Before fronting X-Ray Spex, one of early punk music’s key groups, Marianne Elliot-Said began performing at the age of 15. She released a reggae record in 1976, but within in a year, she found herself attending her first Sex Pistols show. Soon after, she took on the identity of Poly Styrene and placed an ad in Britain looking for “young punx who want to stick together.” Soon after, X-Ray Spex took the London scene by storm, only before traveling overseas to play in the LA circuit and, of course, at CBGB’s in New York. Styrene offered something new to a young genre. She was a half black female singer in a world of white rebellious males. Her band also included saxophonist Lora Logic, an odd inclusion amongst bands driven by blaring guitars. While 1978’s Germ-Free Adolescents was their lone album, it stands as one of the most pivotal in all punk music. Styrene’s influence has been well documented. Riot grrrl groups nearly owe everything to the singer. Just ask Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre and Bikini Kill fame. If that’s not enough for you, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon will tell you more.
Styrene died on Monday, April 25 at age 53 after battling cancer for several years. Keep her legacy alive and pick up X-Ray Spex’s Germ-Free Adolescents.