Palmolive (musician)

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Birth namePaloma Romero
Also known asPaloma McLardy
Born (1954-12-26) 26 December 1954 (age 64)
Melilla, Spain
GenresPunk rock, post-punk
Years active1976–1979
LabelsRough Trade
Associated actsThe Slits, The Raincoats, The Flowers of Romance

Paloma McLardy (née Romero, born December 26, 1954), known as Palmolive, is a Spanish-born drummer and songwriter in influential early punk bands. Palmolive founded the Slits toward the end of 1976. After leaving the Slits in 1978 she joined the Raincoats and performed on their first album, The Raincoats. [1]

Early life and punk rock career[edit]

Palmolive was born in Melilla, Spain into a family of nine children grew up in Málaga with her four sisters.[2] [3] A questions teenager who chafed against the political repression and conservatism of fascist Spain under Franco, Palmolive left for London at 17 to "learn about life."[4] She returned to Madrid three months later to attend university, where she participated in anti-fascist activism, sometimes getting in trouble with the police.

Before long, she returned to London and lived at a hippie squat at 101 Walterton Road where she met John Graham Mellor, who went by the name of Woody; the couple was together for several years. Woody, who played in a pub-rock band the 101’ers just before punk emerged in the city, changed his name to Joe Strummer when he joined the Clash. Punk’s “explosive energy” and sense of radical freedom inspired McLardy. Like many others on the scene, she acquired a punk name Palmolive, inspired by Paul Simonon’s playful mis-pronunciation of “Paloma.”[5]

Returning to London after a break in Scotland, Palmolive wanted to become a mime artist, but the troupe she contacted needed a drummer instead, she accepted but stayed with them for a brief time. She never played an instrument before and fell in love with the drums, she always loved dancing so playing the drums allowed her to express her love of rhythm. Palmolive soon joined a band, the Flowers of Romance but Sid Vicious, who was the leader of the band, kicked her out after a few weeks because she would not sleep with him. Palmolive was determined to start a band composed only of women, because [she] “didn’t want to be playing music and writing songs and have that be dependent on whether or not I sleep with a guy.”[6][7] Nor did she want to follow the pack blindly by pretending to embrace people and ideas just because everyone else did, she wanted to live by her own idea of punk.

Palmolive attended one of Patti Smith’s October 1976 shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. There she saw 14-year-old Ari Up throwing a tantrum, decided she’d be a great person to front a new band, and asked her to join her band that same night. Ari immediately agreed.[8] Palmolive next asked Kate Korus, who she knew from the 101’ers time, to play guitar in the band, she also agreed. The three were joined by bassist Suzy Gutsy to form the first version of the Slits. On January 17, 1977, the English tabloid News of the World published the first article about female punks in London; the Slits were featured, along with the Castrators, another all-female band. Things were not working with Suzy, so Palmolive and Ari asked the Castrator’s bassist, Tessa Pollitt, to join them. [9] [10]

The Slits, now including Tessa, performed their first gig at the Harlesden Coliseum in London on March 11, 1977 along with the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, and the Clash. Vivien Goldman’s review of the article in Sounds proclaimed that the group had “PRESENCE.” Ari’s “unfettered vocal frenzy” coupled with Palmolive’s “fierce percussive pounding” and the overall freedom and wildness of the band’s musical and physical performance took the audience by surprise.[11] One audience member, Viv Albertine, also a member of the short-lived Flowers of Romance, was so excited that she asked to be in the band. Viv soon replaced Kate on guitar, and the Slits line-up was in place.

The Slits gained immediate attention and soon opened for the Clash’s 1977 White Riot tour. Palmolive’s passionate drumming was key to the overall brashness of the group’s performances; the group’s audacity - on-stage and in the street - invited violence by men offended by their refusal of traditionally feminine attitudes and attire.

The Slits’ raucous on-stage behaviour belied the democratic way they wrote their songs. Members would bring lyrics, then create the music collaboratively, exchanging ideas, and devising arrangements together. Palmolive wrote the lyrics to several of the Slits’ initial songs, including Number One Enemy, Shoplifting, New Town, FM, and Adventures Close to Home.

By the time that these songs were recorded for release on the Slits first album, Cut, Palmolive was no longer in the band, she was unhappy due to tensions with the rest of the band over management and creative decisions, including posing nude on the cover of Cut. Disagreements built up and she was kicked out of the band just before they signed a contract with Island Records, her unique drum style, along with some of the songs she wrote while with the band, can be heard on the group’s 1977 and 1978 John Peel Sessions recording.

Palmolive soon joined her friend Gina Birch and Ana DaSilva in the Raincoats. Palmolive recruited violinist Vicki Aspinall into the group by hanging an ad in Compendium Books, a “center for alternative thinkers.” Her drumming is characterized by Raincoats biographer Jenn Pelly as “more like painting, abstract-expressionist, not at all like a metronome.”[12] It fit well with the band’s non-linear, non-hierarchical approach to making music. Palmolive played on the Raincoats initial EP and their first album, The Raincoats, considered a “feminine response to rock’n’roll hegemony.”[13] She drummed for the Raincoats on a UK tour with Rough Trade labelmates Kleenex (later renamed LiliPUT after Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of the tissue paper brand, threatened legal action) in 1979.

Post-punk life[edit]

Palmolive left the Raincoats after that tour for a pilgrimage to India with her friend Dave McLardy; the couple moved to Spain, then back to England before relocating to the United States, where they have lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts since 1989. There they raised their three children, Sandy, Hannah and Macarena and now enjoy time with their many grandchildren. McLardy’s granddaughter Tianna Esperanza is a rising singer-songwriter who shares her grandmother’s passion for promoting social justice through music.

McLardy is on a lifelong spiritual quest, one that led her to explorations of Hinduism and Anthroposophy before finding Christianity, she is no longer involved with organized religion but embraces Jesus. McLardy considers herself to be a “punk mystic,” an identity that influences her outlook on life and her deep concern for social welfare and environmental issues, she has taught Spanish to children in public and private schools on Cape Cod for over 16 years, having earned a BA in American Studies from Lesley University along with teacher certification.

Her influence on punk and her role as an inspiration for women in music is chronicled in the documentary film Here to Be Heard: The Story of the Slits, Jenn Pelly’s book The Raincoats, part of the 33 1/3 books series and the God Save the Queens: Pioneras del Punk. McLardy participates in frequent Q&A sessions at screenings of the film and other events, and was part of a keynote panel about women and music at the 2018 Pop Conference held at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington. McLardy appeared in the 2019 4-part Epix documentary Punk. She is working on her autobiography.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "La reina malagueña del punk". Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  2. ^ "Punk's Palmolive still lives life the DIY way". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  3. ^ Pelly, Jenn (2017). The Raincoats. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-5013-0240-4.
  4. ^ Paloma McLardy, Interview with Dr. Norma Coates, April 2019.
  5. ^ Pelly. The Raincoats. p. 47.
  6. ^ Paloma McLardy, interview with Dr. Norma Coates, April 2019.
  7. ^ Pelly, 47.
  8. ^ Street Howe, Zoe (2009). Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits. London: Omnibus Press. pp. Kindle location 403. ISBN 978-0-85712-015-1.
  9. ^ "Paloma McLardy aka Palmolive tells Andrew Gallix about her journey from punk to radical Christianity". 3:AM Magazine. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  10. ^ "Interview with Palmolive". N Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  11. ^ Goldman, Vivien (1977). "The Clash, etc: Harlesden's Burning". Sounds – via Rock's Backpages.
  12. ^ Pelly. The Raincoats. p. 56.
  13. ^ Pelly. The Raincoats. p. 62.

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