[pic: Ian Dickson]
This morning I heard it through the online grapevine that Ari Up (née Arianna Forster) had done a runner at the age of 48. News of her death, yesterday — following “a serious illness” — was posted on John Lydon’s website this morning (Lydon was her stepfather). Ari Up was the original Riot Grrl, who, as lead singer with The Slits, influenced countless female artists from Nina Hagen to Madonna. The Slits, which she founded when she was only 14, were a gloriously shambolic all-girl punk band that went on to produce one of the best, most startlingly original albums of the entire post-punk era (Cut, 1979). In a post-feminist nod to Superman, she was given to wearing her pants on the outside, which later inspired John Major’s trademark look. Oh, and on one occasion she also chucked a matchbox in 3:AM contributor Richard Cabut‘s pint.
Everett True: “Fuck. I don’t know what to write. This lady has been such a major influence on my entire adult life. She was younger than me”.
John Robb: “Ari was a true revolutionary and genius and I took as much energy and inspiration from her as any of the blokes in punk”.
Jon Savage: “…As singer and co-writer in the Slits, she completely redefined what a woman in music could do and — in the ethos of the time — opened up possibilities that would be explored by herself and many others in the years to come. The Slits erupted during their appearance at the Harlesden Coliseum in March 1977. Like many groups at that time, they were learning as they went along: the performance was chaotic and violent. But no one had seen young women behave like this on stage: enacting a flagrant parody of sexuality, at the same time seemingly tougher and more disturbing than the other (male) groups on the bill.
I loved seeing them in 1977 and 1978. The shows became more coherent, but there was always this edge of chaos — which added to the excitement. …Up front, Ari howled, screamed, toasted, crooned, skanked, hitched up her clothes, pulled at her bird’s nest hair, and generally behaved in a most un-lady-like fashion. She was confrontational in person and on stage, but her courage went hand-in-hand with a gleeful, teenage desire to shock and outrage that was a major impulse in punk.
…Punk has now become so familiar that people forget its primal, revolutionary drive. For a brief period, everything had to be new. If it hadn’t been done before, do it: why not? What’s to stop you? Ari Up enacted this impulse on stage, on record, and in person into the 21st century. In any language, this was heroic, and I salute her for that: I’m sorry she’s gone”.