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The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls, BBC Two

The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls, BBC Two

Exploration of women in punk strikes only a few bum notes

Iconoclasts: Miranda Sawyer (left) and 70s style icon Jordan

In 40 years’ time, when some suit at the BBC is searching the archives for some suitable footage to illustrate women in music in the early 21st century, will he pull out an image of Miley Cyrus or Rihanna wrapped in fishnets and bondage tape?

I ask because it seems as though the central question posed by this women-in-punk-themed edition of The Culture Show - namely, whether the spirit of the fearless femmes of the 1970s lives on today - must be answered not by the many successors to the punk, riot grrrl and grunge acts playing their way through underground venues all over the country, but by the aforementioned Disney-girl-gone-bad smearing herself in mud in a clueless homage to the cover of The Slits’ 1979 debut Cut.

I may seem disenchanted, but it was one of only a few unintentional sour notes struck by Girls Will Be Girls - most of the rest were part of the soundtrack and were as glorious as presenter Miranda Sawyer’s interviews with the likes of Viv Albertine, Chrissie Hynde (pictured, below right) and The Raincoats’ Ana da Silva and Gina Birch. And even if the documentary paid mere lip service to the roles played by women in contemporary underground music, the fact that all four continue to break new ground through solo careers that embrace and revel in the life experiences and perspectives of older women is something to be celebrated.

It was one of only a few unintentional sour notes

Former Slits guitarist Albertine brought out a memoir (the brilliantly titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys) a few weeks ago, and her debut solo album The Vermillion Border is not much older. So it stood to reason that she commanded the bulk of the interview time, speaking passionately about her time in The Slits and a little about what came after. It took time - and the input of Chrissie Hynde - for Albertine to see her place in an almost always all-female band as the radical act it later appeared: instead, Johnny Rotten and the rest of the Sex Pistols were her early inspirations. Rotten was, she said, “as near a girl like me as a boy could be” - an epiphany that led to her buying a guitar that she couldn’t play with £200 she was left by her grandmother, forming a short-lived band with Sid Vicious and ultimately joining The Slits shortly after their first show in March 1977.

Chrissie Hynde in The Culture Show: Girls Will Be GirlsAlbertine’s affection for The Slits frontwoman Ari Up, who died of cancer in 2010, provides some of the documentary’s most touching moments: her famous pissing on stage was not, the guitarist said, intended as some controversial act but rather the direct result of the unusually liberated and confident singer just needing to go. Interviews with the members of The Raincoats were disappointingly short, but provided tantalising glimpses of what the confidence of The Slits meant for other female musicians.

And the role of women in the punk movement wasn’t just limited to musicians, as Sawyer illustrated through interviews with photographer Sheila Rock and the still-fabulous style icon Jordan, whose clothing on her way to work at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s infamous SEX boutique was so provocative she used to be upgraded to first class train travel for her own protection. The delightful Rock, whose style was inspired by the punk musicians that she shot - essentially, she photographed what she thought was interesting and learned as she went along - provided another of the documentary’s inadvertently hilarious moments as Sawyer flicked through an album featuring photographs of Siouxie Sioux. “She’s wearing a t-shirt that shows two…” “Tits,” the older woman interrupted, before Sawyer could hide behind some 21st century euphemism.

The role of women in the punk movement wasn’t just limited to musicians


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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