Arianna Forster, aka Ari Up, front-woman for pioneering English punk band The Slits, passed away on Wednesday, October 20th, according to the website of John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd., who was also Up’s stepfather. According to Lydon’s site, Up died “after a serious illness.” She was 48 years old.
Ari Up formed The Slits in 1976 with drummer Palmolive when she was just 14 years old. The band quickly became one of the most notorious of the nascent punk rock movement, not only because its members were predominantly young girls, but also due to their outrageous style and on- and off-stage antics. The Slits appeared topless, caked in mud, on the cover of their 1979 debut, Cut – an album that would go on to be massively influential for coming generations of punks and riot grrrls. However, their combination of joyful, hell-raising, ramshackle punk and reggae rhythms would prove difficult to imitate.
The Slits followed Cut with 1981’s more experimental Return of the Giant Slits, and then broke up. Up went on to work with Adrian Sherwood’sNew Age Steppers project and record music solo. In 2005, Up reunited with bassist Tessa Pollitt and reformed The Slits, releasing an EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits, in 2006 and an album, Trapped Animal, in 2009.
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) singer for the Sex Pistols and Public Image was born on this day, January 31st, in 1956. My friend Rey once told me a story of how he, as a journalist, had attempted to conduct an interview with Lydon during the days of Public Image. It didn’t go so well. Each time Rey asked a question, rather than answer, Lydon would just repeat that question back to him in a mocking voice. Rey told me that he got up and left the room several times in an attempt to terminate the interview, but the publicist insisted he continue and promised that Lydon would behave from then on. Eventually he gave up and wrote the article about what an asshole John Lydon was. Because Rey is awesome. I love that story. Happy Birthday, John!
On This Date, November 14th in 1979: Public Image Ltd released their second album, Metal Box, which included the singles “Careering,” “Memories” and “Swan Lake” (aka “Death Disco”). It reached the #18 spot on the U.K. albums chart. The album is sometimes referred to as The Public Image Reel owing to its unique packaging: three 12-inch records in a film canister embossed with the group’s PiL logo. Metal Box, now obviously a near-priceless collector’s item, was later repackaged in a standard cardboard sleeve format under the title Second Edition. The London post-punk band – fronted by John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) of Sex Pistols and also including guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Jah Wobble and Martin Atkins on drums – broke up in 1993.