For International Women’s Day this year we are celebrating women in Punk with our Photo Friday, in particular one of the first female punk icons, Poly Styrene. Poly Styrene was the front woman of the X-Ray Spex, a punk band she formed after watching the Sex Pistols perform on Hastings Pier in 1976. Their debut single ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’, released in September 1977, was described by Poly Styrene as “a call for liberation,” and was concerned with issues of consumerism and feminism. The opening line: “Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think… “ was spoken by Poly Styrene and followed with a riotous “OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!”. The X-Ray Spex recorded one album, ‘Germ Free Adolescents’, in 1978, before splitting up in 1979.
Our photograph comes from ‘‘Adventures in Wonderland’: the Falcon Stuart and X-Ray Spex Archive’, held in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Falcon Stuart originally produced ‘Silly Billy’, a feminist reggae track for Marie Elliot in 1976, (Poly Styrene’s real name was Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), and went on to become the X-Ray Spex’s producer and manager. He was also often their photographer and the archive contains a large number of promotional shots such as this one, along with contact sheets, gig photos, punk periodicals featuring articles about the X-Ray Spex, press cuttings, correspondence, tapes and ephemera.