R.I.P. Poly Styrene, Punk Legend and X-Ray Spex Frontwoman

by PopMatters Staff

26 April 2011

Poly Styrene (Marianne Elliott-Said): July 3rd 1957- April 25th 2011. Popular music has lost one of its great women.
 

We have some very sad news out of the UK to report this morning. Former X-Ray Spex frontwoman and punk pioneer Poly Styrene (Marianne Elliott-Said) has passed away at the age of 53 after a bout with cancer. This comes just one day before the US release of her thrilling new album, Generation Indigo, which proved she’d never lost a step or a beat during her storied musical career.

Yesterday, Maria Schurr wrote of Generation Indigo: “With Poly Styrene’s first solo album since 2004’s Flower Aeroplane, she has taken the Spex blueprint and modified it to perfectly fit the foibles of today’s generation, the end result sounding a bit like M.I.A. minus the sometimes petty forays into provocation.  In short, Styrene has reinvented herself as an elder perfectly attuned to and capable of commenting on youth culture.”

She always was the incisive cultural chronicler and commentator from the very beginning. X-Ray Spex’s 1978 album Germ Free Adolescents was an iconic punk release, anticipating and influencing greatly the future riot girl movement as well as being one of punk’s and late ‘70s Britain’s most important records. Poly Styrene’s music was always smart and fun in equal doses, making listeners think about gender politics, while shaking their booty and enjoying her marvelous wit. One of the great women of popular music has passed and will be greatly missed.
  
So, let’s celebrate her life the way she would have wanted, through music…

On this recent interview with John Robb, Poly Styrene takes us through her new album song by song:


Here’s “Virtual Boyfriend”, the single from her latest record:


Then there are the classic X-Ray Spex tunes, without which no history of punk could ever hope to be complete. The first single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”:


The poppy “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo”, which rose to #23 on the UK singles charts:

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