X-RAY SPEX 1976 -1978
Snapshot surveillance by P-P Hartnett,
author of ROCK 'N' ROLL SUICIDE(Sceptre, 2003). -1-
ONCE UPON A TIME.
It was in the hot summer of 1976 that Poly Styrene placed an advert
in the British music papers NME and MELODY MAKER which started
with the grabbing header of 'YOUNG PUNX WHO WANT TO STICK IT TOGETHER'.
The ad worked like a magic magnet. Jak Airport, Lora Logic and Paul Dean
were first through the doors to audition.
Poly thought they were talented plus cute, perfect for the X-RAY SPEX dream.
X-RAY SPEX gave their debut performance at London's Roxy in Covent Garden
after just six rehearsals in their manager's front room. Energy galore,
but a little shambolic - as can be heard on the LIVE AT THE ROXY album.
Poly Styrene was sitting in her 'POLY STYRENE'
boutique in Beaufort Market, King's Road, when the manager of local pub named
MAN IN THE MOON came in and picked up a snazzy, slim-line, day-glo tie. His focus,
however, was on the girl with braces on her teeth: Poly.
Having read in the local Chelsea newspaper that Poly also had a band,
this entrepreneur offered a residency at MAN IN THE MOON, the now infamous World's End pub
and theatre space in Chelsea between Vivienne Westwood's notorious shop then named Seditionaries
and Beaufort Market. The answer was "Y-E-S."
X-RAY SPEX Played every Wednesday night, on the lower ground floor of MAN IN THE MOON,
thus making them a very tight band. Admission was a mere £2 to cover costs.
They soon became the darlings of the arty Chelsea set, a handful of music journalists. and
fans who'd spotted them early on. Poly also gave other bands a break at MAN IN THE MOON,
among them ADAM AND THE ANTS, THE SWANK and ANNIE LENNOX AND THE TOURISTS.
X-RAY SPEX started to get a following as they played small venues all over the UK.
Word had spread about the fresh appeal and raw power, which resulted in a
swift signing to Richard Branson's Virgin Records for a one-off single,
the infamous OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!.
SWEETNESS AND ROTTEN.
Poly Styrene, remembers Rotten's envy, when X-RAY SPEX later signed to EMI
as the Sex Pistols had been dropped, for upsetting Her Majesty by depicting the Queen of England
on the front cover of their single GOD SAVE THE QUEEN with a safety pin rammed through
her nose with a lyric declaring:
'She made you a moron
She ain't no human being'
JOHNNY said to Poly, "At least you're on a proper label",
as Virgin were then viewed as a successful independent and 'cool' company.
FAST FORWARD TO FAME.
X-RAY SPEX made several television appearances in the UK and Europe. Poly gave interviews on the radio,
but X-RAY SPEX at the time were not considered to have a radio-friendly sound.
Their following mainly came from their live performances. They did play live on the John Peel sessions,
however, a highly-esteemed Radio One late night show that had more of an underground appeal.
NEW YORK, NEW WAVE.
X-RAY SPEX got lucky, playing twice a night for two weeks at CBGB'S in New York City.
Many of the New York New Wave set turned out in style.
Among them members of BLONDIE and RICHARD HELL from the VOIDOIDS, who wanted to date
Poly, but her heart was elsewhere.
On returning to the UK, the venues got bigger and bigger, culminating in a tour of all the Odeon's in the UK,
with Hammersmith Odeon as the Grand Finale.
The drummer from the SEX PISTOLS, PAUL COOK, and KEITH MOON of THE WHO,
were often spotted at the front of stage checking out the competition. MOON,
the wild man of drums would be sweating amongst the pogoing kids, shouting out "Osmonds!"