Saturday Night Video: Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex

I posted on riot grrrl a couple of weeks ago, so I don’t want to push my luck, but I only heard this week that Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex died of cancer in April at the age of 53. Poly was one of the few women who were part of the English punk offensive when it hit North America in the mid-1970s like a blast of hot, sour air from an unventilated pub.

Above is an excellent segment about Poly from the British documentary, The Punk Years. If you don’t know her, it is a pleasant and insightful four minutes of video.

After the jump is a do-it-yourself, live-in-someone’s-basement performance of “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” from 1977, when Poly was 19. (This single was followed a year later by the band’s debut album with the inspired title, Germ Free Adolescents, the best cut from which, “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo,” is also after the jump.) Poly had a classical vocal training, but she used her voice to be noisily and cheerfully insolent about a world of mindless consumption and the human and environmental waste it produces.

(Executing a lateral move in pertinence, here’s Joe Fasler in The Atlantic on the horizontal transfer between “high” and “low” culture.)


“Oh Bondage, Up Yours”


“The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”

I clambered over mounds and mounds
Of polystyrene foam
And fell into a swimming pool
Filled with fairy snow


And watched the world turn day-glo
You know you know
The world turned day-glo you know

I wrenched the nylon curtains back
As far as they would go
And peered through perspex window panes
At the acrylic road


I drove my polypropolene
Car on wheels of sponge
Then pulled into a Wimpy bar
To have a rubber bun


The X-rays were penetrating
Through the latex breeze
Synthetic fibre see-thru leaves
Fell from the rayon trees


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