Oh cancer, up yours!
Ahoy there mates, this is the “King of Crunk” Nick the Mexican himself, and I’m super excited to be here. Though it is sort of bittersweet really. I am super psyched to be posting my very first article here on our lovely new blog, I am at the same time saddened by the topic. Yesterday at the age of 53 Poly Styrene, lead singer of legendary punk band X-Ray Spex, lost her battle with breast cancer.
I don’t normally talk about music on the podcast unless it has to do with a specific movie, or show we are discussing, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a huge music fan, and I have a huge space in my heart for punk rock music, specifically the early stuff. The music affects and has influenced me in my life in every way. In my attitude, my world views, how I dress, and how others view me, I am 100% a punk rocker. I have been a fan of the music for almost 20 years now after first discovering the Ramones, End Of the Century in my mom’s record bin. I’ve been hooked ever since. Sadly though slowly, and steadily the punk rock scene is losing it’s heroes.
Last year we lost two key figures in the first wave punk scene, Ms. Ari Up, lead singer of all girl punk/reggae The Slits, and former Sex Pistols manager/fashion guru Malcolm MClaren. This past decade we have lost so many of the icons of the scene including; Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Joe Strummer (The Clash), Arthur “Killer” Kane (The New York Dolls), Lux Interior (The Cramps), Brenden Mullen (club owner, The Masque), Derf Scratch (Fear), Hilly Kristal (CBGB), Randy “Biscuit” Turner (Big Boys), Tom “Pig” Champion (Poison Idea), Tomata du Plenty (The Screamers), and many, many more sadly.
Poly Styrene, born Marianne Elliot Said, was only 53. All three Ramones were 50 as well as Joe Strummer, and Ari Up was 48. Malcolm McLaren once ran a shop called Let It Rock, that was once a meeting place for punks in London on the Kings Road. He became popular there by carrying t-shirts with different slogans on them that appealed to the young punks around the UK. One such slogan read “Live Fast, Die Young”. Live fast, die middle aged seems to be more appropriate.
For any of you who have never heard X-Ray Spex I highly recommend giving them a listen. Their debut album “Germ Free Adolescents” has inspired countless punk bands, and even some more known mainstream acts as well. From Karen O (YeahYeahYeahs) to Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) many ladies took to the mic trying to mimic Poly’s big voice. From the opening of the bands first single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” it was clear that Poly Styrene would not settle to be seen and not heard. She howled and screeched over the rest of the band forcing anyone who was listening to know she would be no ones plaything.
For a shy, soft spoken, chubby, brace faced teenager she had all the charisma and stage presence of someone who had been on stage for years. At 16 she was a true original, and although women like Debbie Harry seemed to get all the attention based on looks Poly once commented that if she ever became a sex symbol she’d shave her head. At the time when musicianship was the last thing on any ones mind the X-Ray Spex were true musicians, and a lot of that had to do with Poly’s lyrics. Whether she was singing about gender roles, consumerism, or trying to find your own identity in a culture where magazines, and TV ads force feed you images of what “real” beauty is, her words carried out to many who felt the same and were looking for someone to identify with and for a way to express themselves.
The power to inspire, and reach out and touch someone through song is what makes music truly great and what punk rock is all about. While fellow first wave punks the Sex Pistols were singing about “No Future” Poly Styrene, the X-Ray Spex, and all their Woolworth Warriors were turning the world dayglo and making for a “Brighter No Future”. May sound cliche, but Poly Styrene will be seen, and heard forever as a voice of a generation and an inspiration to many. Gone too soon, but not forgotten so quickly, RIP Poly Styrene.