Confession. I was 8 when Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex hit the punk scene. I only realised, as I researched her obituary for Channel 4 News yesterday, just how I’d totally misunderstood her at the time. I’d seen the bin bag dresses and heard the often screechy singing and thought she was one of those attention seekers who shocked for the sake of shocking. An enlightening reading of her lyrics, Dave Simpson’s thoughtful interview in the Guardian just last month and my conversations with both Dave and with Charles Shaar Murray later, I feel huge sadness that I’d failed to listen more carefully at the time. Because curly haired Poly Styrene would clearly have been a role model for me.
I didn’t write the intro for my piece, and was so busy writing and finishing the edit of the actual report that I only realised as I read the intro out live that I was going to be saying “Oh Bondage Up Yours” as the lyrics scrolled up on my autocue. It was a little moment of Vulcan-style mind melding. You might notice a little grin of delight. It was quite empowering, as they say in feminist circles.
The new album Generation Indigo is beautiful too. Poly Styrene. I’m sorry it took me so long to find you.