X-Ray Spex formed in Britain in 1976 after Styrene saw the Sex Pistols at a concert. They only released one album, but Germfree Adolescents is hands-down a classic punk rock album. Germfree Adolescents, released in 1978, spawned five singles, including “Identity,” “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo,” and the legendary punk track “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”
Styrene was a female punk idol in a time where punk rock was totally dominated by males (not that much has changed). Billboard Magazine’s biography of Styrene describes her as “a chubby, half-white/half-Somalian teenager who still wore braces, not to mention a loud Day-Glo wardrobe,” who “she attacked corporations, consumerism, and artificiality with a winning sense of humor.” So it is no wonder that she has inspired later punk artists, including riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin, Le Tigre), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Ari-Up (The Slits), Bratmobile, and more.
There is a lot to be said about a mixed-race woman who ran away at 15, started a revolutionary punk band at 18, and has continued making music until her death at 53. To add to her already stellar list of accomplishments, Styrene also left music temporarily to join the Hare Krishnas (which, considering her disgust of consumerism, is not a huge surprise), She recorded her first solo album, Translucence, in 1980, followed by Flower Aeroplane in 2004 and Generation Indigo in 2009.
Obviously it is ironic that she chose ‘Poly Styrene’ as a stage name, seeing as polystyrene is one of the most widely, most commercially used plastics in the world. But regardless of her name, Styrene proved that she certainly wasn’t one of the mill.