If you had asked me in the year 2000, when Punk was just a fading memory and the idea of youth rebellion and changing the world was scorned as naive and unsophisticated, I would have told you - Cut by The Slits. And I'm telling you again tonight, when our young people are all blank-eyed consumers and we live in a soulless world of voracious, rampant capitalism, and horribly, unbelievably, Ari Up is dead! My favourite album, of all time, is Cut by The Slits!
From the first time I heard them I loved and treasured all of The Slits musical output, even when others couldn't understand and were hurtful and disparaging. I could say so much more about the art of Ari Up. In fact, I could go on and on until you begged me to stop but this is not the night for that. This is a night for remembering the woman, the musician, and the strength and the joy that Ari Up gave to so many people through the transforming power of her music. So, I'm going to give you this instead:
Good night, Ari.
Gordon Says: 'Don't Fade Away'
When Joe Strummer died, Griff phoned me that night so we could at least try to share the grief we both felt at his tragic passing. Joe was really the first 'music' death that really touched us....yeah yeah Sid Vicious, yeah yeah Ian Curtis, yeah yeah Kurt Cobain....but we never really felt it like we did when Joe died. Joe is one of the reasons this Blog(and ~Sighrens~) exists, he was the first of our gang to die and it hurt like hell.
The reason I mention this is not so I can now belittle Joe's passing, or appear disparaging about it, but the simple fact is that as much as we miss Joe, his death could never shock or sadden us the way Arianna's tragic passing has!
Griff's eulogy above says more than I ever could about Ari and the beauty of The Slits but I can't let this just pass without me putting in my tuppence worth.
It was Griff who introduced me to The Slits when he gave me a mix tape which featured their interpretation of Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', an event that has already been covered in a ~Streetlamp~ Blog. From that moment I was thoroughly smitten and 'Cut' became a permanent fixture in my musical and mental landscape. The disjointed rhythms, Ari's swooping and soaring vocals, the complete lack of any boorish 'boys only' cock-rock posturing....magical, vital, scary, sexy, ESSENTIAL!
It's safe to say that Ari's voice has filled the four walls of my room as much as Steven Morrissey, Robert Wratten, Nick Cave, Stuart Staples, Brian Wilson or Lennon and McCartney and it will continue to do so for many years.I'll always smile when Ari sings "Again another evening without falling in love// So I listen to the Radiooooooo...."(from 'Ping-Pong Affair') because I always smiled when she sang it in my headphones as I walked to school. It's the little things like that which I will always treasure.A couple of years ago The Slits reformed to play live shows and Griff and I swithered and swayed about going to see them. In the end we didn't! To say that I am, at this very moment, extremely f*cked off by this barely scratches the surface.
Whilst The Slits music will always be dear to us(to put it mildly), I've chosen not to close with a Slit's song as Griff has already covered that above, so I've chosen one of her greatest guest vocals.....'Fade Away' by New Age Steppers.......
Sleep well Momma Madussa xxx