X Ray Spex – Virgin Records – 1977

Bringing this post forward from August 2008 to today to celebrate the life of Poly Styrene who sadly passed away earlier today at the age of 53 from the cancer that she was diagnosed with in Febuary this year. Thoughts go out to her family and friends from all at KYPP online.

Oh Bondage Up Yours!

I Am A Cliche

Just fancied putting this 12″ up on the site today, not sure why, just a great record I guess.

Fronted by vocalist and songwriter Poly Styrene (Marion Elliot), X-Ray Spex was a band which emphasized the lighter side of the UK punk movement. Rather than relying on anger and nihilism — not to mention lots of black — to get their point across, the Spex emphasized wit and mockery, wrapped up and presented in colorful day-glo packaging. The other members of this five-piece outfit included sixteen-year-old Lora Logic (Susan Whitby) on cheerfully off-key sax; bassist Paul Dean – yes, a different Paul Dean than the Canadian who formed the cheese-metal band Loverboy; guitarist Jak Airport (Jack Stafford); and drummer B.P. Hurding.

The Spex first became known to record buying public through their appearance on the Harvest label’s 1977 live album The Roxy, London WC2, which was recorded at their second-ever live gig. The group then signed with Virgin Records in 1977, and shortly thereafter they released what is perhaps their best known recording: Oh Bondage, Up Yours. Surprisingly, despite becoming one of the quintessential punk catch phrases, the single never actually made any of the charts. This song was typical of what became their signature sound: screeching vocals and off-key sax chasing and baiting each other over a careening guitar-driven din, the lyrics cleverly worded outrage emphasizing alientantion, identity and rampant commercialism in an increasingly sterile and artificial world.

During their glory days, X-Ray Spex produced only one album (Germ Free Adolescents, released in 1978, made it to number 30 on the charts, but was not released in the United States until 1992) as well as a handful of singles, such as Germ Free Adolescence (number 19 on the charts), The Day The World Turned Day-Glo and Identity. However, Lora left to form her own band Essential Logic before the album’s release. She was replaced on sax by Rudi Thompson, who used many of the riffs that Lora had originally written in the recordings, and X-Ray Spex went on to play at the Rock Against Racism rally in London on April 30, 1978.

The above text ripped off wwwdotcomnetdotca because I was basically feeling pretty lazy today. Thanks to them in advance if they find out also to sugarbuzzmagazine.com for the text below:


Born in 1957, Marian Joan Elliot lived in Bromley, England with her mother, a legal secretary, and her father a Somaliland aristocrat. Growing up with mixed-race parents was difficult in a town where there was judgment. Packing up, they soon moved to Brixton in South London, where multi-culturism was booming in modern Great Britain, and a more accepting atmosphere.

Realizing at a very young age that she was destined to a life of non-conformity, there was a sense of ambition, adventure, fame, and financial independence that Marianne had a drive for. Following in her mother’s footsteps in office work was not for her. At the age of 15, wanting to escape the world of mundane, she ran away to tour with the post-hippie rock festivals around England. This lasted 2 years then finally she returned home at age 18. This is when Marianne was first introduced to punk. Punk promised that you could be a new person, live a new life without boundaries, and to transform into whatever you wanted. She set up shop in Beaufort Market on the infamous King’s Road. Using her punked-out trademarks with homespun couture, she spawned the new identity. Thus, Poly Styrene was born—and so was her new shop, “Poly Styrene.” Her fashion was very immediate—an instant success. People recognized her overnight, wearing her style of bright colors and plastic clothes.

For Poly, there was a new sense of freedom. Where punk wasn’t supposed to be logical, transcending labels and boundaries raised an eyebrow in shock value. This was about pushing the envelope, and it was here that she created her own stamp. It was an attractive package that paved the way for independence for her and into a new territory that gave punk and Poly strength–and a far cry from the mundane life of Bromley.

One day after picking up a day-glo tie at Poly’s shop, The manager for, “ The Man In The Moon,” [now known as World’s End Pub,] a local pub located smack-dab between Vivienne Westwood’s shop, “Seditionaries,” and Beaufort Market, had arranged to have X-ray Spex perform every Wednesday night.

Then in 1976, that same year, she ran an ad in the now defunct magazine, Melody Maker. Soon Poly Styrene was at the helm on vocals, Jak Airport on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul B. P. Hurding on drums, and the 16 year old, Lora Logic, on saxophone. Hence, X-Ray Spex was born.

Their debut album, ‘Germ Free Adolescents,’ made them an overnight success despite the fact that they never took themselves too seriously. Within the perimeters of punk and new wave, Poly, unconditionally pretty, sported short hair, her trademark braces, and unusual plastic clothing style. She was well ahead of her time. Championing before the 1990’s ‘Riot Grrl’ liberation that was spawned a good 20+ years later, focused lyrics on subjects of liberation, suffrage, her identity in a white society, and even anti-consumerism was creeping into the popular culture.

The combination of all the band members created an original and unique outfit. Poly, with her wickedly upper-register rallying cries, Lora’s off-key amateur sax, Paul B. P.’s plucky bass, and Paul Dean’s pop-beats on drums, along with Jak’s Chuck Berry infused riffs, caught the attention of ‘Virgin,’ the major record label. Rapidly they built up a massive world wide following. Their debut performance was held at London’s Roxy, with only 6 rehearsals in their manager’s front room. So unique was their style, even John Lydon later praised X-Ray Spex, “…just not relating to anything around it—superb.”

That infamous intro-cry in, “Some people think little girls should be seen, not heard…But I think, Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” was a lyrical write-up regarding slaves in all forms—“free from unwanted desires, that were desirable.” It became a punk anthem and Poly became an icon. ‘Plastic Bag,’ and ‘The Day The World Turned Day Glo,’ created her signature fixation of all things man-made, with sarcastic and nihilistic tones. She sang about issues that concerned her, and yet wanted her lyrics to have some contemporary permanence.

Performing a blistering John Peel’s Session, they managed a knock-out show at legendary NYC’s CBGB’s—making a deep impression on musicians such as, Blondie, Richard Hell and even later, Kurt Cobain. X-Ray Spex supported events such as, “Rock Against Racism,” back in the 70’s.

Finding herself at the center of much media attention and speculation, and the departure of Lora Logic, Poly became overwhelmed. The turbulent relationship between the band and her manager, the Late Falcon Stuart, [also was the manager for Adam and the Ants], had caused the breakdown of not only her band, but also her health. Regrettably, Poly claimed that she had been cheated out of years of royalties (which lasted in a 6-year battle), with the band to split in 1979.


Poly Styrene July 1957 – April 2011

s. Poly to become Maharani Devi in the Hareishna and  BP and Jak left to become Classix Nou

  1. alistairliv
    August 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Oh Bondage Up Yours is awesome punk. We played it at Pinki’s funeral 18 January 1996 @ City of London Crematorium. And The Day the World Turned Day Glo summed up (or adumbrated for all you Kenneth Grant fans out there) “PUNK” for me in 1978.

    Everything X Ray Spex did was awesome punk. When I was ‘managing’ All the Madmen and used to get sent container loads of tapes by Crass inspired anarcho-punk groups I would write back asking them to have a listen to X Ray Spex and try again.

    I have dug out Germ Free Adolescents and am listening to it now. It is so… punk. At once naive and knowing, cynical and optimistic…

    I know I’m artificial
    But don’t put the blame on me
    I was reared with appliances
    In a consumer society

    Warrior in Woolthworths
    His roots are in today
    Doesn’t know his history
    He threw the past away

    My mind is like a plastic bag
    That corresponds to all those ads
    It sucks up all the rubbish
    That is fed in through the ear

    My mind is like a switchboard
    With crossed and tangled lines
    Contented with confusion
    That is plugged into my head
    I don’t know what is going on
    It is the operators job, not mine
    I said

    I can’t write and and I can’t sing
    I can’t do anything…

    How many hundreds of thousands, millions even, of words have been written about ‘punk’ by cultural commentators in endless books and magazine articles? But none of them have ever been able to pin down and capture the evasive and elusive thing in itself.

    As Poly said on Oh Bondage

    “I consume you all”

    Up Yours!

  2. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    August 16, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    One of Johnny Rotten’s faves of the era I am led to believe, and there were not many of them, he did not give most of the 76/77 bands any time whatsover.

  3. dan i
    dan i
    August 19, 2008 at 9:04 am

    XRay Spex play the Roundhouse in early September with support from Goldblade and Rubella Ballet. Sid Ation (Ballet tubthumper extraordinaire) is supposed to be drumming for XRay Spex – nice!

    Check the Ballet’s myspace to find out how Sid has been coping with his leukaemia.

    XRay Spex had all the magic ingredients and I am glad you gave that advice to the Crass clone bands Alistair.

  4. baron von zubb
    baron von zubb
    October 24, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    ‘I’m a cliche’ and’ how much longer?’
    Someone said that punk had been an answer for them for a while.
    For me it was always a question.
    Poly;Best lyricist.
    Electric live.
    We advertised for a bassist for our band ‘The Shit’. I was 16
    Paul Dean answered us.
    Somehow we didnt do it for him. You can imagine.
    Later on Keith R I P interviewed Laura for a pirate radio that was based in one of our old W HAMSTEAD flats. Poly was with her. Very quiet. Silent infact. They were both Hare Krishnas by then.
    Does anyone now how the gig went?

  5. andus
    October 24, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Funny this record should pop up today. I managed to get a copy of this 12 inch same cover etc, and have just converted it to wav file this afternoon.
    Absolutely first class band. innocent and fully energized, one of the definative punk bands, totally original and individual. They should have been as big as Blondie. I will never understand why they did not have at least 4 top 3 hits, bizzarre.

  6. Sam
    October 25, 2008 at 3:26 am

    At the time it was REALLY raw Andus, though today it’s obvious she’s got a fucking amazing voice. At the time she’d be in the catagory of ‘can’t sing’. I remember this coming on the radio when I was at my mate Dave’s house in 77. He lived in Walthamstow and his dad was old east end. ‘Turn that crap off!’ he said angrily. No more offensive than yer average Carry On film really but something about that era of punk really hit a very raw nerve. It takes an act of imagination to realize that now though. Poly was the banshee’s banshee and could write a feminist anthem without being a feminist. Year zero indeed.

  7. Lion
    August 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Very nice.

  8. PeTe
    August 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    X-Ray Spex what a fantastic band a handful of singles and one real album can’t be bettered if you ain’t got a copy treat yourself you’ll alway wanna listen to it…Identity it’s a crisis can’t you see!

  9. Lion
    August 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Totally love the Spex — didn’t Poly become a Hindu contemplative at one time?

  10. Chris L
    Chris L
    August 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I absolutely loved them. Remember watching a programme bout them on Arena (which i’ve never been able to find anywhere – can anyone help?), sitting up late to see them on OGWT, ‘Identity’ being one of the first singles and ‘Germfree Adolescence’ being amongst the first albums I ever bought.

    But met Poly Styrene at the Sardine & Tobleroni exhibition opening party a few months ago and she was a little snotty. Which just confirms what I think of “spiritual” people in general really…

  11. Joe
    April 26, 2011 at 7:02 am

    So very sorry to hear that — very sorry also, to hear that she had struggled with depression.

    All these records effected my friends and I a lot circa 1977/early 1978, and the lyrics funnily enough, quite spontaneously, unpretentiously, intuitively, and in the most uncontrived manner, sum up a lot of what took place later in the world vis a vis materialism. Seems to me like Poly was almost channelling a wider consciousness. What was it the Greeks called it — ah yes, the muse that passes, and is gone into the ether, to return again via other channels and vessels.

    Rest in Peace Poly.

  12. gabe
    April 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Fuck April it’s the month of death my brother died two weeks ago gone but not forgetten.

  13. Joe
    April 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    A day for reflection indeed.

  14. frobisher
    April 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    V. sad, I was lucky enough to see X-Ray Specs at Tiffanys in Bristol in ’78, which remains as one of my favourite gigs of all time. Thanks for the great music Poly, you’ll always be remembered with fondness.

  15. dan i
    dan i
    April 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Another one gone – thanks for everything Poly. Identity was always one of my fave tunes, but also Let’s Submerge.

  16. mikeyG
    April 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Bleeding awful news…another one, after Ari Up n’all…got me playing old songs again…

    @Chris L – thats the Arena Special ‘Who is Poly Styrene?’ I think…A friend may have a copy, I’ll give you a shout if she can find it.

  17. Broccers
    April 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Such sad sad news, R I P Poly you will be truly missed, but never forgotten!

  18. Chris Low
    Chris Low
    April 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    @Mikey G : Would LOVE that if you can get me it. Please send your email or get mine via the KYPP contact.

    Really gutted to hear about Poly’s passing. Funnily enough my mum phoned me up this morning saying she’d just heard, and also if I remembered being allowed to stay up late on a ‘school night’ to see them on OGWT, and that ‘Germfree Adolescents’ WAS the first LP I ever owned (my 9th birthday present no less!) …

    Probably one of thee artists of that era who ‘broke down more doors’ in terms of what was considered acceptable/conventional for a ‘female singer’ to be than anyone else I can think of. A true original. And inspiration.

    And their music was fucking fantastic. Listened to the LP today and it hit me with all the excitement of over 30 years ago.

    A sad day indeed.

  19. gerard
    April 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    What Chris said.

    A true inspiration and for once I can’t really find any words.


  20. John Serpico
    John Serpico
    April 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I hope Poly knew just how much she was loved and respected.

  21. Carl
    April 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I echo what others have said.


  22. Craig
    April 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    After all the dross & bullshit today with that wedding, it makes you realise what a truly fantastic, warm, inspirational & wonderful human being Poly Styrene was!!! For all the millions wasted today, for all the hype & for everything inforced on us & shoved down our throats today it’s people like Poly who were & still are important in our lives, who meant something, who said words that they meant with a passion!!!! Today whilst the wedding was on I listened to the Germ Free Adolescents album cos that says far more to me than two multi-millionaires getting married who don’t give a stuff about me & you but I know that Poly cared & that says it all for me! Poly we love you & you’ll never be forgotten & thanks for the great songs & inspiration xxx

  23. Joe.
    May 4, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Andus, thanks. Great great footage.

  24. Joe.
    May 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

    That’s the best programme on Poly I have seen — Poly was definitely chanelling something, some spirit of the time, that would fully manifest in the years ahead in the world.

    No surprise either, she got into Hinduism.

    Great character.

  25. Mac
    May 10, 2011 at 7:20 am

    One of the best bands I ever went to see, sad sad times, Poly was a true star she did it her way. R.I.P Poly condolences to all the family.

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