My introduction to X-Ray Spex, a long time after the tracks here today saw the light, was their Top Of The Pops appearance with Germ Free Adolescents. They cut a curious figure there: to have a saxophone (initially courtesy of Lora Logic, who left the band early on to concentrate on school work) in a band was odd enough, but to have a lead female singer with braces, a shaggy perm and a clone cap was even more removed from my idea of what a punk band a year after the first wave should look like. And they were doing a slow-paced number about over-attention to hygiene?
Later, I discovered the real band: a tight, furious combo with driving, solid hooks to their songs, and a vocalist who wailed with real conviction, typically announcing the titles of the songs as a count-in). The first single, Oh Bondage! Up Yours (FF 1977 #38), released on Virgin and promptly banned on the radio, is, according to Poly Styrene herself, an anti-consumerist/anti-capitalist jingle, although some have seen vestiges of girl power in it. Even Johnny Rotten said they were superb. The raw sound of those heady early days comes through with crystal clarity on their first Peel session: as Mark P said, ‘In the pop world they were truly subversive-a know-all kid in a world of grown-ups’.
However, a few singles on a major label (EMI), an album, and that was yer lot. Lora and Poly buggered off to chant Hare Krishna, others formed Classix Nouveaux and Agent Orange, and the inevitable reunions came along in the 90s and again earlier this year. True punk originals, who had a little bit more introspection than the average two-chord wonders: check out the classic Identity (‘When you see yourself/Does it make you scream?’) for a personality crisis of economy and punch.
The first of the two sessions below was ripped from a 1978 Peel Show repeat: listen out for a rare example of JP talking over a track!