Punk icon Poly Styrene dies at 53
Punk icon Poly Styrene, former X-Ray Spex singer, dies aged 53
Punk singer Poly Styrene, former singer with the X-Ray Spex, has died at the age of 53 after suffering from cancer.
She was one of the first female punk icons, whose unorthodox yet infectious style was highly influential.
Real name Marianne Elliot-Said, she had cancer of the spine and breast.
A statement on her official Twitter feed said: “We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places.”
Singer Billy Bragg was among those who paid tribute, saying: “Punk without Poly Styrene and the X-Ray Spex wouldn’t have been the same.”
Poly Styrene formed her band after watching the Sex Pistols perform on Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday and became known for her unpolished vocals and energetic rallying cries against consumerism and environmental destruction.
Poly Styrene released her third solo album only a month before passing away
X-Ray Spex’s signature tune was Oh Bondage Up Yours!, a riotous rejection of social and gender norms that began with Poly Styrene’s spoken line: “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard.”
The band released just one album, Germ Free Adolescents, in 1978, before splitting up.
The singer went on to record a more subtle and subdued solo album, Translucence, in 1980, before retreating from the music industry to join the Hare Krishnas.
She moved into a Krishna temple in Hertfordshire with her daughter, and struggled with bipolar disorder.
Boy George – who once tried to break her out of the temple – wrote on Twitter: “I was a fan of Poly before I got to know her, she was a Krishna follower too, oh bless you Polly you will be missed! Legend!”
Former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock praised the “general joie de vivre nuttiness” shown in songs like Oh Bondage Up Yours!
X-Ray Spex, with Poly Styrene, right, recorded just one album before splitting up
“She wouldn’t kow-tow to even what the punk fashions should be, I think that’s what that song is about,” he told BBC 6 Music.
“I did see her not that long ago so it’s sad. Again, somebody from the punk rock scene has died far too young and it’s a loss.”
Billy Bragg told the radio station that Oh Bondage Up Yours! was a “slap in the face” to male punk bands and rock journalists.
“It’s always hard for women in rock music but it was particularly hard in the 70s,” he said. “I think she cut right through that. The work that she did and the things that she produced always stayed true to that original spirit of punk.”
TV presenter Jonathan Ross said his first concert was an X-Ray Spex gig, adding that the singer had “changed lives”.
Poly Styrene occasionally re-emerged into the limelight, holding a sell out 30 year celebration of xrasy spex live at the Camden Roundhouse in 2007 and released her third solo album, Generation Indigo, in 2011
“I know I’ll probably be remembered for Oh Bondage Up Yours!” she told 6 Music last month. “I’d like to remembered for something a bit more spiritual.”
From Concrete Jungle Festival to Xray Spex
What was I thinking, the day I decided to get involved with Punk Rock. My youth was way behind me, long gone were the days when I thought we were going to change the world. Call it a mid life crisis, or just plain madness, but I would like to think it was more the desire to preserve and celebrate a time in British culture and music.I had been away, become a father, worked for many years as a television actor, seen the world, discovered foreign cultures and philosophy. I didn’t need a pair of doc martins to define myself.Whether it was because I had often played skinhead roles on television shows, the bond I had with my friends, the memories of punks queuing up outside the town hall when I was a kid to see our local band the Xtraverts. The Clash at Brixton, Madness in Hammersmith Odeon, The fact Gavin Watson had made a living from photographs of my friends and me, or the TV documentaries I took part in on the subject. whatever it was, inside me was a belief which I discovered in my teenage years, which had kept me safe throughout my life. that said whoever you are, from where ever you come, you can get up there and do it. Punk Rock was a lot more than fashion and clothes, records and rock stars. It was a belief system, shared and loved by thousands.Continue reading Poly Styrene Xray Spex a legend of Punk Rock