The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Like Choosing A Lover: Viv Albertine's Favourite Albums
Thomas Hasson , April 18th, 2013 10:07

Always forthright, the great Viv Albertine discusses her favourite albums with Tom Hasson. T-Rex, Chris Watson, Don Cherry, Beefheart, Barrett, Kate Bush and.... The Slits all feature


Don Cherry - Brown Rice
After we made Cut we were managed by Dick O'Dell, as were The Pop Group. We got to know them and they introduced us to free jazz, funk. Funk was very uncool in the rock scene and the punk scene until The Pop Group came along.

They were very into Parliament and mainstream and edgy funk, and very out there improvised jazz. They all came from Bristol and I honestly think the people from Bristol have the most amazing musical heritage and open mindedness. I don't know if it's because it's on lay lines or something but there was a very, very cool dance scene in Bristol which there wasn't in London. And we used to go to little clubs like The Dugout and dance to funk. Which you could never do in London. You could get reggae at the most but never would anyone dance to funk. It was considered kind of trashy disco music.

They introduced me to that and I absolutely fell in love with this one record, Brown Rice. That's what made us fall in love with and invite Don Cherry to come on our first tour promoting Cut. And instead of really cool jazz players he turned up with Lou Reed's backing band and this corny electric piano and waling electric guitars. He obviously thought; 'Oh, I need something edgy and rocky.' We were incredibly disappointed by that naff band he brought with him.

On the first day of the tour we were all sitting on the coach, so excited, and I was at the table with him and his guitarist and a friend of mine, and I don't know how but the subject got onto junkies. I said; 'I hate junkies.' Because I'd had quite a few run-ins with them over the years. And he looked me in the eye, totally cold and dead pan, and said; 'I hate hate.' It absolutely crushed me. I was this young girl who wanted to impress him and he just put me down with that one line. It was from the song obviously, and I loved that song but honestly I couldn't look him in the eye for the rest of the tour. I don't think he wanted to look me in the eye either, I had no idea he was a junkie. I didn't find out until a couple of years later that he was a junkie at that time. It was devastating. It ruined the tour for me. I couldn't enjoy my own tour. I felt so left out.

But I absolutely adore the album. Because it did introduce me in a way to Arabic and African music, and chanting and trance-like music. It's long and it meanders but its in no way weak or soft. It's still full of energy and drive and menace. It's hypnotic, without being in any way lame. Which we didn't want. We didn't want lame. And again, there's all this playfulness in the lyrics. There's all these incantations and almost nursery rhymes and whispers. It's trippy without being indulgent like the hippy thing. It's much more intense than that and it takes you somewhere else. And I didn't feel it was a druggy, wasteful journey, I thought it was a transcendent journey.