Tuesday, April 26, 2011


A couple of days ago, I posted a few things from Poly Styrene's new album Generation Indigo. I knew she had cancer, but the recent write up in the Guardian UK had an optimistic tone to it. So, I was shocked and saddened this morning when I found out that she had passed away. I debated about whether I should write about her again so soon, for fear of coming off like some sort of Poly Styrene glee club. But, you know what? Fuck it, I'm a card carrying member of that glee club, and have been for the last thirty plus years. Whenever I see bright contrasting colors, I think of Poly Styrene. Whenever I see anyone pull off their own style, regardless of "conventional" beauty, I think of Poly Styrene. And whenever I see someone buying in to the acquiring of unnecessary shit (which happens these days with more and more frequency), I think of the lyrics written by Poly Styrene. The 19 year old with braces was way ahead of her time. So, unashamed glee all the way.

For any of you younger folks that weren't around in the late seventies, hear me now: Poly Styrene was one of the most original, thought provoking individuals to come out of the punk movement, then and now. And I do mean individual. When seemingly everybody under the punk banner was doing nearly the same thing, and dressing the same way, Poly Styrene bucked the system, shopped at thrift stores and sang about rampant unquestioned consumerism. I wrote about her and X-Ray Spex back in November, and though I'm loath to repeat myself, I'll repeat myself anyways. (Repeating starts below the video.)

It might be hard to explain the significance of X-Ray Spex to someone who wasn't around at the time. If you've grown up knowing the term consumerism, you're more aware than most young adults were back then. In 1978, few people had any view whatsoever about consumerism, one way of another. So, try to imagine the context: While other bands were singing anarchy and white riots, X-Ray Spex wrote songs that made anti-consumerism relevant and fun. This was before any real anti-consumerism movement, before Adbusters, before "Live Simply" bumper stickers. The lyrics were thought provoking without preaching, and the music was loud. Here was a band without ripped clothing or intentionally shoddy appearance, with a singer in braces and a saxophone player, singing about subjects that were universal and doable. It wasn't mean spirited, it wasn't angry, it was simply a message; and by virtue of that, your guard down and receptors up, it was relatable and palatable. To top it off, with the combination of Poly Styrene's unique voice, and the inclusion of saxophone, they sounded like no one else.

Here are some mp3s that I linked to back then, along with some surprisingly current sounding stuff from her 1986 "Gods & Goddesses" EP and tracks from Generation Indigo.

X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage, Up Yours! mp3 at Women In Punk
X-Ray Spex - I Am A Cliché mp3 at Lumberjack Theif
X-Ray Spex - The Day the World Turned Day Glo mp3 at Undomodo
X-Ray Spex - Identity mp3 at Last Days of Man On Earth
X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescence mp3 at The Mad Makerel
X-Ray Spex - Let's Submerge mp3 at Last Days of Man On Earth
Poly Styrene - Black Christmas mp3 at RcrdLbl
Poly Styrene - Black Christmas mp3 (email required) at Poly-Styrene.com
Poly Styrene - Thrash City mp3 at Here Comes the Flood
Poly Styrene - White Gold mp3
at The Cargo Culte
Poly Styrene - Virtual Boyfriend (Creep Remix) mp3
at μ sique
Poly Styrene - Generation Indigo Minimix mp3 at The Culture of Me
EP download:
Poly Styrene - Gods & Goddesses (1986) - 4 song EP download at Fade 2 Grey

X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage, Up Yours! video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Identity video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Identity (live) video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescence video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - The Day the World Turned Day-Glo video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Warrior in Woolworths video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Art-I-Ficial video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - I Live Off You video at YouTube
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage, Up Yours! (live, 2008 reunion) video at YouTube
Poly Styrene - Generation Indigo track by track interview
Poly Styrene & X-Ray Spex (from The Punk Years) video at YouTube
More Than Just a Punk Rocker - NME's write up
My Secret Life: Poly Styrene at the Independent.UK
Poly Styrene - Extensive profile and interview at Sugarbuzz Magazine
Poly Styrene at Wikipedia X-Ray Spex at Wikipedia
Poly Styrene - Art-I-Ficial lyrics at Lyricsmania
More X-Ray Spex lyrics (right hand column) at Lyricsmania


Margarat said...

Great post! I couldn't agree more. There's not a lot of people who are truly original thinkers, but she was one of them.

Mikel said...


Edwin said...

"Oh bondage, no more..."