The group supported The Clash on their 1977 White Riot tour along with Buzzcocks, The Prefects and Subway Sect. Club performances of The Slits during this period are included in The Punk Rock Movie (1978). In November 1978, The Slits toured with The Clash again on the "Sort it Out Tour" and were joined by The Innocents who opened the shows. Joe Strummer said the group would be "great" with intense gigging.
Ari Up playing with the Slits at the Beat the Blues Festival, Alexandra Palace
, June 15, 1980.
Captured on a Peel Session, the Slits' originally raw and raucous live sound was cleaned up and polished by the time of their debut album, and over time their style began to draw heavily from reggae, dub and world music. Their Dennis Bovell-produced debut album Cut was released in September 1979 on Island Records, with Neneh Cherry joining as additional vocalist. The album's sleeve art depicted the band naked, except for mud and loincloths. Palmolive left the band around this time: it is often claimed that this was partly because she did not like this artwork, including by Palmolive herself, but according to Viv Albertine Palmolive had been asked to leave the band before that, and does not appear on the record. She was replaced by the drummer Budgie (Peter Clarke), formerly of The Spitfire Boys and later of Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The Slits' sound and attitude became increasingly experimental and avant-garde during the early 1980s, when they formed an alliance with Bristol post-punk band The Pop Group, sharing drummer Bruce Smith and releasing a joint single, "In the Beginning There Was Rhythm/Where There's a Will There's a Way" (Y Records). This was followed by a bizarre, uncommercial, untitled album of mostly homemade demo recordings, and a few more singles. The band toured widely and released another album, Return of the Giant Slits before breaking up in early 1982. Ari Up went on to be part of the New Age Steppers.
Ari Up and Tessa Pollitt reformed the band with new members in 2005, as Viv Albertine was unwilling to rejoin, and in 2006 released the EP Revenge of the Killer Slits. The EP featured former Sex Pistols member Paul Cook and Marco Pirroni (formerly of Adam and the Ants, and Siouxsie and the Banshees) as both musicians and co-producers. Cook's daughter Hollie played with the band, singing and playing keyboards. Other members of the reformed band were No (of The Home Office) on guitar, German drummer Anna Schulte, and Adele Wilson on guitar.
The band toured the United States for the first time in twenty-five years during 2006's 'States of Mind' tour. In 2007, they toured Australia as well as returning to the US, where they opened for Sonic Youth at New York's McCarren Park Pool. In their first visit to Japan, the band undertook a short tour in October 2007.
In 2008, the band again toured America. Adele Wilson left the band and No was replaced by American guitarist Michelle Hill. In November 2008, the band played Ladyfest in Manchester, and visited London Astoria the following month. In January 2009, The Slits' Myspace page listed former guitarist Viv Albertine as one of the group's current members; however Albertine's own Myspace blog stated that she only rejoined to play two shows.
In January 2009, the Los Angeles-based Narnack Records announced they had signed the band to a recording contract. A biography – Typical Girls? The Story of the Slits by Zoe Street Howe was published in the UK by Omnibus Press in July 2009.
A full-length album entitled Trapped Animal was released in 2009, and the band continued to perform live.
Founding member Ari Up died in Los Angeles on October 2010 at the age of 48. The band's final work, the video for the song "Lazy Slam" from Trapped Animal, was released posthumously according to Ari Up's wishes.
In October 2010, Viv Albertine announced via Twitter that she and Tessa Pollitt intend to release the "last ever Slits song", titled "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" from 1981 on cassette tape with hand-drawn covers.