Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard - Poly Styrene, RIP

In 1976 I left home for London to go to university. My new pals mostly listened to well-spoken young men from Canterbury who took acid and punted up and down the River Cant, or whatever the hell it is, being twee, idyllic and musicianly.

Not everyone, though. One day someone put on Oh Bondage Up Yours, instantly scaring away the bucolic scenes conjured up by people who all, in retrospect, seemed to have been Phil Manzanera. It was fun, and liberating. Yes, I used that word. It used to mean something, in a woolly short-life-housing, yoghurt-weaving sort of way.

Between the Slits' angry and dynamic female punk and that of Poly Styrene's X Ray Spex, the seventies made it possible for women to get on stage and tell it like it was. (I bought and read Patti Smith's memoir of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe [Just Kids] yesterday, and she mentions auditioning guitarists for her band in late 1974, when "none of them warmed up to a girl being the leader", until she found Ivan Kral.) Now Ari Up of the Slits is dead and Poly Styrene is dead as well. She probably doesn't mind, being a Krishna Consciousness devotee, but I mind.

Rather than the raucous Oh Bondage, I think I'll start listening with Germ Free Adolescent, which in a way was less part of the last of punk and more one of the first few things of the eighties. I can remember hearing this on a day much like today, sunny with birds singing, and with cheese sandwiches avec mustard in the kitchen, except days like that are much more rare in London than in So Cal.

Yes, their songs got on Top of the Pops.

And Identity:

And here's a long punk medley that will last the rest of this quiet and bright, almost Canterbury-esque day. [Link alas decayed]

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