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Poly Styrene remembered

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Poly Styrene remembered Empty Poly Styrene remembered

Post  eddie Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:33 am

Poly Styrene remembered by Boy George

She was a pioneer of the punk movement… and a legend in Boy George's lunchtime

Boy George

The Observer, Sunday 11 December 2011

Poly Styrene remembered Poly-styrene-007
'Ironic and iconic': Poly Styrene in 1991 Photograph: Ian Dickson /Rex Features

For the punk generation, Poly Styrene, the late punk songstress and poet, was a true legend, her style ironic and iconic. Polly was the prototype for Ugly Betty with braces on her teeth, a twin-set and pearls over a flowery shift dress, topped off with an army helmet. She was as cartoon as the noise made by her brilliant band, X-Ray Spex, who sounded like Roxy Music in a train wreck. Her lyrics were brilliantly comical and prophetic, with titles like "The Day The World Turned Day-Glo" and "Warrior In Woolworths" where she ripped into the consumer society. "Germ Free Adolescents" was an anthem for the OCD generation while "Identity", my personal favourite, was about self-obsession and vanity. "When you look in the mirror do you smash it quick," she belted over a chugging punk groove while Lora Logic splintered it with anarchic saxophone.

Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex had a slightly highbrow take on punk and took it beyond the burn-it-down-and-spit-on-it mantra. For me, the punk ladies always had the edge – Poly and X-Ray Spex, Ari Up with the Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Pauline Murray from Penetration. I would stalk Poly Styrene during my lunch breaks when I worked on the King's Road.

In 1977 I got myself a job working for a rasta guy called Troy who had a retro clothes stall inside Chelsea Antiques Market, and this put me at the epicentre of punk. Poly had her own little quirky concession up at the Beaufort Market close to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's celebrated shop, Sex. I would visit Poly's shop on a regular basis but only to stare at the legend that was, because her shop was little more than an Oxfam outpost. She sold the sort of clothes she wore herself and had a selection of plastic sandals which were all the rage. I was lucky to see a number of X-Ray Spex gigs and remember an amazing one at the Man in the Moon pub. Oh, the excitement of getting my copy of "Oh Bondage Up Yours", which started with the line "Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard but I say, Oh bondage up yours!"

Like yours truly, Poly became a vegetarian and fell in love with a blue God called Lord Krishna. Long after punk we collided again at the Hare Krishna mansion in Letchmore Heath which was given to the Hare Krishna movement by Beatle George Harrison. I was in the area looking for a house to buy and came across the Letchmore temple quite by accident. Poly was looking quite different at this point. Gone were the braces and quirky clothes and she had blossomed into an exotic beauty. Her love of Krishna and new-found spiritual identity also had an effect on her music but I heard many stories about Poly – or Maharani as she became – putting the fear of Krishna into fellow devotees and chasing gurus around the temple. Even within the Hare Krishna movement she was legendary!

I interviewed Poly in the mid-90s on Blue Radio, a cable show I did briefly on the fledgling BSkyB channel, and she told me she had almost cancelled because she woke up to find a spaceship on her lawn. You never quite knew if Polly was pulling your leg or if she was actually involved in intergalactic communication.

Like many people I was devastated to hear that Poly had become ill, and I was delighted to receive a sweet message on Twitter saying she was on the mend. Sadly, it was not to be and Poly left us at the age of 53. X-Ray Spex only made one album, Germ Free Adolescents, but what an album it was. Anyone who wants to experience the irreverent magic of punk should get hold of a copy. A vinyl copy, preferably scratched. It will make your soul smile and you'll want to rip holes in your tights and pogo.
The Gap Minder

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