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Before Riot Grrrl: X-Ray Spex & “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

When you think of the first London wave of punk, most minds go to The Damned, The Sex Pistols and Clash. But just as essentially, there was also X-Ray Spex.

They stood out, not least because of their saxophonist and the addition of reggae, pop and electronic flourishes to their version of punk. Contrasting the influx of white boys with guitars, the Spex’s lead singer was Poly Styrene: a woman of colour, 4 foot 5, with braces on her teeth and varyingly dressed in a neon bin bag or as a toy soldier.

Unfounded rumours circulated about her being a trained opera singer, yet her forceful vocal acted as a shout-along rallying cry to all that heard her. Their legacy all started with their crucial debut single, an increasingly evident entry for the most influential punk 7” ever. This is New British Canon and this is the story of “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

0:00 Introduction

01:00 From Marion Elliott-Said to Poly Styrene

05:28 Writing “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

09:26 Beyond “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

12:54 The Enduring Impact of X-Ray Spex

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