Rockbrat Remembers: Poly Styrene (3 July 1957 – 25 April, 2011)

Today, Rockbrat remembers Poly Styrene, who died on April, 25, 2011. Poly Styrene fronted X-Ray Spex and was part of the ‘Bromley contingent’ (go Google it).  Born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said on 3 July 1957 in Bromley, Kent, of a British Mother and Somali father. Poly recorded her first demo with producer Ted Bunting in 1975, when she was just 16 years old, and released her first single, “Silly Billy” / “What A Way”, as “Mari Elliott” in 1976. After watching a very early gig by the Sex Pistols in an empty hall on Hastings Pier, playing a set of cover songs. She was so inspired that she put an ad in the paper for ‘young punx who want to stick it together’ to form a band. So it was that, as Poly Styrene, she formed X-Ray Spex. In 1978, after a gig in Doncaster, she had a vision of a pink light in the sky and felt objects crackling when she touched them. Thinking she was hallucinating, her mother took her to the hospital where Marianne was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, sectioned, and told she would never work again. Although she missed playing at the time, in hindsight, she felt that getting out of the public eye was good for her. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1991. After the original version of X-Ray Spex broke up, Poly Styrene recorded a solo album, Translucence, in 1980. The album abandoned X-Ray Spex’s loud guitar work for a quieter and more jazzy sound that anticipated the 1990s dance band Everything But the Girl. In 1986, she released the EP God’s & Godesses  on the Awesome record label. A New Age solo album, Flower Aeroplane, followed in 2004. In 1983, she was initiated into the Hare Krishna movement and recorded at their recording studios while living as a devotee at Bhaktivedanta Manor. She lived as a Hare Krishna convert in Hertfordshire and London from 1983 to 1988.  In 2007, she was invited to the Concrete Jungle festival in Camber Sands, where she initiated a 30-year celebration of X-Ray Spex’s debut album, Germ Free Adolescents. A live show at the Camden Roundhouse followed, which was a sell-out event on 6 September 2008. In February 2011, in an interview published in The Sunday Times magazine, Poly Styrene revealed that she had been treated for breast cancer, and that it had spread to her spine and lungs. She died on 25 April 2011 at the age of 53.

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