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How Poly Styrene Breaks Mold

STYRENE HAS BEEN BORN Marianne Joan Elliott-Said in 1957 with a Somali father and British mother, who raised Styrene and her siblings alone on a Brixton council estate. In her teens, swept up in art and rebellion, Styrene ran away hitchhiking to hippie music festivals, sparking an eco-consciousness she would bring to punk music. She immersed herself in theatre, fashion, poetry and music. An avid writer or dropped out of school at the age of 15, she gravitated toward philosophy, the occult, Freud and Jung. As a movie buff, she advocates the flashbacks of “Barbarella.” Her rock idols are David Bowie and Marc Bolan. She loves soul and reggae, and Bell says she considers singers-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Joan Armatrading a big inspiration.

Styrene’s first pre-punk single was a pop-reggae song called “Silly Billy” about teenage pregnancy. It was produced by a man 16 years her senior named Falcon Stuart, who would become her boyfriend and the manager of X-Ray Spex. (Bell said she received conflicting stories about Stuart, who passed away in 2002, for many years, noting in the film: “She sometimes said he was the love of her life. ; other times, that he ruined it.”)

When hitting punk, 19-year-old Styrene was galvanized. Enamored of the Sex Pistols – a never-before-seen clip of Styrene dancing in the crowd at one of their gigs featured in the movie – she placed an ad in Melody Maker looking for ” yung punx” to “bind it together” and assembled a team that included bassist Paul Dean and saxophonist Lora Logic briefly (until Styrene kicked her out).

The band signed to Virgin for the classic track “Oh Bondage Up Yours” – its opening statement, “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard / But I think , oh slave, yours!” became a feminist punk bible — before turning to EMI for “Germfree Adolescents.” (Styrene was an uncredited producer on the album, Bell said.) The LP took them to “Top of the Pops” and the BBC, which aired a TV documentary called “Who is Poly Styrene ?” where the famous singer describes that she chose her stage name because it’s plastic and disposable: “That’s what pop stars mean, so I thought I might as well send it up. “

The BBC’s first series and “I Am a Cliché” both depict Styrene’s mental health struggles, exacerbating the pressures of fame. In 1978, she was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia; She was in a mental hospital the first time she saw herself singing on television. Bell believes her mother’s condition was made worse by the media scrutiny of her body as well as the destabilizing nihilism in the punk world.

“Many people think X-Ray Spex is a lot more underground than it really is. But my mom had that brush with the celebrity,” says Bell. “There’s a kind of fame you can never get rid of, and that’s the kind of attention that my mom got, even though it didn’t last very long. It didn’t last very long because she recovered. ”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/arts/music/poly-styrene-i-am-a-cliche-documentary.html How Poly Styrene Breaks Mold

Fry Electronics Team

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