GERMFREE ADOLESCENTS-X RAY SPEX
From the Underground collection, this is the debut album from X Ray Spex and was released November 1978. Falcon Stuart, who also produced for Adam Ant, had helped to produce pre-punk reggae single “Silly Billy “for girlfriend Maria Elliot in 1976. Encountering the explosive punk movement in that year, including watching the Sex Pistols at Hastings Pier, both he and Maria saw the direction things were going and helped Elliot AKA Poly Styrene form X Ray Spex.
Poly placed an ad in Melody Maker in search of “young punx who want to stick it together.” And the band was up and running, releasing four singles before the one and only album was released by EMI. Ranked #9 by NME amongst the albums of the year all the tracks were written by Poly Styrene. The theme of the album is undoubtedly the toxicity of life in a consumer society. Almost fairy-tale like the lyrics describe the horrors of the excesses of supermarket aisles, plastic bags, day glo, nylon curtains and Perspex window panes.
The single Germfree Adolescent is a postmodern love song. Typical boy meets girl but where cleanliness is the obsession. “I know you’re antiseptic/Your deodorant smells nice/I’d like to get to know you/You’re deep frozen like the ice,” and it goes on “Cleans her teeth 10 times a day, Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away/The S.R. way.” The lines “deep frozen like the ice” and “the S.R. way” (sodium ricinolate)are a reference to a commercial for Gibbs S.R. toothpaste, the very first television advertisement to be broadcast in the UK (1955). The single reached 19 in the charts in 1978.
Polys’ feminist punk anthem Oh Bondage Up Yours was not included on the original album although it did appear on the 1991 reissue. “Some people think that little girls should be seen and not heard/But I say oh bondage, up yours!” she screamed, and the tone was set.
The album has inspired and continues to inspire many. From Ana de Silva at The Raincoats to FKA Twigs who labelled it her favourite album of all time.
Above all the album was prophetic in so many ways. The assault of mass consumerism with the shelves piled high with primary coloured plastic containers full of stuff we don’t really need was surely the beginning of the cycle which we are now beginning to see as those containers have found their way to the oceans and rivers.
- “Obsessed with You”
- “Warrior in Woolworths”
- “Let’s Submerge”
- “I Can’t Do Anything”
- “Genetic Engineering”
- “I Live Off You”
- “I Am a Poseur”
- “Germ Free Adolescents”
- “Plastic Bag”
- “The Day the World Turned Dayglo”