-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=1.0" : "width=1100"' name='viewport'/> Plum Street Chili: Ari Up the Essence of Punk - Bede's Beat

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ari Up the Essence of Punk - Bede's Beat

Five years ago, on October 20, 2010, Ariane Daniela Forster -- better known as "Ari Up" -- died of cancer in Los Angeles. She was only 48 years old.

Ari was the very essence of punk. After divorcing her German father, Ari's mother, Nora Forster, moved with Ariane to London and married John Lydon -- who was then in his "Johnny Rotten" incarnation -- making him Ari's step-father. Their household became a focus of intense musical and artistic activities of all sorts during the intensively creative period that followed The Ramones' first tour of the UK in 1976. That tour produced what is now referred to as "first generation punk", as well as "second generation punk", a term which covers bands such as The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Ruts and The Slits, who were inspired by bands such as The Damned (the first band to record a "punk" single, "New Rose") and The Sex Pistols, which formed in reaction to The Ramones' 1976 tour, to DIY ("Spiral Scratch", the first Buzzcocks EP, was self-produced and self-distributed, which sparked an explosion in DIY labels and projects).

Despite her youth, Ari was an enthusiastic participant in all of this activity, co-founding the seminal punk band "The Slits" at the age of 14, after being taught to play the guitar by Joe Strummer and immediately beginning to compose music to accompany her poetry. Although The Slits are known as the first all-female punk band -- an all-female five-piece founded when Ari met former members of Flowers of Romance and The Castrators at her mum's place -- over the course of their career as a band, their line-up did include some men, including Budgie, who later became famous as the drummer for Siouxsie & The Banshees, and his and his wife Siouxsie's side-project, The Creatures.

As you can hear in "Typical Girls", Ari brought a dub influence to The Slits -- even persuading her band mates to have legendary reggae producer and bassist Denis Bovell produce their first album, "Cut", 1n 1979 (with a teenaged Neneh Cherry on loan from Rip Rig + Panic contributing backing vocals) -- which made them the perfect touring companions for The Clash in the late 1970s. Ari's flamboyance as a performer is well captured in Wolfgang Buld's 1980 documentary "Women In Rock", only a very short clip of which is available online.

Ari's irresistible energy -- and that of the early punk scene -- is featured in a 5-minute segment from another documentary, "Raw Energy", shot in 1978 and released in 1979 -- which alternates between live performances and interviews.

The Slits also made an unforgettable appearance in the 1978 "The Punk Rock Movie", trashing a bloke's car. The live portion of the footage of The Slits in performance included in the movie was shot in 1977 by Don Letts, most famous as a movie-maker and photographer who documented the birth and death of the original punk movement, who was also a member of Mick Jones' post-Clash project Big Audio Dynamite.

One of my favorite post-Slits side-projects of Ari's were her recordings and appearances with Adrian Sherwood's New Age Steppers -- who have been described as a "post-punk reggae supergroup" -- and which was/is comprised of many of the British-born "usual suspects" from the On-U stable of artists and produced by Adrian Sherwood. Here she is performing a reggae standard "My Guiding Star" with The New Age steppers.

Ari's best-selling hit as a solo artist was her infectious "Mi Done" from her 2005 album "Dread More Dan Dead."

Here is a more mellow dubwise version of "Me Done" with the lyrics delivered at a slower pace, recorded live by Ari Up & her band True Warriors live on the radio station that has done more to broaden my musical horizons than anything else in my life, WFMU, the world's oldest free-form radio station.

The Slits reformed in 2006, although Ari was only one of 2 original members to participate in the reassembly. For their initial EP, they recruited Paul Cook, who drummed for The Sex Pistols, and Marco Pirroni, who is best known for being Adam & The Ants lead guitarist and co-writer of most of Adam Ant's 1980s-era hits. As Narnack Records documented at her last label's website, the last project she worked on -- a video for The Slits' song "Lazy Slam" -- was released posthumously at Ari's request.

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