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X-RAY SPEX- Identity 7″ (EEEMMMIIIII, UK, 1978)

On April 25 2011, Poly Styrene (born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) died of breast cancer. She was the singer of X-RAY SPEX, a first generation Punk band from London.

My love for X-RAY SPEX’ «Germfree Adolescents» album (released in 1978) is of the most intense nature. The combination of razor sharp guitars, an even razor sharper saxophone and the razor sharpest voice of Poly Styrene is amazing, simply amazing. Poly was the siren in Punk. Nobody had a voice like hers. She opened her mouth, sang and she became the most attractive woman you could ever dream of. And then the lyrics – always playful, laced with innuendo, joyful without being dumb or stereotypical. An orgiastic rainbow of the most colorful metaphors, so powerfully intonated that in songs like “Plastic Bag”, her voice, the driving music, the lyrics, it all blends together.
So today I stood there, the five X-RAY SPEX singles in my hands. Which one would I pick for this tribute? The one with my favorite cover (“Highly inflammable”) or the classic “The Day the World turned day-glo”, the song which everybody, just everybody loves? Well, it had to be “Identity”, cause this one has always been my favorite on the album (and by this, I’m not saying that the others are not as good). It’s the song with the murkiest undertone, methinks, but probably this is only me. Put “Identity” on and you got me vibrating and radiating like a nuclear power plant in an earthquake.

“I’m an observer”, Poly once said in an interview, “not a suffering artist writing from tortured experiences. I was playing with words and ideas. Having a laugh about everything, sending it up.”
Nothing she did after “Germfree Adolescents” came nowhere near and her “spiritual” turn, I could have done without. But what does it matter now? It’s all right, Poly. You too have the right, like we all do, to play around with words and ideas.

Identity.mp3
Let’s submerge.mp3

 

PS: In the booklet of my old band Fear Of God’s discography double-album «Zeitgeist» (released 2003), I put an essay under the following excerpt of the brilliant “I’m a poseur” lyrics:

10 Comments

  1. Nigel

    That’s sweet! Never would have thought you loved X-Ray this much. Now I only wish I could read the rest of the essay that starts off so fulminantly ….. :-)

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-May-11 at 17:21 | Permalink
  2. Nigel

    PS – is this what made you post the single today? Message from her label:

    Whilst I know there are so many of you who would love to attend Poly’s funeral to pay your respects, it is her family’s wish to keep it a private intimate one, and we have to honour this. So wherever that you may be, I’m sure you’ll be able to connect with Poly in your own way, please do so this coming Thursday 12th of May when her funeral will be taking place at 3pm UK time.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-May-11 at 17:36 | Permalink
  3. howardx

    excellent goodbadmusic sendoff for poly.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-May-11 at 17:26 | Permalink
  4. phil vas

    A golden voice! My four-year-old is loving this.

    Thanks for the post.

    RIP Poly.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-May-11 at 20:09 | Permalink
  5. Four comments after one day …. You’re all spoiled with good music.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    I think the problem is that you pretty much said it all. Great song, great singer, great band, loved em then, love this now, fuck yeah!

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    P.S. sorry for slowness in commenting, I was busy overlooking the Boston LP.

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    OVERLOOKING? I hope you meant “playing through”!

    [Reply]

    howardx Reply:

    being a bit older than most here i can actually remember buying the “more than a feeling” 45 back in 75 or 76.

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    Did you stick to it through the punk times?

    [Reply]

    malfeitor Reply:

    While you’re on the subject of Boston- Here in the U.S. EVERY SINGLE TRACK off of that album is still in regular rotation on classic rock (and other) radio stations. I’m not sure I can think of another record that accomplished that. Then again it only has like 8 songs- but still, that guitar sound!

    howardx Reply:

    i still have the 45 but i wasnt actively listening to boston in the 80’s, like malfeitor says you dont have to own any boston to be familiar with them, they are aor here still on classic rock stations.

    Posted on 13-May-11 at 21:41 | Permalink
  6. Nikolas

    Identity is the song that every (female) band wishes to write, to play and to sing…..
    But noone can write, play and sing this song like the X-Ray specs and Poly Styrene….
    The Power of the song…Blood is boiling. Brain explosion!!!!!! Makes you wanna go down to the street and start a riot, so powerful…

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    Seems like in Greece, a lot of people are listening to a lot of X-Ray Spex these days ……

    [Reply]

    Nikolas Reply:

    Yes Erich, this is true… I’m surprised that you have knowledge about the situation in my shit country!!! The riots in the streets are often these days…
    I’m about to get moving away from Greece like a lot young (30-40 years old) people who can’t get a discent job…..Thanks for your support with these few words

    [Reply]

    Posted on 16-May-11 at 15:28 | Permalink
  7. Marvelous post. I got that you dig X-Ray Spex but not THAT much :). Oh cancer, up yours!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 16-May-11 at 21:39 | Permalink
  8. fred

    Conscious Consumer, the 2nd LP, from 1995 is not bad at all!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 17-May-11 at 14:48 | Permalink
  9. Glad you waited for the tribute instead of when it was hot off the press…a little time to reflect, you know. I watched “Monsters” based on your recommendation…hmmm, it was okay. I couldn’t get past that she was having second thoughts about her fiance with all this shit going on. As far as Boston…again hmmm, they play them ALOT on the classic rock stations around here.

    [Reply]

    Admin Reply:

    I loved MONSTERS (and I know I’m alone with this). And BOSTON – maybe I love BOSTON because I never listen to radio.

    [Reply]

    justin Reply:

    My favorite part of MONSTERS was the scenes with the coyotes (the guys who so benvolently assist people across the border for bargain prices). If you dig BOSTON then you gotta get your groove on to MEATLOAF. ;-)

    [Reply]

    Posted on 17-May-11 at 22:03 | Permalink
  10. malfeitor

    Radio or not- Boston is great. X-Ray Spex as well. It seems I can stream Monsters from Netflix. Let’s see if I can make it a triple play…….

    [Reply]

    Posted on 18-May-11 at 02:45 | Permalink

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