A Black woman was part of the initial and highly influential U.K. Punk Rock scene in 1977.
"There's nothing wrong with beauty, but whether it's actually helping the female cause of being equal to men, you have to judge for yourself." – Poly Styrene
Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, better known to us all as Poly Styrene, was the daughter of a British secretary and a Somali diplomat. Raised by her mother alone, she left home at the age of 15 to find her way in the world. She recorded a single as Marie Elliot called "Silly Billy, a Reggae song about a unwed pregnant woman. In the summer of 1976, on her 19th birthday, she went to a live concert at Hastings Pier on the southern coast of England in Sussex. That concert changed her life forever.
The band who was playing that night was The Sex Pistols, then unsigned and months before their debut single, "Anarchy In The U.K." Like many young people in England at the time, she was struck with the idea that this is what she wanted to do with her life. She placed ads in music papers asking for other "punx" to form a band. Within a year, she was, along with Siouxsie Sioux of the Banshees, one of the initial female fronted Punk Rock bands in the U.K., and the only female of color (indeed, one of the few people of color) fronting a music group in this brash, unapologetic style.
Poly Styrene fronting X-ray Spex, London, 1977. Photographer unknown, courtesy of NME and Getty.
After releasing five singles and a single album, the bona-fide Punk Rock classic Germfree Adolescents, Poly left X-Ray Spex due to the constant touring requirements. She eventually released several LP's and EP's of music sporadically, spending a great deal of her time instead with the Hare Krishnas, of which she became a follower in 1983. She and the other members of X-Ray Spex would reunite for live gigs sporadically, and eventually released a second LP of material. Sadly, about a month after the release of what would be her final solo album, Generation Indigo, breast cancer took her from this mortal coil in 2011 at the age of 53.
Our Tracks this week: Title, Artist, Source
1. I Am A Poseur (live in studio), X-Ray Spex, John Peel Session Feb 1978
2. Thrash City, Poly Styrene solo, Generation Indigo
3. Black Christmas (Kahn Remix), Poly Styrene solo, single release
4. Peace Meal, X-Ray Spex, Conscious Consumer
5. Big Boy Big Toy, Poly Styrene solo, Gods and Goddesses EP
6. Let's Submerge (live), X-Ray Spex, Live at the Roxy Club ’77
7. Sky Diver, Poly Styrene solo, Translucence
8. Age, X-Ray Spex, “Germfree Adolescents” single B-side
9. Junk Food Junkie, X-Ray Spex, Conscious Consumer
10. Plastic Bag (live), X-Ray Spex, Live at the Roxy Club ’77
11. L.U.V., Poly Styrene solo, Generation Indigo
12. Silly Billy, Marie Elliot aka Poly Styrene, solo pre X-Ray Spex recording A-side
13. I Live Off You, X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
14. Beautiful, Poly Styrene solo, Flower Aeroplane
15. Trick of the Witch, Poly Styrene solo, Gods and Goddesses EP
16. Oh Bondage Up Yours!, X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX