Mari Curio

Mar1Well, dear readers, it has been a fair while. Old Father Time bent us over his withered knee to administer forty of the best, but we’re back at last for more punky reggae rambles.

I had the pleasure of reading Tom Newton (a.k.a. L. Ron Weasley)’s excellent Cardiacs piece on his new blog this morning in which he gives a shout out to us Skankers, and his kind words have helped provide the mental kick up the arse I needed to get scribbling again.

So – with tools sharpened and patient on the slab, let’s have a rummage…

mari2Today I’m offering up the decidedly peculiar debut from the late, great Mari Elliott, more commonly known as Poly Styrene of the voluminously fabulous X-ray Spex.

Singing in a hearty faux-Jamaican patois peppered with ‘lickle’s and the odd ‘cha’, the pre-punk Poly spins the tale of Silly Billy, the father of her unborn child who ungallantly refuses to acknowledge his – presumably rather sudden – parenthood. This takes the form of an appeal to the errant scoundrel’s mother to urge him to face his responsibilities, set to a rather soppy lovers rock lilt, though with some sprightly sax not too dissimilar to that of X-ray Spex themselves (NB no one else from the band is associated with this record).

mari3Though light years away from the searing critiques of modern life she penned for Spex, Silly Billy does have an element of social commentary, with the future Ms. Styrene’s somewhat chilling prediction for her newborn that ‘when ‘e get a lickle stronger, Billy ‘e stand no longer’ in the concluding couplet.

The b-side, What a Way, takes a rather scornful look at the author’s unceremonious ‘first time’, though this sadly lacks any of Silly Billy’s lopsided charm and sounds more akin to someone singing over Ceefax muzak at karaoke.

mari4

Production on the single was handled by Falcon Stuart, who went on to manage X-ray Spex and produced all of their releases as well as working with Adam and the Ants, Danielle Dax and even La Toya Jackson (!) before his death in 2002. Silly Billy seems to have been his only foray into reggae production, and despite the wonkiness of the track itself, he didn’t do such a bad job.

But enough yattering. Fire up the clips below and get skanking along with the sorely missed Poly’s prelude to a musical career fronting one of the greatest punk bands that ever roamed the earth. It’s a lickle weird and a lickle nice.

(Dread Zed)

And finally, simply because it’s just wonderful:

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