Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ode to X-Ray Spex

I was surprised to hear that Poly Styrene died last night. I had decided that she committed suicide years ago, I suppose in order to kept her punk-rock mythic self preserved in my mind.

I thought about my mistaken information today and I did the dishes listening to X-Ray Spex on Grooveshark. I still have my bright orange cassette tape of their only album. But since my car died last summer, I have no way to play it. So I was most un-punk rock and I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Grooveshark only had four songs. I remembered the words to all of them.

When I was seventeen, Christine slipped the tape into the cassette player in her kitchen. She handed me the tape case so I could read the lyrics as we listened to Oh Bondage, Up Yours.

I'd never heard anything like that tape. It was better than Madonna, better than the Sex Pistols, better than The Cure. It took my years to really hear the lyrics -- I think I appreciate them now far more than I ever did then -- but I couldn't get enough of Poly's voice trilling the 'r' in rrrrrrrat.

We lived in the suburbs and we listened to that tape everywhere. In the summer, my friend Christine drove a carload of us to work every morning. I could time the drive by what song we were on when we got to the boathouse in Hull.

I kicked and bounced around the kitchen this afternoon as I did the dishes. I thought Christine driving us around Cohasset and the South Shore. Of driving in Florida with Rachel and Molly, of hanging out in Katie's basement, of blasting X-Ray Spex in my parents' station wagon with Ann.

Ann, Christine, Christina, Dee, Errin, Eliza, Katie, Susan, Renee, Rachel, and Molly: you are all my punk rock sisters from the nineties. I've been thinking of you all while I hummed X-Ray Spex today. I've been remembering the bright orange tape blasting saxaphone in the background as we careened from adolescence into adulthood. I couldn't have asked for better friends.