Sunday, October 24, 2010

Times Up Ari Up Not a Typical Girll

Ariane Daniele Forster was born in Munich on January 17 1962. Her grandfather was the wealthy proprietor of the news magazine Der Spiegel, but her mother Nora Forster was a music promoter, so Ariane spent her early years surrounded by rock royalty. "All the major rock and pop stars were sleeping at my mum's place," she said, adding (in the rebellious tone that apparently pre-destined her for punk): "I had a million stepfathers. I don't remember being overawed though. I was four years old so I didn't give a ----."

She moved to London with her mother aged eight, living in a car when at first they could not afford a place to live. "In Munich, the police were knocking at the door every night because of the loud acid parties," she said. "She [my mother] was fed up with it. You have to go to London to live that lifestyle."

When her mother started to date the guitarist Chris Spedding, Ari, after daytimes spent at Holland Park comprehensive, accompanied the couple to early punk gigs that featured the Sex Pistols and the Clash. It was at a concert by the latter that she met the drummer Palmolive, a Spanish émigré, who in 1976 asked her to front the Slits.

Though she was at the heart of the chaotic punk scene, Ari Up was single minded: "I always stuck to my own rules. I didn't do any drugs, or drink. I stuck to my age in my mind." The band was influenced by the reggae bass lines introduced to them by manager Don Letts, as much as punk. The Slits' bouncing, chaotic songs were then championed by the DJ John Peel, who described their live appearances on his radio show as "mesmerising". "Their inability to play, coupled with their determination to play," he said, "was magnificent."

The band caught the ear of Island Records' boss Chris Blackwell, who signed them up and enlisted the help of reggae producer Dennis Bovell. The result was Cut, an album that is today regarded by critics as a post-punk classic, but which made little commercial impression at the time. Record shops refused to display it due to its confrontational cover that features the young band members, Tessa Pollitt, Viv Albertine and Ari Up bare-breasted and covered in mud.

Huge posters advertising the album were plastered around London. "There was a guy who actually crashed his car after seeing one," Ari Up recalled. But the cover was not part of any feminist stance: "We just did our own thing. If we wanted to be sexy we were, but not because we did what the magazines said."

Ari Up later claimed Madonna had taken a few tips from the band's attitude and clothing style after spotting her standing in the front row of gigs. "I'm pissed off she's never worn a T-shirt with THE SLITS written in sequins," she said. "She owes us."

Her mum is married to a member of the Sex Pistols.

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