Poison Girls – Xntrix Records – 1981

Persons Unknown / State Control / Old Tart’s Song / Bully Boys / Tension / Another Hero Bites / Don’t Go Home Tonight / S.S. Snoopers

Other / Daughters and Sons / Fucking Mother / Dirty Work / Alienation

Recorded live at Laswade Centre, Edinburgh in July 1981 with the line up of Vi Subversa, Richard Famous, Lance D’Boyle and Bernhardt Rebours. This marvelous LP was released late on in 1981 and came in lovely clear vinyl, lyric insert and a strange and not very common in those days (or since probably) printed plastic sleeve over a plain black sleeve! Some notible faces actually show up within the packaging. On one side of the insert Fox (original drummer for D.I.R.T. sadly no longer with us anymore) blond spikes is shown going nutty, and Rob Challice (Enigma fanzine, Anthrax and Faction – gladly still with us to this day) to the right of Fox with the Poison Girl ‘crow’ patch sewn onto his shirt totally coincidental! Live performance photos courtesy of Laura Carroli.

The Poison Girls were an English punk band. The female singer and guitarist, Vi Subversa, was forty one years old and a mother of two children at the band’s inception in 1976, and she wrote songs that explored sexuality and gender roles, usually from an anarchist perspective. The original Poison Girls line-up also included: Lance D’Boyle on drums; Richard Famous on guitar and vocals and Bernhardt Rebours on bass, synthesizer and piano.

Poison Girls formed in Brighton in 1976, before moving to Burleigh House in Essex, near to Dial House, the home of fellow anarchist band Crass, with whom they worked closely for a number of years, playing over one hundered gigs with the band. Burleigh House was an abandoned five storey mansion that was condemned to be destroyed by the soon to be built M25.

In 1979 the band contributed to the revival of the peace movement by playing a number of benefit gigs with Crass and paying for the production of the first CND badges since CND’s heyday in the late 1960’s.

The band released two slabs of vinyl in 1979 firstly ‘Closed Shop / Piano Lessons’ on Small Wonder Records which was a split 12″ single with Fatal Microbes, a band that contained two of Vi Subversa’s children, Pete and Gemma.

The absolutely brilliant ‘Hex’, a 45 rpm LP was also put out on the Small Wonder Record label in 1979 and through it’s popularity was re-released on Crass Records in 1981.

This material is featured on this site if you care to search for it using the search function.

In 1980, and again with Crass, they proved influential to the establishment of the short lived Wapping Autonomy Centre by contributing the track ‘Persons Unknown’ to a split single with Crass who contributed ‘Bloody Revolutions’ and raising through the sales of that 7” single over £10,000 for the centre which opened up it’s doors in 1981.

‘Chappaquiddick Bridge’ the debut 33 rpm LP was also released on Crass Records in 1980 plus ‘A Statement’ flexi disc was slipped into the gatefold sleeve packaging.

Their song ‘Bully Boys / Pretty Polly’ (flexi disc given away free with In The City magazine) was an attack on violent machismo that led to the band being blacklisted by the left wing Socialist Workers Party and attacked by members of the right wing National Front both these political movements were convinced it was an attack on there organisations. Of course it was!

The band had moved to Leytonstone after the squatted mansion had been destroyed by the construction of the M25 and went on to set up the label Xntrix alongside a publishing arm for the Impossible Dream magazine and recording studios for other artists such as the up and coming Rubella Ballet, Omega Tribe and Null And Void.

The ‘All Systems Go’ 7” was the bands last Crass Records release and came out in 1981. Poison Girls stopped touring with Crass toward the end of that year to be replaced by Flux Of Pink Indians and D.I.R.T. as favoured Crass support acts that went up and down the country with the main star turn.

Poison Girls did support and perform at the all day Zig Zag squat gig in December 1982 organised by Andy Palmer, Penny Rimbaud, Andy Martin and various KYPP collective members. That was the last time the Poison Girls and Crass shared a stage together. D.I.R.T. performed last on the bill (much to the bands annoyance) and Fox left the stage halfway through the set to be replaced by Martin of Flux to continue drumming along and finish that set! D.I.R.T split up that night with Fox and his brother Vomit the bassist leaving the band and Lou joined Flux Of Pink Indians. D.I.R.T. reformed a year or so  later though with a different line up. Fox as mentioned in the text at the start of this post, is featured on this Poison Girls insert that accompanied the LP uploaded tonight.

The ‘Total Exposure’ LP was the debut Poison Girls release on Xntrix and a year later was followed by the ‘Where’s the Pleasure?’ LP released in 1982.

Though their last studio recordings were released before 1985 via both the Xntrix and Illuminated Record labels, a number of Poison Girls compilations have since been released, and their songs frequently appear on punk anthologies.

Poison Girls were certainly one of the best bands around in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s era and the track ‘Persons Unknown’ still resonates as strongly in 2010 as it did during the height of the Cold War.

  1. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I was at this gig. Think it was the second time Crass played Scotland, or that I saw them at least. Pretty sure it was a Sunday and perhaps quite an early show as I remember getting a run through with my mate’s dad in the afternoon and once we got to this we village outside Edinburgh him winding down the window to ask sundry spiky-tops directions to the hall as, much to our chagrin, he insisted on dropping us right at the door. Still, I suppose we were only eleven or twelve. Only other memory being that there was a fight during some part of the night (nothing out of the ordinary back then) and being relieved to have a lift out of the place afterwards as the locals didn’t exactly seem welcoming of outsiders.

  2. DavidM
    March 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    They played a show Aberdeen Music Hall ’81 with Crass and Annie Anxiety. Perhaps on the very same tour? But yes, this disc is indeed marvelous, and over the years (though not entirely at the time) have come to appreciate the band’s greatness, leaving behind I think a far more important legacy than Crass.

  3. Trunt
    March 15, 2010 at 7:33 am

    When I first saw the Poisons, playing with Crass 1980, I thought who the fuck is this lot, they looked like my old teachers had got up to play. But how wrong was I, a brilliant band and a great piece of vinyl. I last heard Vi was living in Ibiza, old hippie at heart I suppose and Richard was crofting up in Scotland, that was a bit a go now. Cleator Moor was a bit like the village hall you mention Chris, they didn’t and still don’t like outsiders.

  4. Andy T
    Andy T
    March 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    This was recorded the day after the gig in Perth, which was marred by lots of violence. The Crass set was recorded by me and later released as ‘You’ll ruin it for everyone’ See the sleeves notes for my memories of that night. I still have the Poisons set from Perth on tape somewhere.

    The day after at Laswade, we expected trouble again as it isn’t far from Perth and the Skins responsible had said they were coming down for it. The event went without a hitch, very, very peaceful indeed. The Poisons played two sets, to make sure they got a good recording. My friends from Cargo Studios, Rochdale John Brierley and Colin Richardson, had come up to record it professionally.

    Not only did it all go peacefully, I got a lift home that night, right to my front door in Rochdale.

    I saw John Brierley a few months ago and we were talking about this gig and the resulting record, which he was very proud of because the packaging was unusual at the time.

  5. Chris L
    Chris L
    March 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Weird. Just trying to think why I didn’t go to the Perth gig as that would have been just up the road and I had loads of mates there. Sure some of the guys from Perthshire punk heroes The Narodniks would have been there.
    So, at Lasswade did the Poisons play an early set as well? That would account for why we set off in the afternoon. Another thing I recall now is that we went after my friend heard about the gig on some local Scottish radio show. Which would make sense as there’s no way i’d have been in touch with any ‘fanzine network’ back then, if one even existed in Scotland at the time.
    Actually, the first time Crass played Scotland – to my knowledge – would have been a year or so before (as i remember buying either the Zoundz or Honey Bane single at the time) when they played at The Albert hall in Stirling. Fuck knows who put that on. The support band was local act, Spiked Copy. Many, many years later I was running an acid house club in Edinburgh with a guy called Kenny Brady, who one night revealed he played with Spiked Copy! He went on to play in The Fall, on the Shift Work & Extricate albums whilst Mark E Smith was living in Edinburgh.
    Think that Stirling show got a review in either Sounds or NME too as I remember Spiked Copy’s singer, Pogo, showing me the cutting where it mentioned his band’s claim to fame.

  6. Andy T
    Andy T
    March 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I seem to recall the Perth gig was supposed to be in Dundee originally. It was probably changed at short notice, hence you not knowing.

    The Poisons only played two sets at Lasswade so they could have more chance of getting a good recording.

    The Stirling gig was about a year before, I seem to remember Glasgow and maybe Edinburgh then too. I remember an Inverness gig also but that might have been one of the many cancelled ones??

  7. DavidM
    March 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Ah “You’ll Ruin It For Everyone”. Had forgotten about this disc. Still available Andy?

  8. Andy T
    Andy T
    March 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    As far as I know it is. It came out on Pomona, should still be in print.

  9. SAitch
    March 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Yes Andy, the Perth Lesser City Hall gig was hastily switched from Dundee. From memory, none of the skins involved were from Perth although I knew a few young local lads who did participate, why?… for a laugh!!! I can remember ‘Tribal Rival Revels’ with all the shit going on and thinking ‘how fucking surreal is this!’. A very depressing night. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the reminisces accompanying the recording of the gig – I think I should do so, let’s see if I can nudge back some clarity on the event.
    Interestingly, one of the big bad skins who was from the Dundee area got a good hiding when he showed his face in Perth again a week or so later. Let’s just say, on this occasion he was ‘not so brave’.
    I also remember the Plaza gig and that fountain in the middle of the dancefloor. However, we nearly didn’t get there as from memory, Sounds had muddled the tour dates and we disembarked in Stirling expecting that nights gig to be at The Albert Halls. It seems truly implausible in these days of the t’internet and info overload.

  10. back2front
    March 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Nice cover version of “Persons Unknown” on the new 2CD discography by Internal Autonomy which also includes a cover of “Burn the Witch” by The Apostles / Hagar the Womb and tons of other great stuff. Give me a shout if interested in a copy.

  11. DavidM
    March 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Would like to second Danny’s recommendation regarding Internal Autonomy’s 2xCD. A quite wonderful release with tunes that recall UK Decay, Skeletal Family, Omega Tribe, and more. Folks can check out IA’s tunes via their page here: http://www.myspace.com/519704892

  12. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    May 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Does anyone know where I can download a copy of the flexi-disc version of ‘Statement’? I got the box set which is even CALLED “Statement” and claims to be “The complete recordings”, but it only has the ‘Wargasm’ version on it.

  13. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    May 2, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Many thanks Luggy. In all it’s scratchy glory!

  14. DavidM
    May 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Poison Girls will be featured in Lance Hahn’s Let The Tribe Increase with Jon Active given the task in putting together a piece on the band. Perhaps folks have been following it’s serialisation in MRR in recent years.

  15. alistairliv
    May 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    David :is Lance’s book actually going to happen then?

  16. gerard
    May 3, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Presuming it does, I really hope the bits not written by him will stay true to his spirit, because he had a really (I think) good & unique take on it all.

  17. DavidM
    May 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Alistair yes, the book happily will most definitely see the light of day. Think much of it had been already written prior to Lance’s death. Said series has been running in MRR since ’02.
    There are also plans afoot for another book: The Hippies Now Wear Black: Crass and the anarcho-punk movement 1977-1984 penned by ex-Metro Youth and Sanction man Rich Cross. For more information visit http://thehippiesnowwearblack.wordpress.com/

  18. alistairliv
    May 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    That is great news David. Before he died I had been discussing the book with Lance and he sent me the chapter on The Mob. I will paste the first few lines below. As Gerard says, Lance had a good and unique take on it all…

    I am also looking forward to Rich Cross’ book- which has also been in production for quite sometime now…

    Anyway, here is Lance on ‘No Doves’:

    “No Doves Fly Here” is one of the most powerful musical statements to come out of what we’re calling anarcho punk and if you didn’t know any better you would have it all wrong. By traditional standards, it’s barely a punk song at all, dead slow in tempo with repetitive, hypnotic bass lines. In some ways, the music is gothic with roots in songs like “Hollow Hills” by Bauhaus. Lyrically, it’s poetic. Previously, anarcho punk had great difficulty marrying poetics into their music. Poetry was meant to stand alone serving as an introduction to the song. The faster tempos and aggressive chord progressions made poetry in lyrics difficult usually coming off as cartoon-ish. But with the down tempo of “No Doves” it worked. The Mob were hippie punks. But there was something dark and ominous about a lot of their music. They were death hippies, tripping on the apocalypse. And it was all coming from the unlikely area of Yeovil.

  19. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    May 3, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Lance was a very sweet fellow, stayed at MRR in SF in the very early 1990’s when Tim Yo was alive, John Yates, and Lance were always about as was Martin Sprouse. Saw Lance a few times in the UK after that SF stay. Glad to know that his book is safe and being sorted / finished by Jon Elliot.

  20. Laura
    June 22, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Hi! Its you Tony?
    I did the pictures, what emotion to find this blog!
    Cheers from Italy everybody.
    Laura Carroli

  21. Jean del Frio
    Jean del Frio
    November 23, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Is Vi Subversa still alive? The Poison Girls have been hella important in my life, especially during the tough spots, which have been long in duration, particularly during a rather nihilistic period, sort of fighting between joining the army and hating everything else and such, very ideologically unsound, I know, but the Poison Girls protected my foolish ass from going off to fight for big brother; they’re just great music too! Thanks, Vi, wherever you are.

  22. derek patterson
    derek patterson
    November 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    i can remember this gig as we thought it was in edinburgh only to find out its about 10miles outside, anyway got to the gig and was first time we had seen CRASS and POISON GIRLS and we were blown away, superb and very emotional. but after the gig was our big problem as we missed the last bus to edinburgh and started walking, now 10miles you may think its not that far, but we are from deepest fife, with another 25miles from edinburgh. but would we have missed the gig, the atmosphere. never. it was a sunday, because walking home i passed the factory i was working at and we went to the canteen for a cup of tea and got the first bus home at 6.15 in the morning. hahaha the memories.

  23. Jean del Frio
    Jean del Frio
    December 29, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Thanks tricks*!

  24. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    September 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Lance Hahn’s book ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ is mentioned in the comments above. On sleeve notes to Brighter Shade of Black by Hagar the Womb it says that Lance’s book is finally due to be published soon by PM Press who are based in Oakland, California.

    I have just e-mailed them to find out when it is due out.

  25. AL Puppy
    AL Puppy
    September 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Ah…possibly 2013. Problem being Lance did not write chapters on Crass, Conflict and Poison Girls. I have suggested not bothering with Crass and Conflict, put something in about Poison Girls and just do it.

    The book has wonderful stuff like this in it which has to be published [I have edited Lance’s text down a bit]

    Their first band was the quasi-punk Demented Stoat… Autonomously and simultaneously they were developing a rural vision of the London punk squatter scene. Quintessential to anarchist action, they were living as closely to a non-hierarchal community based life rather than concerning themselves with long-term vanguardist goals. As much as they may have thought of themselves as apolitical, they were a country mouse part of that tradition.

    Steve, “Although we all had strong feelings about the world we were always less involved in any political stuff & the same goes for most of the musos from the Swamp, The Hampton sound… Sure I went to some protests, & supported free benefit gigs for good causes, but mostly I just made music & got stoned. I would never go to Stop the City for example. My 1st counter cultural political activity was Stonehenge Free Festival 1976. Life was never the same after that.”

    It was at those outdoor festivals that many punks and hippies were first able to commingle… Steve, “It was cos we all went to the free festivals that the bonds formed. In a cold soggy field, it doesn’t matter so much what scene you came from it was more about what were we going to do in that field, right now. We could all express ourselves just how each sub-sect wanted to away from the cities.”

    It was actually over spliffs at the Stonehenge Free Festival that Demented Stoat officially formed. Even the name was as anarchic as it was psychedelic… While shambollic, early gigs seem to have been a lot of harmless fun setting some of the standards of punk rock etiquette in Bath.
    Steve, “The 1st one was akin to the Grateful Dead’s acid tests: mushroom punch, free spliffs handed out when we started playing, Home made light shows of revolving colanders & electric fire bulbs. But most of the music was pretty Punk Rock. The Walcot Village Hall, Bath was always a magical place to see a band & there was a balcony put up around inside the hall, which added to the atmosphere. After a few gigs we had a recognizable sound & in an underground way the word spread about us.

    Though no records or even demo tapes were ever recorded. The live performances were documented like trainspotters.

  26. Trunt
    September 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for the info update on Lance’s book Al. Glad it’s finally going to see the light of day, even if it is 2013. I have The Mob and Rudi Peni pieces he wrote, and were printed in MRR. very nicely written. It’s a shame he never finished the whole book and seen it released.

  27. Old Knobby
    Old Knobby
    September 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    The first half of this seems to have gone walkies, any chance of re-upping it? Thanks for all the great stuff here, been enjoying revisiting stuff from the old days!

  28. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    September 24, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Both sides work for me Knobby…

  29. Old Knobby
    Old Knobby
    September 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Strangely Strange, I get ‘Permission Denied – This file has been identified as a copyright protected work and cannot be distributed using MediaFire’. The second half downloads fine though!

  30. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    September 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Sorry Knobby, both sides worked first time for me just this second.

    Download CCleaner (not spelt wrong) from somewhere and then ‘run cleaner’ to clear out everything from your caches and cookies.
    Then open up the registry and scan for issues.

    That may help…

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