Poly Styrene RIP

    The death of Poly Styrene (Marianne Said -Elliot) at 52 from cancer is double shocking for us here at Louder Than War. Not only have we been robbed of a great talent but also of personal friend whose phone calls would cover everything from music, punk rock, spirituality, Hare Krishna, politics and life with the perceptive smarts that were ingrained in her wonderful lyrics and songs. I met her loads of times and we always had really good fun with great afternoons in the Hare Krishna Restuarant in London.

    My band Goldblade even recorded a song with her and as a return favourite I sang some backing vocals on her ‘Generation Indigo’ comeback album only released a month ago.

    She was a wonderful, warm eccentric woman in all the best possible ways and an all too rare positive spirit in a cynical world.

    Perhaps one of the key performers in the punk period her powerful songs still affect and influence women and many men performers three decades later. Her band X-Ray Spex left behind an amazing legacy of songs that were utterly original in their brilliance. The songs were brilliant enough but it was her lyrics that were some of the best of era that really stood out. Great perceptive poems about plastic society and consumerism that cut through all the bullshit.

    And her voice. A voice that was full of life and fantastic vibrancy that had the clarity, intelligence and sense of fun and independence that so perfect for the punk period. Her image was also fantastic – self designed she was the ultimate self styled icon who rebelled against the conventional female sexuality of pop at the time and looked far better by being herself.

    No wonder that John Lydon always had kind words for her – and that’s rare from him!

    At least she lived long enough to see the love people had for her and the great reviews for her ‘Generation Indigo’ solo album.

    ‘Generation Indigo’ is neither the raucous, sax driven punk rock of her youth or the spiritual trip outs of her occasional solo releases, it’s an album that sees her idiosyncratic viewpoint stretched over several different styles.

    Of course there are moments of the punchy punk rock pop she made her name on in the punk era but there is also dub, reggae, electro, mantras and pure pop bubblegum on here for her still great voice that combines innocence with a perceptive, very smart and very 21st century take on the world.

    With her great self-styled image, kooky imaginative wardrobe, brilliant witty lyrics and powerful presence Poly was one of the few genuine originals in punk and the unforgettable frontwoman from X-Ray Spex and one of the iconic faces on the punk scene.

    The band may have only been around for about two years but their series of hit singles have stood the test of time and made Poly a major icon for generation after generation of young musicians- including whole scenes as diverse as Riot Grrrl and Britpop.

    Currently a new generation of young American bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Gossip, Le Tigre and countless others recognise her fiery, inspirational presence and articulate, clever lyrics that took on consumer culture and won.
    Poly’s indomitable spirit inspires and she is a role model for women who break the mould.

    X-Ray Spex were one of the key bands in the punk revolution. With their series of powerful hits that were a combination of fierce riffing, signature sax breaks and the irrepressible Poly vocals, the band sounded like no other.

    That burst of energy would have been enough for most people and for years Poly was off the music scene either with the Hare Krishnas or just getting on with life.

    In 2009 she reformed the band for a memorable sold out one off gig at the Roundhouse, London and wrote a new song, ‘Code Pink’ for the gig but didn’t play it live. Luckily a demo of the song was heard by Year Zero Records who persuaded Poly to record a solo album. She was on the verge of a great comeback but will always be remembered for her dazzling brilliance and her one off individualism.

    The solo album was a fitting epitaph to a wonderful woman. I’m missing you Marianne.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Poly was, for me, a real innovator and a significant song writing talent. One of the most important of her generation. A real gem.

  2. ‎”1977 And We’re All Going MAD…1977 And We’ve Seen Too Many Ads”…Whoa, talk about foresight.
    X-Ray Spex didn’t have too much support in that specific area I seem to remember and for that, plus how they tapped into powerfully worded and knowing ‘anti-slogans’ (something which has taken years for people to really appreciate), I’ll always remember and respect them, it set them apart for sure.
    I can even hear traces of Poly in singers as diverse as M.I.A. these days, and when I still hear the crazy raw early demo of “I Am A Cliché”, my head still explodes in the same way it did when I first heard it.
    This is extremely sad news to hear, especially as it’s only just turned 6 months since we lost Ari-Up. Their influence will stretch, rightfully, for miles further I’m certain, both great role models and truly distinctive, intelligent and powerful artists.
    Peace Poly and my heartfelt best wishes to her closest and dearest.

  3. Germ Free Adolescents – great album
    Highly Inflammable – would be among my desert island discs.
    Just so so sad.
    Wish I’d gone to the Roundhouse now, I assumed there’d be other gigs. :(

  4. […] Blog Entries101 Poly Styrene To whoever takes these people: Oh Bondage. Up Yours! Cheers. Steve Only you can make my […]

  5. Fond memories of brilliant gigs at the Roundhouse and of course the famous Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park back in \’78. Such a unique and pioneering talent. So sad she\’s gone, but in a way also nice that she was receiving rave reviews at the end, ensuring that she will be warmly remembered by all now and in the future. RIP Poly.

  6. […] after she was diagnosed. Personal crony and Goldblade frontman John Robb posted a following on a Louder Than War site progressing today, it’s a best reverence we’ve review so […]

  7. A really sad day for music.Poly was a brilliant lady.Germ Free Adolescents will always be in my favourites catalouge…Just a great album.You certainly helped my world turn dayglo… R.I.P.

  8. I met Poly briefly when she was in Birmingham, in 1983.. handing out leaflets for krishna conciousness. What a lovely human being she was, Of course Her music wasn’t only some of the most thought provoking to come out of the Punk scene, but they way she was, was an inspiration, but without the egotrip. Generation Indigo is a fantastic Pop album.. it’s great pop music that a 15 year old kid of today would like, I said in a comment “Makes Gaga look like a Grandma” I stick to that. Poly/Marianne. I’m glad I met you. and you gave so much to people in whatever you did. This world has lost a shining light.

  9. […] the untimely death yesterday of the former X-Ray Spex vocalist Poly Styrene at the age of only 53. Tributes have been springing up all over the internet to an inspirational, much liked woman from fans and […]

  10. RIP Poly
    Here’s our blog’s story: httpss://theressomethinghardinthere.blogspot.com/2011/04/poly-styrene-1957-2011.html

  11. […] John Robb also wrote a short and very personal piece about the loss of his friend Read it HERE […]

  12. Gutted, She was a complete one off musically, i loved x ray spex, fantastic talent, thought Black Christmas was the best Christmas song ever!
    She will be sadly missed.

  13. […] also emotionally drained as when we arrive in the US I hear that my dear friend Poly Styrene has died. I stay up all night writing a blog and answering texts and phone calls. I last spoke to […]

  14. […] also emotionally drained as when we arrive in the US I hear that my dear friend Poly Styrene has died. I stay up all night writing a blog and answering texts and phone calls. I last spoke to […]

  15. […] us off so many key figures in the last few years. I think of Lux Interior and then I think of Poly Styrene and feel emotional. Rock n roll is powerful stuff, a life affirming thing and death never sits well […]

  16. Their album was a masterpiece, but I was pleased to see that Marianne/Poly didn’t stay stuck in that 1977 ‘bubble’, instead moving into areas that would have been considered anti-punk at the time. A life lived. RIP.

  17. […] one off.   I really can\’t add much to what John Robb has as so eloquently and passionately written other than to say that when I first saw Poly and her band, I knew that I was looking at the […]

  18. […] The former X-Ray Spex singer died of cancer at the age of 53 earlier this year – LTW boss, and close friend of Poly wrote an obituary […]

  19. […] late Poly Styrene who died earlier this year has a remix of her ‘No Rockefellar’ single released on Dec […]

  20. I was recommended this website via my cousin. I’m no longer sure whether or not this post is written by him as no one else recognize such designated approximately my trouble. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  21. “If we had a kind of rock n roll year zero, which great bands from history would you keep to restart the whole thing again?” | Louder Than War

    […] X Ray Spex- Poly Styrene\’s voice was very strange, somewhat like a tuneful klaxon. She went out her way not […]

  22. The day Poly died was the worst day of my life. I knew she had cancer, but never did I think it could kill her. I thought she was so fantastic she was immortal. She had been a huge inspiration in my life. In the late 1970s I had X-Ray Spex painted across my school bag. Her way of sending up our artificial comsumer society by emersing herself in it has been a huge influence on muy own art practice. She’ll never be off my turntable.

  23. Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

  24. Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.


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