Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poly Styrene Passes On

Poly Styrene, founder and leader of legendary punk band X-Ray Spex, passed yesterday, 25 April 2011, at the age of 53. The cause was breast cancer.

Poly Styrene was born Marianne Elliott-Said 3 July 1957 in Bromley, Kent.  She recorded her first single, a reggae song titled "Silly Billy," as Mari Elliot, which was released in 1976. It was after she watched The Sex Pistols perform in 1975 that she decided to form X-Ray Spex. She placed an advertisement in the newspaper and thus recruited Jak Airport (Jack Stafford) on guitar, Paul Dean on bass, Paul "B. P." Harding on drums, and Lora Logic (Susan Whitby) on saxophone. While X-Ray Spex would become one of the most respected punk band of the era, the road would not always be smooth for Poly Styrene. While playing in Doncaster she experienced hallucinations. She would return to X-Ray Spex, and the group recorded five singles and one album, Germ Free Adolescents.The band broke up in 1979.

Poly Styrene released a solo album, Translucence, in 1980. In 1986 she released the EP Gods and Goddesses. In 1991 X-Ray Specs reformed to perform at Brixton Academy. The band would reform once more in 1996 and release a second album, Conscious Consumer. X-Ray Spex disbanded, never to reform again. Poly Styerene would release two more albums, Flower Aeroplane (2004) and Generation Indigo (2010).

Neither X-Ray Spex nor Poly Styrene were very prolific in their careers, yet Poly Styrene would leave a mark nonetheless. Poly was a rebel even by punk standards. She was hardly a rock 'n' roll sex symbol, wearing heavy braces and dressing in Day-Glo colours. Indeed, she once swore that if she ever became considered a sex symbol, she would shave her head (and, in fact, she once did). Both with and without X-Ray Specs, her songs were for the most part positive, evincing none of the nihilism typical of the punk movement. What is more, her lyrics were often thought provoking and often political. A postmodern feminist who made her own way, Poly Styrene was unique.

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