X-Ray Spex – ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’

Oh Bondage Up Yours! is the 1977 debut single from UK punk band X-Ray Spex, showcasing the talents of the much-loved and much missed, Poly Styrene. Lyrically, it’s a criticism of contemporary mainstream consumerism delivered with Poly’s trademark energy and wit, equating the disposable culture for which she named herself with S&M submission and restriction:

Chain store, chain smoke, I consume you all
Chain gang, chain mail, I don’t think at all!

Poly’s scathing vocals are backed with classic punk power chords and garnished with the wailing saxophone that makes X-Ray Spex so instantly recognisable.

When she was 15 year-old Marianne Joan Elliott-Said ran away from her Brixton home to hitchhike between music festivals and hippie communities around the country. In 1976 an early Sex Pistols show inspired her to form a band of her own. X-Ray Spex was born and Marianne Elliot-Said became Poly Styrene.

Poly wasn’t the typical ’70s punk rock singer – apart from being a woman she was duel-heritage and wore conspicuous braces on her teeth – but she was a captivating performer with a wicked sense of humour and a powerful voice. X-Ray Spex only released a handful more 45s after Oh Bondage Up Yours! and a solitary album, Germfree Adolescents in 1978, before Poly’s mental health problems led her to step back from the limelight and put the band on hiatus.

Poly continued to record as a solo artist over the next three decades and occasionally reunited to play enthusiastically received shows with the rest of X-Ray Spex. Despite their limited discography their legacy is huge thanks to their distinctive sound and Poly’s charisma and they’re rightly regarded as one of the best bands to emerge during the original British punk scene.


Marianne Elliott-Said/Poly Styrene died of cancer in 2011 aged just 53. A film of her life Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is currently being crowdfunded by producers including her daughter Celeste Bell. Details here.

 

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Nick Perry

Nick writes fact, fiction and opinion in various places including
his music blog noisecrumbs.com. His musical tastes cover indie, grunge, golden-era hip hop, punk, funk, psychedelia and a big portion of distortion. You can and should follow him on Twitter @NoiseCrumbs.

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