When I was a lad of 15 and 16 in South Africa I would listen religiously to John Peel's weekly show on the BBC World Service, diligently recording tracks that were often barely audible beneath all the hiss and crackle. I first heard many great songs that way, and some that weren't quite so great when you took the hiss and crackle away, but none of them had as great an impact on me as the first time I heard "Identity" and "Art I Ficial" by X Ray Spex.
When I moved back to England the following year, 1979, almost the first thing I did after my Dad and I arrived at Victoria from Heathrow was go to a long departed record shop across the road from the station and buy a copy of "Germ Free Adolescents", which had been unobtainable in South Africa. It was a constant companion for a long time after that. At the age of 16 it really spoke to me in a way that very few records have since.
So you can imagine how I felt when I heard the sad news of Poly Styrene's death at the ridiculously young age of 53. And listening to the album again this morning, for the first time in too long a time, I realised that it was not just for nostalgic reasons that we must mourn her. Her assault on consumerism and superficiality is, if anything, even more relevant now than it was back then. And her voice, with Rudi Thompson's saxaphone blurting away in the background, still sounds absolutely magnificent. R.I.P. Poly.
"Art I Ficial" - X Ray Spex
"Warrior In Woolworths" - X Ray Spex
And R.I.P. also Phoebe Snow, who passed away yesterday. Here is a track from her 1978 album "Against the Grain" - same year, very different sound, but an equally distinctive voice in her own way.
"Keep a Watch on the Shoreline" - Phoebe Snow