Who Is Poly Styrene? is a quality BBC production from 1979 that captures the charming personality of the late Marianne Elliot-Said, better known by the stage name she gave herself as the singer/songwriter for the top-notch British punk group X-Ray Spex . The candid, 40-minute documentary depicts Poly as a level-headed and thoughtful young artist (with braces) pining for normalcy as she and the band blow up, trying her best to deal with new-found celebrity (“It isn’t normal for people to be surrounded by people telling them they’re great”). We get to see her shopping at the market, lounging at home watching the telly, and playing the piano in a quiet intimate setting, but we also see all this juxtaposed with her working life as X-Ray Spex hit the studio to record “Germ Free Adolescents,” go through “Identity” during a rehearsal, and head off to a gig in a van only to get lost. Interspersed throughout is the Spex’s great music as well as Poly reciting her clever-yet-deep lyrics a capella. She also talks about her writing process, her plans to go to college, and shares memories of leaving home while still a teen and hitchhiking around England. All in all, a fascinating good time.
(If you’re not up on X-Ray Spex, make sure to click through gallery thumbnails up top to see stills from the film … maybe it will pique your interest).
“I chose the name Poly Styrene because it’s a light weight disposable product. It sounded alright. [It] was a send up of being a pop star; it’s like a little figure, not me, being Poly Styrene. Just this plastic, disposable [figure]. That’s what pop stars are meant to mean. So, therefore, I thought, I might as well send it up.”
(Props to Indiscriminate35 for the upload)