Mally Powell, former lead singer with the cult glam disco funk band Zip Zip Undo Me, died on Sunday evening at his farm in Wales after a long illness with cancer. Roger More – guitarist Zip-Zip Undo Me and My Life Story remembers a key and flamboyant member of the pre-Britpop London underground.
Wit, raconteur, outrageous front person, and writer of great songs including (Mind Your) Plums and Fist (“She’s back, she’s risen, she’s bent the bars of Holloway Prison”), Mally yodelled his way into the hearts of audiences of the early Brit Pop scene. He was a popular performer at Dingwalls, The Underworld, The Falcon, and Blow-Up, and playing on bills with My Life Story, Dodgy and Gretschen Hofner.
Dressed in leather, ripped fishnets, sequins, and fake fur, Mally swirled his tail in the face of current trends, avoiding the de-rigueur shoe-gazing of the period, to command the stage like a disco fuelled Iggy Pop. “YOU THINK THIS IS EASY??!!!” he’d taunt an audience following a bout of rock histrionics, his tongue so far in his cheek many couldn’t see it.
Had YouTube existed when he sang the Pavarotti part of Miss Sarajevo note perfect at the My Life Story New Years Eve show of 1995 (the Bono part spoken by a foppish “actor”), he would have become an overnight superstar. A rowdy Hogmanay crowd was stunned to a silence in which you could hear a microphone drop as Mally left the stage, a Diva wearing a beard and a ball gown.
Despite being the favourite singer of many record companies, they never signed him, possibly fearing that his fake histrionics might prick the bubble of rock pomposity that they so feverishly worked to over inflate.
He briefly played the part of “Spanish Tony”, fictional manager, to those non-English-speaking Mexican half-brothers The Bikini Beach Band. A bootleg CD of Robert Elms’ Radio London shows featuring “Spanish Tony” parrying Elms’ Spanish questions in a thick Welsh accent is the prized possession of many fans.
His following bands included Suckulent and Superpumped, who continued the disco metal sound he saw as a form of rock subversion.
Following a motorbike accident, Mally moved back to the family farm in Wales’ Black Mountains. The last few years were spent surrounded by many very close friends, family and sheep, who will all miss him greatly.
Roger More – guitarist Zip-Zip Undo Me and My Life Story.