Mad Mary – Poly Styrene’s bodyguard.
Mary and Poly first met in 1976 when Poly was still selling and designing clothes from a market stall in Beaufort market, which was located just off the King’s Road in Chelsea, and only a couple of blocks along from Vivienne and Malcolm’s shop SEX. Pre X-Ray Spex the band, this was X-Ray Spex the clothing line. Poly was designing and making clothes, mainly re-purposing things she bought from charity shops, but adding paint, plastic pegs and slogans, all of which she sold on the stall along with, in her own words, “Sixties tat”. The two of them soon became friends, and Mary, living in a squat in Kings Cross, accompanied Poly as Punk got a foothold in the streets, clubs and culture of the late 1970s. As X-Ray Spex started gigging, Mad Mary, despite bearing absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to Kevin Costner, was drafted in as Poly’s own personal bodyguard.
In Zillah Minx’s 2010 documentary film “She’s a Punk Rocker UK” Mad Mary talks about life in Punk London and her adventures with Ms Styrene in 1976/77.
Mary on Punk culture
“You could really feel there was something happening, by a bunch of young people trying to be individuals. At the time, at the beginning of 77 everybody looked very individual, you didn’t go into a room with like 50 punks in there and they all looked the same, it was like 50 people all looking totally different, but by the summer of 77 the whole thing escalated, you know thousands, hundreds of thousands of kids in the country looked like we did…but we were the original style”
On Billy Idol
“You see Billy Idol? You see how his hair was? I mean that was my hair and the boy stole my look!! He didn’t really, he said to me “How do you get your hair like that?” so I said “Put a bit of Vaseline in” and the next time we saw him gigging, that was his look”
On being Poly’s bodyguard
“I sort of became her (Poly Styrene) bodyguard, we were really good friends, but I also became her bodyguard. I was ready, if I needed to I could have put somebody on the floor, but I never really had to do that because you could really just laugh off most of the situations”.
And, of course, on Nancy…
“Me and Poly were at the 100 Club one night and poor Sid he was just laying totally out of it, his face over a table, you know terrible, and we were going over to him and saying like “Are you ok?” and everything and he said “Oh I just wanna die”, so I went over to Nancy, and she was like on the dance floor you know giving it all, up against all these other men, I said, “Listen, Sid he’s over there, he’s practically O.D.ing on the table, and all he wants to do is go home”, and she just turned round and said “aahh F*ck Off”.
Zillah’s film serves as a reassuring reminder of how the punk scene started to evolve. How it came from the art schools, boutiques, back bedrooms and market stalls, through to bands, fashion and eventually, albeit in a very diluted form, into the mainstream. What the film illustrates particularly well is that, Punk in its many forms, still had at its heart, an unmistakable spark of originality. A rebellion for sure, but developed and propelled by the positive, the curious and the imagineers. Mad Mary, we salute you.
Follow Zillah Minx on Twitter HERE