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The Blessed Saint Slit Here To Be Heard  - The Story Of The Slits on film

The Blessed Saint Slit

Here To Be Heard - The Story Of The Slits on film

by Tim London,
first published: April, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

using punk as a battering ram to knock down the hairy balled wall of blokes

Here To Be Heard - The Story Of The Slits
Dir. William E. Badgley
(Streaming on Amazon)

It’s easy to be cynical about bands who reform, especially those who have a legacy of some very pointedly brilliant but limited amounts of recordings and tours that made something gorgeous and new.

I thought I learnt my lesson years ago when I saw Bo Diddley with twenty others at Dingwalls in London and tapped into something precious: get it, get them, while you can, if you can.

So I wish I’d seen The Slits second time around, when the originals were just Ari Up singing and Tessa Pollitt on bass, with an otherwise new female line up that included Holly Cook, later to invent a version of Lovers Rock for the ‘10s, on extra vocals, filling in as Neneh Cherry once did with the second line up a couple of decades earlier. They made one, last album, of which the track Kill Them With Love, is the only thing I’ve heard and that’s brilliant. And they toured up until close to Ari’s premature death in 2010.

‘the music flowed, spilt and played havoc with conventional tuning, timing and presentation’

The first, all female, Slits invaded the late seventies, using punk as a battering ram to knock down the hairy balled wall of blokes that dominated pop and rock back then. To a lesser extent now, perhaps, that wall still exists.

Palmolive, who founded the group, left, or was kicked out, according to which Slit tells it, was replaced by Budgie who, in turn, went on to be a Banshee for many years. Their music changed from the almost uncategorizable version of punk they were playing to something totally original and unique.

Some sounds cannot be described well - you need to listen. But the influence of fellow travellers The Pop Group and Neneh’s dad, Don Cherry, who brought the free-est of free mind, free-jazz attitudes to what they did meant that the music flowed, spilt and played havoc with conventional tuning, timing and presentation.

That didn’t stop The Slits from suffering from all the normal group things - major label record companies who signed them for kudos but didn’t understand what they had, inter-member angst and an early demise, after just five years after which various members went off to take heroin or have a baby or two.

The film features some great footage over the years, some of it captured by the everywhere man, Don Letts and the talking head appraisals, even if they miss some of the original male punks who, no doubt, gave them grief at the time, and who’s current characters would have been a welcome indication of the times in which The Slits formed.

Somehow, the enormity of what they achieved just doesn’t come through. The film is very humble, despite the clear-eyed retrospective of the living band members and genuine  fans, such as Vivian Goldman. Honest, perhaps, but sometimes, especially when it comes to pop, glory should be acknowledged and celebrated and overcoming adversity should be portrayed Hollywood style with all its attendant and gaudy saint-ification.


essentials
streaming on amazon right now.

Tim London

Tim London is a musician, music producer and writer. Originally from a New Town in Essex he is at home amidst concrete and grand plans for the working class. Tim's latest thriller, Smith, is available now. Find out more at timothylondon.com


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