The Slits – 1977 John Peel Session

16th September 2022 · 1970s, 1977, Music, Punk

The Slits’ debut Cut has come to be regarded as one of the classic post-punk albums. But they sounded nothing like that whenever I saw them live: for the first couple of years they were widely mocked as a joke band.

That had as much to do with sexism, I suspect, as with their lack of musical ability.

Many of us loved them for their amateurish enthusiasm and Ari’s effervescent stage presence, but it would have been hard to imagine them making a record.

On the White Riot tour in 1977, where I first became familiar with them as one of the support bands, Mick Jones would have to tune their guitars for them.

Ariane (Ari-Up) was only 14 when the band was formed in 1976 and she brought an excitable childlike energy to her stage performances.

Completely lacking inhibition, she would throw herself around like a rag doll, always the centre of attention.

The others – Tessa, Viv and Palmolive – were like a girl gang, playing with enthusiastic but unpolished abandon.

Among the chaotic thrashing, phrases and fragments would recur; enough for John Peel to invite them to record this session in September 1977.

Some of these – New Town in particular – would become recognisable songs when they finally made their album two years later.

Produced by Dennis Bovell, it gave them an entirely new sound – bass heavy, dub influenced, and filled with space.

But this is what they sounded like before that.