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X-Ray Specs at CBGBs March 1978: We Watched the World Turn Dayglo

In the world of greatest rock bands of all times may I add X-Ray Specs? Poly Styrene’s punk band initially thought of as a novelty because “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” was believed to be a request not a complaint and eventually discovered to be a UK art punk political band who added at least two phrases to the lexicon “germ free adolescents” (a term I still coin younger friends) and “…in a consumer society”, I term I use for the way we consume we eat up culture.

In March 1978 I visited NYC to see X-Ray Specs play four nights at CBGB’s -one night canceled because lead singer and songwriter Poly had a cold (which she did but I heard she was out of her mind on LSD). By this time saxophonist Lora Logic had left the band and Rudi Thomson played her parts. Their one album “Germ Free Adolescents” had yet to be released which means a fan like me woulda just know the two singles and b-sides.

Poly, a small, roly poly, young looking girl with braces on her teeth was an anti-star. It was tough to have a conversation with her. But on stage all her introversion got inverted and she danced on the edge of the stage screaming over this loud and handing the mike to the fans at the front of the stage to sing along with her. Lotsa girls in the audience and lotsa scene makers and all of whom were bowled over by the bands raw power and yet different power. They weren’t like any NYC band and if their antecedents with the New York Dolls it’s hard to hear it, but if it was the Sex Pistols that’s hard to hear as well.

Styrene wasn’t railing against her inability to get a job that even vaguely matters in London, an insular concern, she was concerned that in its effort to sell her stuff the advents of capitalism and big business were sucking out her soul and killing her body by wrecking the enviroment. Here is the lyric to “I Watched The Earth Turn Dayglo”.

” clambered over mounds and moundsOf polystyrene foam
And fell into a swimming pool Filled with fairy snow
And watched the world turn day-gloyou know you know
The world turned day-glo you know

I wrenched the nylon curtains back
As far as they would go
And peered through perspex window panes
At the acrylic road
I drove my polypropolene
Car on wheels of sponge
Then pulled into a wimpy barTo have a rubber bun

The X-rays were penetrating
Through the laytex breeze
Synthetic fibre see-thru leaves
The I fell from the rayon trees “

Besides the obvious awesomeness of the words and the deep disturbing vision of a world we are living in today 33 years later, is the image of Poly declaring the edge of madness at the end of her rope and the band not playing the simple three chords of punk but a skronky blasting sound field. All of Styrene’s songs are great, they are all completely unique visions of democracy being eaten by capitalism and in the bankrupt NYC of 78 in the heart of the Bowery with the denizens of skid row and the runaways of Long Island and the crumbling buildings like West Beirut and the muggers and the beggar, you left the X-Ray Specs concert and joined a world very UK punky because it was so falling apart its cool factor was illusionary.

The band themselves had no cool factor, it’s as if they hadn’t quite twigged they were one of the best bands in the world right that second. They were all broken living on a stipend of ten bucks a day and bokshi booze at CBGB’s. The manager was a former porn producer and Poly’s boyfriend but a cool bloke. And when they got onm stage it was the release of energy about to fall off the edge of the world: a cleansing roar of dissention.

Well, both Poly and the original saxophonist Lora Logic joined the Krishna’s and I heard Poly had a baby and the band reformed without Poly which was pretty ridiculous.

But in March 1978 we watched the world turn dayglo…

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