X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex was an English punk-rock band from London that issued the single “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” / “I Am a Cliché” on Virgin in 1977, followed by the album Germfree Adolescents on EMI International in 1978. They were fronted by singer Poly Styrene and initially featured saxophonist Lora Logic, who subsequently guested on The Stranglers track “Hey! (Rise of the Robots)” and led Rough Trade avant-funksters Essential Logic. Guitarist Jak Airport and drummer B.P. Hurding later formed Classix Nouveaux.

Members: Poly Styrene (vocals), Paul Dean (bass), Jak Airport (guitar, 1976-79), B.P. Hurding (drums, 1976-79), Lora Logic (saxophone, 1976-77, 1995), Steve “Rudi” Thompson (saxophone, 1977-79)


X-Ray Spex formed in January 1977 through an ad posted in the music weeklies by Marianne Elliott, a 19-year-old singer of Scottish-Irish and Somali heritage.

Elliott (b. July 3, 1957) first ventured off from her Brixton home at age 15 to wander the festival circuit. In May 1976, she cut the reggae-ska single “Silly Billy” (b/w “What a Way”), released as “Mari Elliott” on GTO and produced by underground filmmaker Falcon Stuart. Two months later, on her nineteenth birthday (7/3/76), she and Stuart caught an early performance by the Sex Pistols at the Pier Pavilion in Hastings. Like many early converts, she decided to form her own band.

The original lineup of X-Ray Sex featured Elliott with guitarist Jack Stafford, bassist Paul Dean, drummer Bake Paul Hurding, and saxophonist Susan Carena Whitby. As with many acts on the nascent punk scene, several members adopted nicknames: Stafford became Jak Airport, Whitby went by the alliterative Lora Logic, and Elliott refashioned herself as Poly Styrene, a name she picked from the yellow pages because it embodied plasticity.

Early Shows

X-Ray Spex made their live debut at the Man in the Moon pub on King’s Road. On March 11, 1977, they played The Roxy Club in Convent Garden, London’s epicenter of new talent. That night, they supported Chelsea (led by Gene October, a model for punk boutique Acme Attractions) and Mancunian punks The Drones.

Styrene gained instant notice with her loud, high-pitched voice and distinct mode of dress, typified by plastic day-glo bin liners. On April 2, they played their second Roxy engagement with fellow up-and-comers the Buzzcocks, Wire, Johnny Moped, and Smak (aka The Unwanted, a precursor to the Psychedelic Furs). Spex’s main showpiece, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”, appears on the live document The Roxy London WC2 (Jan – Apr 77), released on Harvest with numbers by all the acts on the 4/2/77 bill, plus Slaughter and the Dogs, The Adverts, and Eater.

“Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

In Septembers 1977, X-Ray Spex cut a one-off deal with Virgin Records and issued “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” as their debut single (b/w “I Am a Cliché”). The sleeve sports a xerox facial shot of Styrene, flanked with jagged title fonts and band logo. Stuart produced this and all subsequent Spex recordings.

“Bondage” appears on the 1977 Dutch Ariola comp Geef Voor New Wave with tracks by Generation X, Motörhead, The Radiators From Space, and Eddie and the Hot Rods. It also appears on Guillotine, a 1978 Virgin sampler EP with rare cuts by XTC, The Motors, The Table, Penetration, and Poet and the Roots.

“Bondage” spurred the band’s notoriety but marked the end of Logic’s tenure. Accounts vary, but the 16-year-old went back to school to study her A levels. (She resurfaced in 1979 fronting the post-punk band Essential Logic). Spex replaced her with saxophonist Rudi Thompson (aka Steve Rudi).

X-Ray Spex played two shows in November and December 1977 at the Hope & Anchor in Islington as part of the pub’s three-week Front Row Festival. Their performance of “Let’s Submerge” appears on Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival, released in 1978 on Warner Bros. with numbers by The Stranglers, Dire Straits, XTC, Burlesque, The Only Ones, 999, The Saints, and the Steve Gibbons Band.

1978: Singles, Germfree Adolescents

In April 1978, X-Ray Spex signed to EMI International and released their second single, “The Day the World Turned Dayglo” (b/w “Iama Poseur”). The first 15,000 copies were pressed on day-glo orange vinyl. On the 30th, they performed at the Rock Against Racism gig at Victoria Park along with Steel Pulse, The Clash, The Ruts, and the Tom Robinson Band.

In July, Spex issued their third single, “Identity” (b/w “Let’s Submerge”), initially pressed on pink vinyl. The accompanying video shows the band miming on a cluttered stage set and cavorting on a rooftop. Styrene pairs a teal cardigan and gloves with a pink shirt and matching socks. Their third EMI single, “Germ Free Adolescence” (b/w “Age”), appeared that October.

X-Ray Spex released their singular album, Germfree Adolescents, on November 10, 1978 on EMI. It includes the last three singles (minus “Age”), plus seven other Styrene originals, including “Warrior in Woolworths,” “Art-I-Ficial,” “Genetic Engineering,” and “Plastic Bag.” Most of the songs deal with consumerism. The cover shows each member trapped inside of test tubes (rear shot on back.)

Later Activity

In April 1979, X-Ray Spex released their final single, “Highly Inflammable,” issued on red vinyl with the album track “Warrior In Woolworths.”

Styrene lost interest in the band’s musical outlook. By her own account, she witnessed something through her hotel window at a tour stop in Doncaster: a pink disc-shaped light that radiated through her body. She took this as an epiphany and quit X-Ray Spex and the punk scene.

Thompson linked with The Members just in time for their debut album At the Chelsea Night Club. After sitting out their sophomore release, he joined for their 1982 third album Uprhythm, Downbeat, which spawned the MTV hit “Working Girl.”

Stafford and Hurding employed a new singer, Sal Solo, formerly of the new wave GTO act The News. Their new band, Classix Nouveaux, became key players in the Blitz scene. Stafford also reteamed with Dean for a pair of 1981/82 singles as Airport and Dean.

Styrene released one solo album, Translucence, in 1980 on United Artists. It features 12 originals, mostly ballads with tribal-ambient arrangements. In 1983, she entered the Hare Krishna movement, where she reunited with fellow convert Lora Logic.


  • “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” / “I Am a Cliché” (1977)
  • Germfree Adolescents (1978)
  • “Highly Inflammable” / “Warrior in Woolworths” (1979)


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