Poly Styrene RIP

Poly Styrene’s Talk of Toytown

Poly Styrene (Marianne Elliot Said), singer and songwriter for the 70s punk band X-Ray Spex passed away yesterday from breast cancer. I don’t often feel emotional about the deaths of celebrities and musicians but X-Ray Spex and Poly Styrene were such a looming musical presence in my teenage years that I can’t help but feeling the loss of this amazing musician.

I spent a good chunk of my early teenage years hunting down the music of X-Ray Spex. It’s not like nowadays where I find the most obscure songs, things I’ve been looking for for years, ready to download in a matter of minutes. In the 80s/90s being a music lover required much more patience.

I went to Fairfax High School on Melrose in Hollywood. All around my high school were record shops with owners who loved to price their rare vinyl in the double digits. Bleeker Bob’s was the worst, their prices were ridiculously high.  But they were the only shop where I’d ever seen my vinyl holy grail, Germ-Free Adolescents by X-Ray Spex. After school, I’d wander over to the shop and gaze at the album hanging on the wall. It cost something like $50, an outrageous price, I thought. While standing at the counter admiring the album artwork, I’d often ask some stupid question to the guy behind the counter about the record and he would give me that “Buzz off kid, you’re bothering me” look. He knew I hadn’t the money.

In the tenth grade I saw an odd boy on the bus to school wearing an X-Ray Spex t-shirt. I made friends with him and immediately developed a crush on the guy even though I knew he wasn’t into girls and even after he told me, he found the t-shirt in a pile of clothes at the second hand shop where he worked. “Will you give me your shirt? Pleeeeease?” I’d ask him all the time but he always answered with a firm ‘no’. Despite hanging out with a crew of Hollywood punks, he was the only person I knew that actually liked the band beside myself. I was a punk generation too late.

The funny thing is, I only really knew the song “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” It was the X-Ray Spex performance in the documentary The Punk Rock Movie DOA where I remember first hearing the song. That’s when I first saw Poly Styrene and I was captivated by her style, by the crazy energy of the music and by her…color. She wasn’t White and if you are/were are a punk rock kid of color you understand the significance.

Oh Bondage Up Yours from the movie DOA

As my high school years went by, I got caught up in the hardcore scene and my pining for the elusive Germ Free Adolescents album waned as I filled up my ears with the screams and grunts of suburban, angsty White guys from Orange County and Oxnard.

Inside blurb from the Guillotine EP

For years, the Germ-Free Adolescents album hung on the Bleeker Bob’s wall. Even after high school, I’d continue to make my pilgrimage. By then, I refused to give Bleeker Bob’s any of my money and I wasn’t the only one not willing to pay their exorbitant prices because it hung on the wall, untouched for years. Then one day I came across an EP called Guillotine (Virgin Records, 1979), and lo and behold, there was “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” The elusive song I’d been waiting five years to hear! I bought the record, rushed home and felt tingles of joy and excitement as I heard Poly’s famous line “Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think…Oh bondage up yours! 1,2,3,4!” I wore the grooves down on this little EP.

For many years, the only way to find their music affordably was through bootlegs

Yup, $18!

Soon after, I got a job at a popular Los Angeles record store and I was able to find all sorts of bootlegs of the album, mostly weird live recordings from England, some released on CD. I also splurged on a few on the 7 inch singles. It was the first time I’d heard many of the songs and I was pleased to find the lyrics resonated with my newly adopted Situationist-influenced politics.

From the song Art-i-ficial

I know I’m artificial
But don’t put the blame on me
I was reared with appliances
In a consumer society

From Genetic Engineering:

Introducing worker clone
as our subordinated slave
His expertise proficiency
will surely dig our grave

From Identity:

When you look in the mirror
Do you see yourself
Do you see yourself
On the TV screen
Do you see yourself in the magazine
When you see yourself
Does it make you scream

About a year later, Germ Free Adolescents was finally re-issued on CD. I played it over and over at the record store I worked at, despite the passive-aggressive protests of my Beatles-loving co-workers. “Saxophone in punk? Hmmm…” One of the indie dudes said disapprovingly. “Up yours, pretentious asshole!” I thought to myself.

Around this time, I popped into Bleeker Bob’s and the album was still there on the wall but now that the CD had been re-issued, they had finally lowered the price. I laughed a secret, evil laugh to myself – greedy bastards! The people who loved X-Ray Spex were not the nerdy, I need-the-first-pressing-vinyl kinda folks but people who loved the music for it’s passion, for it’s politics and for the raw, earnest vocals of Poly Styrene’s energetic voice.

It was a mission, a journey and a struggle to finally get to hear the music of my favorite group but once I did, it was completely satisfying musical experience. There have been many drunken nights my friends and I could be heard singing as loudly as possible X-Ray Spex tunes at the top of our voices, the lyrics still timely and humorous. Maybe tonight I will do the same, in honor of the beautiful Poly Styrene, RIP.

Promotional video for Poly’s new album

Coincidentally, Poly Styrene’s new album Virtual Boyfriend is being released today.

Oh yeah, I finally did get the vinyl version of the album and at a decent price.

The World is Square

The Savages -The World Ain’t Round It’s Square

The Savages
, sixties garage punk from Bermuda of all places. Raw, melodic and thoroughly awesome!

Take a look around
All the people do is bring us down
They stare at us like we don’t belong
They think they’re right but they’re really wrong.
Baby, The World Ain’t Round, It’s Square.

Graphic courtesy of Garagehangover

Forever Dolphin Love

Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love (Erol Alkan rework) 2011

The dolphins swam below and along with the boat, the pod churning the waters with their graceful movements. I attempted to photograph them but I was so mesmerized by the way they moved, by the little newly born dolphin swimming alongside it’s parents and by the grace of the water creatures, that I abandoned my attempts for a perfect photo and became transfixed by the experience. The next day I heard this song, Forever Dolphin Love. It was a week of coincidences.

Newport Harbor, California – March 2011 (I am one of the shadows)

The above version of Forever Dolphin Love is a reworking by British DJ Erol Alkan. The original song by New Zealand dreamy psych artist Connan Mockasin is below. His full length album has just been released.

Connan Mocaksin-Forever Dolphin Love (original) 2010

Pardon My Dust

I’ve been away from the blog for a little while now. It’s tough. I got this new job dancing on TV shows for white people. But I’ll be back soon with more videos, useless commentary, book quotes and old family photos. You know, the thrilling filler that keeps you clicking back for more.
By the way, I’m just kidding. This video isn’t of me. It’s from a hipster club in Echo Park, the girl of infinite rhythm, enjoy!

Light Asylum

Dark Allies – Light Asylum from Grant Worth on Vimeo.

Light Asylum-Dark Allies

The surprise of last week’s Salem show was this band, Light Asylum. What an awesome performance and such fantastic energy! They almost made me forget the awkward crowd around me: rude supermodels, fascist bristling musclemen, Gucci Goths and other posers from the alienated suburbs. Not to say, it was all bad. I just happen to notice the creepy elements because I pay attention and also because this whole Witch House scene seems rather made-up. For that reason, I gave the crowd more scrutiny than I would otherwise.

I did a brief poll of those around me and asked “Do you know what Witch House is?” I was trying to find out if it really is a “scene” or something being pushed on bands that have that dragging beat drone. Some people chuckled when I asked but became more serious when I said I’m asking for my blog and then they were like “Which blog???” Don’t get excited pretties, I can’t make you famous. Most had heard of Witch House and when I asked if it was something they felt part of, one girl answered “I only have five other friends who like it.” That seems like a lot, right?

But back to Light Asylum, they were my favorite of the night and a tough act for Salem to follow. Light Asylum actually got the crowd dancing, uninhibited kinda dancing too. They were fun to watch and the music was excellent. An electronic band that knows how to put on a live show. Cheers to Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello of Light Asylum for making my night and helping me to forget the drippy Echoplex crowd!

Here’s a real show review
because I’m not cut out for this kinda thing.

Light Asylum @ The Echoplex, Los Angeles