If I was President of the world I would make sure all girls owned a copy of ‘Oh bondage, up yours!’, X-Ray Spex’s debut single from 1977.
“Why?” you might ask. “and why only girls?”
The answer is simple, elementary, and reveals itself in the first 30 seconds of this iconic Punk song. First Poly Styrene simply states, in a soft and childlike voice “Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard…but I think” – little pause – then she suddenly screams “OH BONDAGE UP YOURS! 1-2-3-4!”. Now the band kicks in, all fuzzy guitar and rambling drums. At 18 seconds X-Ray Spex plays its last trump card: a free-form saxophone solo. Mind you, a saxophone…solo…in a Punk song…before the song really started. If that’s not a statement of intent then what is?
Seems the song is about consumerism, about mindlessly following (and being bonded by) corporate marketing, but I hear a subplot, hidden in plain sight, explained in by the spoken words with which the song opens. Why should little girls be seen and not heard? What would happen if they didn’t? Maybe they would follow their instincts, their talents, their guts, and play saxophone in a band at the age of 16, like Susan Whitby (a.k.a. Lara Logic) did in X-Rax Spex. Maybe they would step outside of musical or any other convention and create their own reality.
Just look at the kids striking for climate change, urging old, male politicians to finally do something. They’re often girls. Look at them and listen to the comments, by TV anchors, politicians, everyone who supposedly knows something about the topic. “Those are big ambitions, little girl…shouldn’t you just go back to school, prepare for your future, leave policy making to the grown-ups…”
What future? Oh bondage, up yours!