Sad news today that Poly Styrene, singer with X Ray Spex has died aged 53 after losing her battle with cancer.
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 [sic] 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. In 2007, she was invited to the Concrete Jungle festival in Camber Sands, where she and the gathering's organizer, Symond Lawes, agreed to initiate a 30-year celebration of X-Ray Spex's debut album, Germ Free Adolescents. They decided to hold a live show at the Camden Roundhouse, which was a sell-out event on 6 September 2008. A live album/DVD of this event, Live @ The Roundhouse London 2008, was released in November 2009 on The Year Zero label by Future Noise Music. She made a guest appearance at the 2008 30th anniversary concert of Rock Against Racism in Victoria Park, London, performing "Oh Bondage Up Yours" with guest musicians Drew McConnell (of Babyshambles and Helsinki) and 'Flash' David Wright playing saxophone. That same year, she dueted with Goldblade's John Robb on a remix of Goldblade's "City Of Christmas Ghosts". In March 2009, she joined other members of PRS for Music in criticizing Google for allegedly not paying their a fair share of royalties to musicians. This followed Google's removal of millions of videos from YouTube because of a royalties dispute with the organization.
She was one of the first female punk icons and remained a rare presence in a largely male-dominated business, having formed her band after seeing The Sex Pistols perform on her 18th birthday.
"We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places," a statement on her website said.
Former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock praised her "general joie de vivre nuttiness".
"I did see her not that long ago so it's sad. Again, somebody from the punk rock scene has died far too young and it's a loss," he told BBC radio
Marianne Elliott-Said was born in 1957 in Bromley, Kent. Her mother, who raised her alone, was a British (Scots-Irish) legal secretary. Her father was a dispossessed Somali aristocrat.
As a teenager, Marianne was a "barefoot hippie". At age 15, she ran away from home with £3 in her pocket, and hitchhiked from one music festival to another, staying at hippie crash pads. She thought of this as a challenge to survive. The adventure ended when she stepped on a rusty nail while bathing in a stream and had to be treated for septicaemia.
In 1976 she released a reggae single "Silly Billy" as Mari Elliot. Later that year, after seeing the Sex Pistols, she was inspired to form the punk band X-Ray Spex.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, the singer with X-Ray Spex, she was described by Billboard as the "archetype for the modern-day feminist punk"; because she wore braces, stood against the typical sex object female of 1970s rock star, sported a gaudy Dayglo wardrobe, and was of mixed race, she was "one of the least conventional front-persons in rock history, male or female".