Probably going to see that video posted a lot of places in the next couple days. It's one of the first hits for Poly Styrene and the X-Ray Spex on YouTube. The clip is from a documentary called "Punk In London," dated around the late 70s. Punk's renaissance. Unless you think it happened some other day.
This has been the worst evening I've had in a bit. Lot on a mind, had a lot to do this evening, had some really big morale killers earlier in the evening. Kind of just buried myself into my work, wanted to get it done, wanted to not think about stuff. Got online, and on Twitter Jenny Woolworth, of the oft-linked and much-loved "Women in Punk Blog" had posted this on there:
jennywoolworth: R.I.P. Poly Styrene, you punk heroine.
I believed it, of course, as far as punk news goes, I'd believe anything Woolworth posted, just because so much of the music I'm into now is thanks to her blog, her writing, her pointing me in the direction of so much good stuff. It's the reason I ran out and bought "Girls to the Front." It's the reason I looked up the X-Ray Spex a couple years ago [has it been that long?]. But I still needed to see it somewhere else, you know? Like, one person wasn't enough. So I hit NME. And I saw this.
Which I knew already. But I had to see it.
You know, she was sick. Cancer. Breast cancer. I guess I always figured she'd beat it. I've read so much about Poly's health issues, it just seemed like, nothing like cancer could kick her ass. She was the pure punk rock, like the spirit of it, with a pink poof on her hat. I haven't been a fan for long, but in my mind, she's in that same place I put Joey and Johnny and Joe Strummer. And I couldn't believe that any of those guys could go either.
On Twitter, Woolworth told me she was "working hard and fighting strong" until the end. She had a new album out. I figured it'd be one of many.
This was a shitty evening. I had every intention of coming on here, venting, you know, just blowing off a little steam, and talking a bit about this comic that I've started writing, even though I'm working on a million things right now, things for other people or things with deadlines, or just things like "The Tagalong." But I can talk about those things later. And my bad evening really doesn't seem all that consequential when I think about the day Celeste Bell-Dos Santos, the surviving Styrene, is having. So...
I'm going to talk about this. My life is not exactly glamorous. I mostly go out of the house to go shopping for my grandmother. Or to go to my head doctor, get my, or someone else's, prescription filled. Other errands, long walks, lot of solo time, is the point. And I really don't like... the background noises here. Mowers, and country music over loud speakers, and exhausted, often toothless parents yelling at children who... in my view haven't done anything to deserve the constant shrieking and swears their parents communicate with them in, but hell, what do I know, maybe those poor kids go home and start fires.
Point is, in those places, in those situations, I can't take it. It threatens to overwhelm me, become this unbearable headache, this revulsion that brings on this nauseated feeling that I just can't get rid of without extricating myself from those places. I know I sound like an elitist prick here. You know, if not being able to stand listening to Toby Keith scoring arguments about whether Marshall or the Mountaineers are the best football team this year is elitist, I might have to concede my guilt there. So, I started tuning it out with my iPod. When I'm on my own, when I'm running errands, it's actually turned into something fun for me, because I get to spend that time listening to music, really listening to music, in a way that I hadn't since high school.
But again, it's also a coping mechanism, something to drown out the parts of life here that I can't handle. Can't stand. And it's gotten to that point where, I've actually started thinking of those ear buds like life support. I remember one time I took them out to pay the cashier, I always take them out to pay the cashier, I'm not rude, I try to be pleasant, but when I did it that time I realized I was holding my breath. Like someone had taken off my oxygen mask underwater. I laughed about it then.
Couple days later, I was still thinking about it. And I heard this:
"I Live Off You" by the X-Ray Spex. Sorry about the quality. I guess I could have linked the YouTube video that was just the song, with the Germ Free Adolescents cover in the background. I wanted you to see them move. See Poly do what she did. But this song, what it's about, it's title, just that it plays sometimes when I'm hooked up to my life support... it's one of my absolute favorites. It means something a little bit different to me than what it was intended to, probably, but it still... I don't think what I take away from it is that dissimilar.
And I do. I live off of this. For now, maybe for a lot longer.
I didn't know Poly Styrene. I can't really talk about her other than to say what I've read, what I've listened to, what she's done, and what that, what she means to me. I sort of think of that as a crime, hate that in a moment like this, all I can talk about is her in context to myself.
So I'm not going to write anymore, and I'm going to save my stuff about what I'm working on for tomorrow. Or the next day. I've got things to do. And some music I'm going to be listening to a lot. And if you like those videos [and thank you to whoever I've ganked them from], if you haven't seen any of this before, you should find more Poly Styrene, more X-Ray Spex, and listen. It's well worth your time.
R.I.P. Poly Styrene. 1957 - 2011.