I used to have three singles by X-Ray Spex in my collection, but they were lost many years ago as part of the shambolic episode in Edinburgh that I’ve mentioned a few times over the years. I never got round to replacing them, mainly as they weren’t always the easiest to come across in second-hand shops, certainly in Glasgow.
A couple of years ago, a dear friend of this blog very generously gifted me a spare copy of Germfree Adolescents, the band’s debut album from 1978. I was thrilled to be on the end of such generosity, not least as it took its place as the only piece of vinyl by X-Ray Spex in the collection, and given the price of second-hand records by post-punk bands, it is likely to stay that way for quite some time.
It wasn’t an album I bought back in the day. I wanted to, but there was only so much vinyl that could be purchased from pocket money, the paper round and the notes placed inside birthday cards….besides, many of the tracks had already been issued as singles or b-sides.
At the time, I never quite appreciated just how young Poly Styrene was when her band became such an important part of the post-punk scene in the UK. She was barely 20-years of age, just six years older than me, but the difference between a 14-year-old and a 20-year-old is about as wide as it ever can be in any aspect of the age gap….I just saw her as another grown-up adult singing with a band and appearing on my TV screen on shows like Top of The Pops. It’s only as I look back at what I was like when I had just left my teens to see just how incredible an achievement it was for her to be up on those stages, even more so when the difficult upbringing she had experienced became more widely known many years later.
I’ve often wondered when listening to Germ Free Adolescents as to how Poly Styrene would have grown and evolved in the digital era rather than the late 70s. She would have surely very quickly become a role model for so many people, disaffected or otherwise, while the music she and her bandmates were making would have found a wider audience than was the case – the album didn’t get any higher than #30 while there was just the one single to make the Top 20. One thing for sure, is that she would easily have found a platform to express her views, thoughts and opinions and not had to rely on the whims of editors and reporters from the music papers with their own more narrow agendas and outlooks on life.
mp3: X-Ray Spex – Identity
mp3: X-Ray Spex – Art-I-Ficial
mp3: X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents
mp3: X-Ray Spex – I Am A Poseur
As I was saying, Poly would have fitted in perfectly with the modern era, but back then the men who ran the music and entertainment industries didn’t know what to make of her.
4 thoughts on “ONE-OFF PIECES OF VINYL (4)”
I would hear Terri Hooley play X-Ray Spex in his Good Vibrations shop in Belfast as far back as 79. I was a Hip-Hop kid back then [John Peel type concrete vibrating Hip-Hop though], still am.
I was also a student of the 2 Tone movement and Poly was the punk version of Rhoda Dakar IMO. They were both accepted in their own scenes and then wider audiences because they werent the same as anyone: apropos sex and skin tone. Both writing some absolute cracker tunes that still move me to this day.
Totally agree with the comment about ‘the men who ran the music and entertainment industries’. Cheers for this.
BTW – You seen the I Am a Cliché doc ? Well worth a watch.
Poly [Mariannes’] unapologetically frank comments about the very writers she was talkin to are beautiful to read all these years later…
‘It’s just me growing up isn t it. It’s me going from 17 to 21. Everyone does some funny
things then. It’s just made more difficult by having every thought you think written down and printed in a newspaper. I’d rather be home alone all day trying to write a song than sitting here where I feel self-conscious about every word I say’……….
Absolutely essential listening. My life and its experiences would be so much less without this saxaphone touting punk LP and the music, words, actions and deeds of Poly – not something I can ever eloquently or effectively express.
JC chose the sublime I Am A Poseur which has a profound impact on me for reasons I noted in the Poly Styrene ICA. Her reach as an influencer, to young girls and women, is exemplified by Riot Grrrl bands who hailed her in fanzines and interviews.
Her lyrics resonate now as they always have. Her final LP illustrated that she hadn’t changed a bit – the world was catching up with her, and her views, at last.
Delighted to see this piece. The cover still gives me goose bumps of excitement.
In addition to the I Am a Cliché doc that Craig recommends (seconded btw) there was an animated movie that came out recently: Wendell and Wild. It has some great tunes with Identity and I Am A Poseur both feature.