X-Ray Spex are an English punk band from London that formed in 1976.
During their first incarnation (1976 – 79), X-Ray Spex were “deliberate underachievers” and only managed to release five singles plus one album. Nevertheless, their first single, "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!", is now acknowledged as a classic punk rock single and the album, Germ Free Adolescents, is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest albums of all-time.
Initially, the band featured singer Poly Styrene (born Marian Joan Elliott-Said) on vocals, Jak Airport (Jack Stafford) on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul 'B. P.' Hurding on drums, and Lora Logic (born Susan Whitby) on saxophone. This latter instrument was an atypical addition to the standard punk instrumental line-up, and became one of the group's most distinctive features.
X-Ray Spex's other distinctive musical element was Poly Styrene's voice, which has been variously described as "effervescently discordant" and "powerful enough to drill holes through sheet metal". As Mari Elliot, Poly had released a reggae single for GTO Records in 1976, "Silly Billy", which had not charted. Born in 1957 in Bromley, Kent, of Somali-British parentage, Poly Styrene became the group's public face, and remains one of the most memorable front-women to emerge from the punk movement. Unorthodox in appearance, she wore thick braces on her teeth and once stated that "I said that I wasn't a sex symbol and that if anybody tried to make me one I'd shave my head tomorrow". She later actually did at Johnny Rotten's flat prior to a concert at Victoria Park. Mark Paytress recounts in the liner notes for the 2002 compilation, The Anthology, that Jah Wobble, Rotten's longtime friend and bassist for his post-punk venture PiL, once described Styrene as a "strange girl who often talked of hallucinating. She freaked John out." Rotten, known more for his outspoken dislikes and disdain than for praise and admiration, recently said of X-Ray Spex in a retrospective punk documentary, "Them, they came out with a sound and attitude and a whole energy—it was just not relating to anything around it—superb."
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