It was way back in the darkness of time, Oh my best beloved, that news of a one off 30 year commemorative X Ray Spex gig was on the cards. 30 years indeed since I first saw them in Victoria Park, along with The Clash, on the Rock Against Racism march. I distinctly remember the haste to get over the railings as we heard Polys voice emanate from the stage. Looking for an entrance was a futile waste of time so leg up and over was the first plan of action. Hooking a trouser bondage strap on a spike had not come into the equation. There I was doing the vertical splits until I was unimpaled by a kindly passing Sloane Ranger with an expressionless face! Would a 30 year interlude lead to more dignified behaviour?
HOW HAD SHE CHANGED?
My best friends brother, Charlie, had bought tickets some time ago. "Just make sure you keep one for me!" I threatened. I checked in every so often as to the status of 'my' ticket. My fiancé, Andy, was going to be 'got in' nudge nudge ,wink wink. It sounds cliché to say that excitement mounted as the day approached, but on this occasion it really did. News of more and more original old punk faces to be in attendance filtered through, making this gig marked from others, this was to be a social occasion. The plan was to meet in Camden's' Worlds End around 6ish. When the day finally arrived I was in a quandary over what to wear. This was to be no ordinary 'watch a band with a beer'. No, this was 'an event'. I spent hours immersing myself in bath creme, body lotion, Chanel and Geurlain cosmetics, topped off with ample mousse and enough hairspray to asphyxiate an MP. My favourite Karen Millen dress and jacket adorned my pampered carcass and the obligatory implements of torture on my trotters. "Oi Andy, stick my flipflops in your pocket". Sod that for a lark!
WHO WOKE CHARLIE UP
Chaotic texts of who was here and who was there must have jammed Camden's airways that afternoon. Not as many as expected in the Worlds End, but it is expensive in there and I expect there were many meeting places. 'It's like a Theatre of Hate reunion' offered best mate Dixie. She hadn't seen our Johna nor pal Sandra since the Brixton days back in the early 80s. Thank Goodness Charlie had my ticket. In fact he had been badly let down last minute and had three tickets. Another issue raised it's ugly head, my affair with alcoholic intoxication. Would I drink? Hell yeah, it will be fine! Let's mosey on down to the Roundhouse kids and soak up the vibe and a pint or two.
CELESTE STYRENE OF DEBUTANTE DISCO
Once in, the gossiping, the meetings, the revelations, the buzz were all consuming. So was the alcohol and some had already reached their limit. Before I knew it Poly Styrenes' daughter Celestine had taken to the stage with band Debutane Disco. A large, round, iconic,'77 picture of her mother graced the wall behind her. On hearing her sing there was no mistaking the family gene. Punk/electro/pop, this band show great character and promise. Celeste Styrene has a voice that draws you in and you want to hear what the songs have to say. Unfortunately the Cornish air and seniltiy have addled my brain and I have lost the full title of my favourite of the night, being along the lines of ...some-one ( who?)' is a capitalist'. I can't find the song anywhere, so if some-one can direct me to it??? As Debutante Disco left the stage Andy and I took a wander to the foyer where he caught up with friends and familiar faces. Over to the merch for a quick chat and the brief notion of having a baby so it could sport a Goldblade babygro. Quick word with John Robb, very quick actually as only ten minutes before show time. Andy pointed out that I was the 'other half' of Mudkiss. John commented on how great it was to see people older than him doing something. Hang on there cowboy! I had to point out with great subtlety and sensitivity ...THE AGE ON THE MUDKISS PROFILE IS MELS, NOT MINE! I would still keep an eye on it Mel before Uncle Jean makes it 58!
JOHN ROBB REVS UP
Best mates Dix and Charlie, along with big sis Junelli had never seen Goldblade so it was going to be interesting to see how they responded. A recent album review had them branded 'old men at Butlins'. That was going to add to the fun of watching! Here they come...........the old men from Butlins haha..........WHHHaaaaaccckkkkkkk, KKAAaaaapppoowwwwwww...following that description I was half expecting the gentle shuffling of Alfred but instead got the energy of every inhabitant of Gotham City rolled into one. John Robb, arms swinging, toned body contorted, it wasn't long before we were all singing and flinging our own selves about to 'Fighting in the Dancehall, Fucking in the Streets..' Five ladies up on-stage please for 'Riot'. I was dragged along by some-one who shall remain nameless, but suffice to say that they had reached the stage of throwing not only their own booze, but mine. What a relief that they already had enough layydeees. We did however take the cup of liquid offered from the stage in the vain hope that it was vodka. It didn't take long for pal Charlie to become a Goldblade fan, rhythmically chanting 'My name is psychooo, my name is psychoo'. HHmmm, how apt! More on Goldblade from Andy. For me the set seemed to end very quickly, but maybe time just flies when you are having fun!
POLY ON FORM Brain now saturated with excitement, anticipation, nostalgia...did I mention alcohol? I waited for X Ray Spex. What would Poly look like now? How had that unassuming, quiet girl with the voice of a lion grown up? New songs or old? The answer to that and more was soon to be revealed....'OH BONDAGE.. UP YOURS...'came the intro. The crowd surged towards the graceful figure, Scarlett bonnet perched on the side of her long, straight dark hair, flowing black dress with pink sash ribbon. The sound of every instrument honed to the perfection of our expectation, an almost primal embrace of that intrinsic saxophone. Poly swayed gracefully, still with the look of a little girl lost, smiling constantly. In fact the smile never left her beautiful demeanour. Next up 'AR TI FICIALLLlllllll ...' I can still ear every word ringing in my head as I revisit the night. 'Obsessed with You', 'Worrier in Woolworths'... I think Poly would only have had to announce the next song title and my mind would have filled in the gaps, every single note. Only an occasional new, unfamiliar song bought us back to reality, yet still the unmistakeable and unique sound of X Ray Spex. 'Lets Submerge', 'I'm a Cliché', 'Identity'. All those songs, word for helter skelter word are part of me and so many others who were hypnotised by that voice and lyrics with such tongue in cheek poignancy still valid today. 'Genetic Engineering', 'I Live off You', 'Germfree', all with a social message from a time that spawned our now. Words, voice, music, all so eloquently put together in self mocking stance once again made fun. 'I'm a Poseur' and 'I Don't Care' raced with youthful defiance beneath the words 'Concrete Jungle',. It was total euphoria to once again be part of 'The Day the World turned Dayglo'. I don't know if the band expected this to be their last song , but we weren't prepared to let them go that easily. Whistling, screaming, stamping, clapping, shouting. Two encores please. Poly re turned second time looking overwhelmed but still with that happy smile to once again satisfy our indulgence in the mockery of all that surrounds us. I reckon Jesus himself would have joined in with the final 'Oh Bondage Up Yours'! I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years.
SHEER ELEGANCE Congregating at the back of a now deflated and emptying Roundhouse plans for an attack on the after show party were in progress. I had been under the impression that it was invitation but should anyone else turn up they could gain entrance for a Lady Godiva. So why did that man have a mile high pile of flyers for it? Anyways, I avoided any thought of the early morning trip to Cornwall, well who would want the night to end? I had often passed the Boston Arms on the bus and wondered what went on there. Tonight it was a wonderful punk rock disco along with performances from, once again, that promising young lady Celestine and Debutante Disco and also The Duel joined by Ferret of Dun To Def. By now I was well on the way to dishevelment, indeed all gone Pete Tong. Charlie is and always will be the arch enemy of feminine perfection. Once he has leapt all over you and pushed you over little remains of painted lips and eyebrows. That coupled with my inability to remain ladylike, never a one to worry about hair in place when on a good night out, resulted in a hideous apparition taking to the dance floor in a bid to keep up with the lovely Venda and Punka, young Slovakian newly-weds with an insatiable appetite for Uk Punk and limitless energy. Charlie refuelled with a catnap, soon to be back up pushing me over as we feigned slow motion kung fu (don't ask, sometimes there is no adequate explanation)
ANDY WITH POLY STYRENE
Poly Styrene chatted and posed for photos, still with that wonderful smile. She chatted with Charlie and Dix and all I could think to say was 'Thank you, that was brilliant, thank you'. By now I resembled a cross between Roy Hudd and Cousin It with anaemia. My memory is also somewhat impaired, but I do remember devouring chips on the way home like an emaciated , rabid dog. I am not sure whether the lurid sex scene later was real or a dream, but whichever, it was good for you Andy! A mere slip into unconsciousness and it was time to head for Paddington complete with hangover from hell and whining dog. I am still looking for a home for her by the way.
SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME!
Well Au Revoir my Petals, please add your own thoughts and experiences on/at the gig in comments. I am off to order my shopping online from Sainsburys then apply a little rouge. Hey, I reckon that's song lyric material ;-)
Reviewed by Lorraine