Punk icon Poly Styrene dies at 53


Punk icon Poly Styrene, former X-Ray Spex singer, dies aged 53

Punk singer Poly Styrene, former singer with the X-Ray Spex, has died at the age of 53 after suffering from cancer.

She was one of the first female punk icons, whose unorthodox yet infectious style was highly influential.

Real name Marianne Elliot-Said, she had cancer of the spine and breast.

A statement on her official Twitter feed said: "We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places."

Singer Billy Bragg was among those who paid tribute, saying: "Punk without Poly Styrene and the X-Ray Spex wouldn't have been the same."

Poly Styrene formed her band after watching the Sex Pistols perform on Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday and became known for her unpolished vocals and energetic rallying cries against consumerism and environmental destruction.

Poly Styrene Poly Styrene released her third solo album last month

X-Ray Spex's signature tune was Oh Bondage Up Yours!, a riotous rejection of social and gender norms that began with Poly Styrene's spoken line: "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard."

The band released just one album, Germ Free Adolescents, in 1978, before splitting up.

The singer went on to record a more subtle and subdued solo album, Translucence, in 1980, before retreating from the music industry to join the Hare Krishnas.

She moved into a Krishna temple in Hertfordshire with her daughter, and struggled with bipolar disorder.

Boy George - who once tried to break her out of the temple - wrote on Twitter: "I was a fan of Poly before I got to know her, she was a Krishna follower too, oh bless you Polly you will be missed! Legend!"

Former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock praised the "general joie de vivre nuttiness" shown in songs like Oh Bondage Up Yours!

X-Ray Spex with Poly Styrene, right X-Ray Spex, with Poly Styrene, right, recorded just one album before splitting up

"She wouldn't kow-tow to even what the punk fashions should be, I think that's what that song is about," he told BBC 6 Music.

"I did see her not that long ago so it's sad. Again, somebody from the punk rock scene has died far too young and it's a loss."

Billy Bragg told the radio station that Oh Bondage Up Yours! was a "slap in the face" to male punk bands and rock journalists.

"It's always hard for women in rock music but it was particularly hard in the 70s," he said. "I think she cut right through that. The work that she did and the things that she produced always stayed true to that original spirit of punk."

TV presenter Jonathan Ross said his first concert was an X-Ray Spex gig, adding that the singer had "changed lives".

Poly Styrene occasionally re-emerged into the limelight, and released her third solo album, Generation Indigo, last month.

"I know I'll probably be remembered for Oh Bondage Up Yours!" she told 6 Music last month. "I'd like to remembered for something a bit more spiritual."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Pure shock. I grew up listening to Poly screaming her amazing vocals - Identity, Germ-free Adolescents, etc., and all of it a far cry from the manufactured junk that kids get now. Her interview last year on R4 Woman's Hour just showed what a truly brilliant and unique woman she was. Rest in Peace, Poly, all too soon. And thanks for adding vibrant colour my adolescent years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Absolutely gutted. X-Ray Spex were one of the few genuine punk bands in my opinion, and were inspirational. Thankfully I saw them at the Roundhouse when they did a one off gig a few years ago and happily it was as shambolic as I imagine they were back in the day! Germfree Adolescents is a classic: musically and lyrically and just as relevant today. If only we could turn back the clock. RIP Poly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Such sad news. As others have stated, she was a unique presence in punk and inspired countless girls to get up and have go, showing them that you didn't have to look like Miss World to be in a band. She was a breath of fresh air, totally uncontrived and abandoned in her vocal delivery. She won't ever be forgotten by those of us who were lucky enopugh to be younbg in 1977. RIP Poly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    A big voiced, angry woman, who did not dress for sex appeal. Watching her sing 'Identity', her comment on how we struggle to fit into society, on Top of The Pops in 1978 was such a thrill and inspiration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    We live is a world of constant re-mixes and over sexed, under talented wanabees. I remember Punk coming and loved it. in the 80's we had punks, greebo's (me), psycobillies, casuals, new romantics. So many styles, so many choices. What have we got today?

    Rest in peace Poly. You really made us all smile and gave us music we could care about.


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