Yesterday, I was devastated to hear the news that Poly Styrene, frontwoman of the seminal punks X-Ray Spex, lost her battle with cancer, aged only 53. With her bold, day-glo outfits, curly dark hair and the flashes of metallic braces on her teeth, she didn't conform to the 'typical' punk aesthetic, instead creating a look that was all her own; punk in its truest form.
When I first heard 'Oh Bondage! Up Yours!' on some 99p comp as a young teen, I was blown away. I'd been dabbling in some standard introductory punk for a few months (Sex Pistols, The Clash and Ramones were regulars) but that intro of "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think... OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS!" spoke to my fourteen year-old self louder than any of the guys had managed to. Germ Free Adolescents became my bedroom soundtrack, and songs like 'Warrior In Woolworths' and 'I Am A Cliche' looped in my Walkman for days on end.
X-Ray Spex were obnoxious, furious and joyous, laughing at the dull and the dreary and poking fun at the world around them. As well as writing angsty, brilliant songs they were also an education for a punk newcomer. Poly taught me that punk didn't have to be all metal studs, leather jackets and looking the part - it was the freedom to acknowledge self-expression, creativity and to not take life too seriously. It's thanks to her that I started to read up on other female punks, leading to Bikini Kill, Kim Gordon, Patti Smith and many others that have shaped me over the years.
Losing Poly is a huge blow, and it's sad (yet inevitable) that it takes death to remind people of what a revolutionary woman she was.
This has always been my favourite interview with her. RIP Poly Styrene.