Beth Ditto says the cheeky punk sound of the Xray Spex shaped her identity. Xray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene is back… with a free download.
I have a very personal connection to the punk band Xray Spex and their formidable frontwoman Poly Styrene. I’m not the only one. Beth Ditto of The Gossip also holds a candle: “Poly Styrene… so ahead of her time. She recreated punk. X-ray Spex, a band that shaped my identity.”
In my case, I was a teenager ready for melodic punk with a sense of humour that spoke to me about what I was going through (having a crappy job at Woolworths) and the community I lived in (South London, specifically Brixton, with its melting pot of subcultures and all kinds of community groups).
I listened to ‘Warrior in Woolworths’ again and again and again.
One day at Woolworths, when I finally got shifted from the toys to the record bar, the first thing that happened that morning was that a guy vaulted over the record bar and started shoving all the batteries for sale into a big Nike bag. We didn’t care. He ran out of the store, then strolled back twenty minutes later and emptied the contents of his Nike bag on the record bar counter with a mournful shake of his head. “They’re the wrong kind.”
The second thing that happened was that I looked around the pic’n’mix and knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. The tannoy played commercial top ten hits available in the store. I pulled a cassette from my bag – ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ by the X-Ray Spex. It had what is to date still one of my favourite covers: Poly and her boys crammed into test tubes. I put ‘Warrior in Woolworths’ on the tannoy and cranked up the sound so the security guards, three old ladies and a dog could get the full benefit.
Warrior in woolworths
Humble he may seem
Behind his serville innocence
He plots and he schemes
I think all the customers appreciated it.
If you haven’t heard the X-Ray Spex, I strongly recommend their album Germ Free Adolescents.
And the twittersphere has just confirmed that Poly Styrene is back! ‘Black Christmas’ was written by Poly and her daughter Celeste and was inspired by news about a killer in Los Angeles dressing up as Santa Claus. Mother and daughter calypso punk songwriting team? Brilliant.
Visit the Poly Styrene site and you can hear ‘Black Christmas’ – and if you sign up to the mailing list you’ll get free mp3 downloads, too.