X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex

Infobox Musical artist
Name = X-Ray Spex

Img_capt = UK 45 rpm single picture cover: "X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage Up Yours!"
Background = group_or_band
Origin = London, England
Genre = Punk rock, New Wave
Years_active = 1976–1979
Label = Virgin Records,
EMI International,
Associated_acts =
URL = [http://www.x-rayspex.com/ X-Ray Spex's official site]
Current_members = Poly Styrene
Lora Logic
Jak Airport
Paul Dean
Rudi Thomson
BP Hurding
Past_members =

X-Ray Spex are an English punk band from London that formed in 1976.

During their first incarnation (1976 – 79), X-Ray Spex were “deliberate underachievers” [ cite book |title= "All Time Top 1000 Albums"|last= Larkin|first= Colin|year= 1994|publisher= Guinness Publishing|location= Enfield|isbn= 0-85112-786-X|pages= p.236; ] and only managed to release five singles plus one album. [cite book |title= "The Great Indie Discography"|last= Strong|first= M.C.|year= 2003|publisher= Canongate|location= Edinburgh|isbn= 1-84195-335-0|pages= p.184;] Nevertheless, their first 45, "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!", is now acknowledged as a classic punk rock single [Mojo (October 2001) - "100 Punk Scorchers", Issue 95, London;] [cite book |title= "Up Yours! A Guide to UK Punk, New Wave & Early Post Punk"|last= Joynson|first= Vernon|year= 2001|publisher= Borderline Publications|location= Wolverhampton|isbn= 1-899855-13-0|pages= p.448|quote= An essential ingredient of any punk collection;] [cite book |title= "Punk"|last= Thompson|first= Dave|year= 2000|publisher= Collector’s Guide Publication|location= Ontario|isbn= 1-896522-27-0|pages= p.102|quote= It was a tremendous record… Whatever else X-Ray Spex might achieve, "Oh Bondage" had already done more than most groups manage in an entire career;] [cite web |url= http://www.hiljaiset.sci.fi/punknet/top100si.htm |first=Steve |last=Gardner |year=1996 |title= Hiljaiset Levyt: 100 Best Punk singles |quote= Revolt-in-plastic punk. Weird arty stuff with saxophone; ] and the album, "Germ Free Adolescents", is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest albums of all-time. [ cite book |title= "All Time Top 1000 Albums"|last= Larkin|first= Colin|year= 1994|publisher= Guinness Publishing|location= Enfield|pages= p.236|quote= A colourful explosion of sound; ] [ [http://www.hiljaiset.sci.fi/punknet/top100lp.htm Steve Gardner (1996) "Hiljaiset Levyt: 100 Best Punk LP's"] ; ] [ cite book |title= "Encyclopedia of Albums: 1,000 Best-Ever Albums"|last= Du Noyer|first= Paul|year= 1998|publisher= Dempsey Parr|location= Bristol|isbn= 1-84084-031-5|pages= p.89|quote= They aimed their fluorescent bile at the vapidity and sterility of the modern world, specifically the increasingly consumerist nature of society, in classic sax-drenched anthems; ] [ cite book |title= "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die"|last= Dimery|first= Robert|year= 2005|publisher= Cassell|location= London|pages= p. 420|quote= The whole record is a thunderingly radical and real; production is straightforward and merely delivers the sound of a scorching, hectic band unto the listener; ] [ cite book |title= "1,000 Albums To Hear Before You Die"|last= The Guardian|year= November 2007|location= London|quote= With anti-fashion icon Poly Styrene as frontwoman, and a 15-year-old Lora Logic on sax, X-Ray Spex offered neon DIY rock'n'roll that proved punk wasn't all self-harm and safety pins. The shrieking "Identity" and "I Am A Poseur" were unrivalled anti-consumerism anthems.; ]


Initially, the band featured singer Poly Styrene (born Marian Joan Elliott) on vocals, Jak Airport (Jack Stafford) on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul 'B. P.' Hurding on drums, and Lora Logic (born Susan Whitby) on
saxophone. This latter instrument was an atypical addition to the standard punk instrumental line-up, and became one of the group's most distinctive features.

X-Ray Spex's other distinctive musical element was Poly Styrene's voice, which has been variously described as "effervescently discordant" [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:g1320r5ai48j allmusic review of The Anthology] ] and "powerful enough to drill holes through sheet metal". [http://www.comnet.ca/~rina/poly.html Poly Styrene] from comnet.ca/~rina] As Mari Elliot, Poly had released a reggae single for GTO Records in 1976, "Silly Billy", which had not charted. Born in 1957 in Brixton, of Somali-English parentage, Poly Styrene became the group's public face, and remains one of the most memorable front-women to emerge from the punk movement. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,951567,00.html Are you ready to fly?] - article from The Guardian] Not conventionally attractive, she wore thick braces on her teeth and once stated that "I said that I wasn't a sex symbol and that if anybody tried to make me one I'd shave my head tomorrow".Citation
last = Murray
first = Charles Shaar
author-link = Charles Shaar Murray
publication-date = 13 May 1978
year = 1978
title = No Pop, No Style Poly Styrene is Still Strictly Roots
periodical = New Musical Express
series =
publication-place =
place =
publisher =
volume =
issue =
pages =
url = http://www.geocities.com/vintageinterviews/xrayspex.html
issn =
doi =
oclc =
accessdate = 2008-01-19
] She later actually did at Johnny Rotten's flat prior to a concert at Victoria Park. Mark Paytress recounts in the liner notes for the 2002 compilation, "The Anthology", that Jah Wobble, Rotten's longtime friend and bassist for his post-punk venture PiL, once described Styrene as a "strange girl who often talked of hallucinating. She freaked John out." ["Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground" by Maria Raha] Rotten, known more for his outspoken dislike of things than actual praise and admiration, recently said of X-Ray Spex in a retrospective punk documentary, "Them, they came out with a sound and attitude and a whole energy - it was just not relating to anything around it - "superb"." [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJmvaPdPG5Y "The Punk Years" documentary] ]

, and record label interest. [cite book |title= "Alternative Rock"|last= Thompson|first= Dave|year= 2000|publisher= Miller Freeman Books|location= San Francisco|pages= p.730;]

In October 1977, "Oh Bondage Up Yours" was finally released as a single. Today, the 45 is regarded as their most enduring artifact, both as a piece of music and as a sort of proto-grrrl catch-phrase. [Michelle Lee, " [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3693/is_200211/ai_n9126077 Oh bondage up yours! The early punk movement--and the women who made it rock] ,Off Our Backs, Nov/Dec 2002] [citeweb |url=http://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/04/08/bofh_oh_bondage_up_yours/ |title=BOFH: Oh Bondage, Up Yours! (article demonstrating the use of the song title as a catchphrase) |publisher=theregister.co.uk |accessdate=2008-05-23] Opening with the line, "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard - well I think, oh bondage, up yours!", the song could be interpreted as a premonition of the riot grrrl movement a good 15 years later, although Styrene herself insists it was more intended as an anti-consumerist/anti-capitalist jingle, and wasn't exclusively feminist in nature.

X-Ray Spex played at ‘Front Row Festival’, a three-week event at the Hope and Anchor, Islington in late November and early December 1977. [cite book |title= "Punk"|last= Thompson|first= Dave|year= 2000|publisher= Collector’s Guide Publication|location= Ontario|pages= p.102;] This resulted in the band’s inclusion, alongside the likes of Dr. Feelgood, 999, The Only Ones, the Saints, The Stranglers, and XTC, on a hit double-LP of recordings from the festival. Then, in February 1978, before the release of their second single, X-Ray Spex recorded the first of two sessions for John Peel at BBC Radio 1. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/artists/x/xrayspex/ X-Ray Spex’s John Peel Sessions on BBC Radio 1] ; ] Their profile was further enhanced by playing a fortnight's residency at New York's CBGB's, even though the album "Germ Free Adolescents" was not released in America until 1992.

On 30 April, the band appeared at the huge Rock Against Racism gig at Victoria Park, Hackney. Later in the year, to promote the album, X-Ray Spex embarked on their first, and only, full UK tour. Exhausted by touring, Poly Styrene left the band in mid 1979. She released a solo album, "Translucence", before joining the Hare Krishna movement (as did Logic, who left the band aged 16 in 1977 to form a new group called Essential Logic).

Without Styrene, the group lost its momentum and split up. Hurding and London went on to form Classix Nouveaux, while Paul Dean and Rudi Thompson went on to form Agent Orange with Anthony (Tex) Doughty, who later become a founding member of Transvision Vamp.

The first incarnation of X-Ray Spex existed from mid-1976 to 1979, during which time they released five singles - "Oh Bondage, Up Yours", "Identity", "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo", "Germ Free Adolescents", and "Highly Inflammable" - and one album, "Germ Free Adolescents". [ [http://www.hiljaiset.sci.fi/punknet/xraysp_e.htm PUNKNET 77 - X-Ray Spex] ] One retrospective review described the singles as “not only riveting examples of high-energy punk, but contained provocative, thoughtful lyrics berating the urban synthetic fashions of the 70s and urging individual expression”. [cite book |title= "Virgin Encyclopedia of 70s Music"|last= Larkin|first= Colin|year= 2002|publisher= Virgin Books|location= London|isbn= 1-85227-947-8|pages= p.503;]

The same reviewer in "The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music" sums up the band’s 1970s contribution as “one of the most inventive, original and genuinely exciting groups to emerge during the punk era”.


In 1991 re-grouped X-Ray Spex played a surprise sell-out gig at the Brixton Academy. Uniquely, this version of the group did not include Poly Styrene, and according to an interview with Lora Logic: "... that was a mistake. They put that together with another singer and I played with them for a tour but you can't really have it without Poly."

The group reformed more successfully in 1995 with a line-up of Styrene, Dean and Logic to release a new album "Conscious Consumer". Although heralded as the first in a trilogy, the album was not a commercial success. Styrene later explained [ [http://www.x-rayspex.com/biography/biography3.html Poly Styrene’s Biography By Celeste Bell] from x-ray spex official site] that touring and promotional work suffered an abrupt end when she was run over by a fire engine in central London. The group disbanded, but subsequent releases include a compilation of the group's early records, a live album, and an anthology of all the aforementioned.

Jak Airport later worked for the BBC's Corporate and Public Relations department under his real name, Jack Stafford; he died on 13 August 2004 of cancer.

The band played what was described as a raucous comeback gig in front of an audience of 3000 at The Roundhouse in London on 6 September, 2008. They performed the entire Germ Free Adolescents album, except "Plastic Bag". [ [http://www.nme.com/news/x-ray-spex/39556 X-Ray Spex pack out London's Roundhouse NME 8 September, 2008] ]



* "Germ Free Adolescents" (November 1978: EMI International, INT 3023) - # 30 UK Albums Chartcite book
first= David
last= Roberts
year= 2006
title= British Hit Singles & Albums
edition= 19th
publisher= Guinness World Records Limited
location= London
pages= p. 612
id= ISBN 1-904994-10-5
* "Live At The Roxy" (March 1991: Receiver, RRCD 140); live recordings from 1977
* "Conscious Consumer" (October 1995: Receiver)

Appearances on various artist compilations (Selective)

Listing of those various artist compilation albums mentioned in the text of the main article:
* "Oh Bondage Up Yours" featured on the "Live at the Roxy WC2" compilation LP (24 June 1977: Harvest Records SHSP4069) - #24 UK Albums Chartcite book
first= David
last= Roberts
year= 2006
title= British Hit Singles & Albums
edition= 19th
publisher= Guinness World Records Limited
location= London
pages= p. 585
id= ISBN 1-904994-10-5
* "Let's Submerge" featured on the "Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival" double compilation LP (March 1978: Warner Bros K66077) UK #28


* "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" / "I Am A Cliché" (October 1977: Virgin Records, VS 189); also released as a 12" single (VS 189-12)
* "The Day The World Turned Day-Glo" / "I Am A Poseur" (March 1978: EMI International, INT 553) - #23 UK Singles Chart
* "Identity" / "Let’s Submerge" (July 1978: EMI International, INT 563) - #24 UK
* "Germ Free Adolescents" / "Age" (October 1978: EMI International, INT 573) - #19 UK
* "Highly Inflammable" / "Warrior In Woolworths" (April 1979: EMI International, INT 583) - #45 UK

ee also

* List of British punk bands
* List of musicians in the first wave of punk music
* List of Peel sessions
* Music of the United Kingdom (1970s)
* List of performers on Top of the Pops


External links

* [http://www.x-rayspex.com/ X-Ray Spex Official Site]
* [http://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/xrayspex.htm X-Ray Spex] on www.punk77.co.uk
* [http://punkmodpop.free.fr/xray_pic.htm X-Ray Spex] on Punkmodpop
* [http://www.punkrockers.com/X-Ray%20Spex/ X-Ray Spex profile on PunkRockers.com]
* [http://www.cbgb.com/shrine/shriners/polystyrene.htm Pictures of Poly Styrene at CBGB's, New York, 1978]
* [http://www.comnet.ca/~rina/xrayspex.html An overview of the band]
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp60786 Poly Styrene in Britain's National Portrait Gallery]

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