The death of Poly Styrene (Marianne Said -Elliot) at 52 from
cancer is double shocking for us here at Louder Than War. Not
only have we been robbed of a great talent but also of personal
friend whose phone calls would cover everything from music, punk
rock, spirituality, Hare Krishna, politics and life with the
perceptive smarts that were ingrained in her wonderful lyrics
and songs. I met her loads of times and we always had really
good fun with great afternoons in the Hare Krishna Restaurant in
My band Goldblade even recorded a song with her and as a return
favorite I sang some backing vocals on her Generation Indigo
She was a wonderful, warm eccentric woman in all the best
possible ways and an all too rare positive spirit in a cynical
Perhaps one of the key performers in the punk period her
powerful songs still affect and influence women and many men
performers three decades later. Her band X Ray Spex left behind
an amazing legacy of songs that were utterly original in their
brilliance. The songs were brilliant enough but it was her
lyrics that were some of the best of era that really stood out.
Great perceptive poems about plastic society and consumerism
that cut through all the bullshit.
And her voice. A voice that was full of life and fantastic
vibrancy that had the clarity, intelligence and sense of fun and
independence that so perfect for the punk period. Her image was
also fantastic- self designed she was the ultimate self styled
icon who rebelled against the conventional female sexuality of
pop at the time and looked far better by being herself.
No wonder that John Lydon always had kind words for her- and
thatís rare from him!
At least she lived long enough to see the love people had for
her and the great reviews for her Generation Indigo solo album.
Generation Indigo is neither the raucous, sax driven punk rock
of her youth or the spiritual trip outs of her occasional solo
releases, itís an album that sees her idiosyncratic viewpoint
stretched over several different styles.
Of course there are moments of the punchy punk rock pop she made
her name on in the punk era but there is also dub, reggae,
electro, mantras and pure pop bubblegum on here for her still
great voice that combines innocence with a perceptive, very
smart and very 21st century take on the world.
With her great self-styled image, kooky imaginative wardrobe,
brilliant witty lyrics and powerful presence Poly was one of the
few genuine originals in punk and the unforgettable frontwoman
from X Ray Spex and one of the iconic faces on the punk scene.
The band may have only been around for about two years but their
series of hit singles have stood the test of time and made Poly
a major icon for generation after generation of young musicians-
including whole scenes as diverse as Riot Grrrl and Britpop.
Currently a new generation of young American bands like the Yeah
Yeah Yeahs and the Gossip, Le Tigre and countless others
recognise her fiery, inspirational presence and articulate,
clever lyrics that took on consumer culture and won.
Polyís indomitable spirit inspires and she is a role model for
women who break the mould.
X Ray Spex were one of the key bands in the punk revolution.
With their series of powerful hits that were a combination of
fierce riffing, signature sax breaks and the irrepressible Poly
vocals, the band sounded like no other.
That burst of energy would have been enough for most people and
for years Poly was off the music scene either with the Hare
Krishna's or just getting on with life.
In 2009 she reformed the band for a memorable sold out one off
gig at the Roundhouse and wrote a new song, Code Pink, for the
gig but didnít play it live. Luckily a demo of the song was
heard by Year Zero records who persuaded Poly to record a solo
album. She was on the verge of a great comeback but will always
be remembered for her dazzling brilliance and her one off
The solo album was a fitting epitaph to a wonderful woman. Iím
missing you Marianne.