Ari Up RIP

It’s hard to believe that Ari Up is dead.
Only 49 and at the peak of her creative powers.
The Slits frontwoman was one of those forces of nature that would fill a room like a hurricane of energy.
She came out of punk unstoppable and leaves an amazing catalogue of great records and ideas.
I interviewed her a few times and would always come away feeling energised and inspired. This went for her music as well.
The Slits (even the name took no prisoners in the cock obsessed world of old school rock n roll) are one of the key bands that came out of punk. One of the great things about the disparate movement was that it was not the usual lads club that music gets bogged down with.
In punk the way that women made music, on their own terms, in their own way was inspirational- not only to woman but to men as well. It could be argued that this was the most revolutionary thing that came out of punk and Ari Up was right in the middle of this with the Slits.
The band was formed in 1976 right at the heart of movement. They were surrounded by members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols and initially took their cues from the greats before re-inventing punk in the purest possible terms.
They were no mere liggers hitching a ride, they were making music that was more revolutionary than their peers and in many ways defined what punk really was.
I loved their punky reggae party, the way they took dub bottom end and combined it with the shrapnel guitar and prose of punk and made something utterly original and if it ironically took a male drummer called Budgie to eventually define those feminine rhythms they talked about- well it worked, it really worked.
Their records never dated, the initial Peel session where they could barely play were a revelation, I still remember being hooked on it when it was first played now. The songs were dislocated cut and paste punk pop, great tunes and in your face attitude played in a new way. The debut album was smoother but no less inventive- that classic take on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Heard It through the Grapevine’ with Ari’s amazing soaring, sweeping vocals- cramming invention into space- total genius- nothing remotely sounded like her…it was all classic stuff- re-writing the rule book in what could be done in music.
The Slits proved that you didn’t have to be a demure dolly bird to make music- this was a revelation in the deathly dull seventies. Ari Up changed what a woman in the public eye could be- the fact that people could wear what the fuck you liked and look out of control and still look amazing changed perceptions. There was Ari Up with her bird’s nest hair and attitude and her wardrobe from hell and she looked fantastic and her fuck you attitude empowered so many people.
They could have had it all but with fantastic attitude they burned brightly and went on their own idiosyncratic paths, Ari deeper into the dub with several side projects- each fascinating and genius. And that’s the crux of the matter, no matter how much they changed attitudes to making music the word genius is still reserved for men. Ari was a true revolutionary and genius and I took as much energy and inspiration from her as any of the blokes in punk.
The reformed Slits a couple of years ago were a revelation, they updated their sound without copying anyone and the shows were packed and thrilling, musically light years ahead and finally getting recognition with a potential Grammy (fuck that- we know how great they were!) and Ari Up still irrepressible- owning the stage and looking cool as fuck with endless dreads and crazy skanking. So full of life, sex and energy.
Inspirational, beautiful and free.
Ari Up RIP.

24 Responses to Ari Up RIP

  1. Keith L. Nolan says:

    Thank you for that post John, she will be sadly missed.:(

  2. a fist full of hair & photographed lips says:

    Well put John. So sad. I was listening to Typical Girls on Sunday, it always makes me smile. No-one will ever replace her as the Queen of honest Punk.

  3. Robbie says:

    Thank you, John, for saying so well what many of us would wish to….

  4. Donna Flower says:

    Great write up John, thanks for sharing. Too sad 😦

  5. Jaz says:

    The Slits were amazing, in all their musical guises. Amongst their back catalogue is some of my favourite music ever. And if we’re talking punk, there is nothing more punk than the ‘Peel sessions’ mini-LP (also found on the deluxe version of ‘Cut’ I believe).

    So many of the groups of that era who have reformed did so simply to trot our their golden oldies, or to churn out albums that they might have made 20 years previously but not the Slits. ‘Trapped Animal’ was different again. When I missed their recent tour because I was out of town I glibly thought ‘No worries, there’s always next time’. How wrong I was 😦

    Rest well Ari.

  6. Mick Donelan says:

    Didn’t even know – maybe that says it all. Remember Slits in sheff when I was a baby..brill

  7. David Myers says:

    Nice one John, she had such an amazing energy. So sad

  8. Paul Howard says:

    You’ve articulated what many of thought. Thanks.

  9. I was disappointed by her new album, but I enjoyed really much the previous single, 2 years ago. Their Peel Sessions were one of my favourite since 30 years, and I loved when she sang with Terranova, and well… I’m sad, why do all old punks have to die at 50 ?

  10. Par says:

    The Slits, the greatest all-girl Punky Reggae band of all time!
    the punk all-girl band which just as tough as punk all-bloke bands.
    ♥ r.i.p. ari up ♥

    • johnrobb77 says:

      They were equals with the Clash and Pistols. There were no superstars in punk…
      The imagination in the Slits music was amazing

  11. RancidTom says:

    Well said John, gone but never forgotten because she made such an indellible mark not just on punk music but punks as well!
    R.I.P. Ari

  12. jimmy dalek says:

    agree with everything you say john. the slits were at the heart and start of it for me and kept it going.As great as anyone.sad.

  13. johnn says:

    is this true?i read in some tabloid that it was one of her kids that had died,if it is true then its sad,sad if its Ari,sad if its one of her kids.the slits show at the zion in Hulme was great.

  14. johnn says:

    seems the tabloid got it wrong after all,just did a google search and cant believe it,really sad.
    glad i finally got to see them live and in Hulme as well.R.I.P. Ari

  15. Jaz says:

    First Ari Up, now Poly Styrene… a fella could be forgiven for thinking there was a conspiracy 😦


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