I was sad to hear of the death from breast cancer yesterday of Marianne Joan Elliot-Said, a.k.a. Poly Styrene, at the age of 53. Nitsuh Abebe has a nice piece about Styrene (and her death) on the New York Magazine blog.
Styrene was the singer for X-Ray Spex, whose 1978 album Germ-Free Adolescents I discovered at age 14 or so (so,
1985ish 1983ish) from Robert Christgau’s Rock Albums of the 1970s book. It was and has always been one of my favorite punk-era albums and, really, favorite albums.
She was British-Somali. She wore braces. She shaved her head. She freaked out Johnny Rotten by talking about hallucinations. She wrote lyrics like this:
My mind is like a plastic bag/ That corresponds to all those ads/ It sucks up all the rubbish/ That is fed in through by ear/I eat Kleenex for breakfast/ And use soft hygienic Weetabix/ To dry my tears/My mind is like a switchboard/ With crossed and tangled lines/ Contented with confusion… My dreams I daren’t remember…/ I’ve dreamt that I was the ruler of the sea/ The ruler of the universe/ The ruler of the supermarket/ And even fatalistic me.
Or like this: “Oh bondage up yours/ Oh bondage no more/ Oh bondage up yours/ Oh bondage no more.”
You could say she was the female Johnny Rotten but perhaps the female David Johanson of the New York Dolls in 1975 or so is more accurate.