Thursday, 18 September 2008

Poison Girls came out to play

A classic piece of anarcho-post-punk from 1981, capturing a live performance by the greatest of the British politico bands of that period.

'Invisible people, show yourselves.
People in hiding, come out.
Say what you want. Show who you are.
Reclaim the life that is left.
Those who desire peace and freedom must create a new economy.
The economy of peace will depend on a currency of trust.
Invisible people, show yourselves.
There are more of us than you think.'

Formed in 1976, the Poisons served their apprenticeship during the classic punk years, and found their niche in the early post-punk period along with artists such as Flux of Pink Indians, Honey Bane and Crass.

Being close neighbours of Crass (literally and ideologically), the Poisons worked productively with their fellow anarchic evangelists, touring together and sharing space on single and e.p. releases.

Crass Records was initially responsible for putting out the Poisons' music, but due to a falling-out (over feminist ideology... what else are anarchists going to bicker about?) the band started their own label, Xntrix Records.

Deeply ideological lyrics, that discuss anarchy, radical feminist ideas, sexual politics, state control, pacifism and resistance, are perfectly accompanied by the angular, choppy, sometimes tribal music prevalent to the post-punk sound of the time.
This is a deeply provocative piece and in some ways still a challenging listen. But it's not a lecture; it's not like listening to Consolidated; this is music to pogo to.

The singer, Vi Subversia, had the most incredibly apt voice for expressing the band's antipathy and disgust with the state, and those who maintained the oppressive systems of the state.

With a gravelly Marianne Faithful kind of snarl, you can not miss the real venom in the delivery of the lines: 'I'm not your fucking Mother/I'm not your fucking whore/ I'm not your baby sister/ or the girl next door/ you can roll your eyes to heaven/ for a virgin to adore/ but there's someone right beside you/ who could ask for more?/ as you eye each other up/ for a fight or a fuck.'
Or shiver at the fear and paranoia encapsulated in songs such as 'S.S. Snoopers' (that's social security rather than nazis, but then again...) and 'Don't Go Home Tonight'.
These were bleak and dark times for many; crystallized here in this captured performance most effectively.

But it wasn't all nihilism and self-harm inducing; the Poison Girls' gigs I was at were among some of the best gigs I ever attended.
The anarcho-punk movement at that time was fairly small, and going to a Poisons' show was like attending a family reunion. In fact I would go as far as saying that Vi's fiftieth birthday party, which took place at London's Hammersmith Clarendon Ballroom (R.I.P.), 1985, was one of the most joyous and celebratory gigs I have ever attended.
Forget Barry Manilow concerts, here was a very sincere and genuine love offered to a brilliant artist and performer by a deeply reverant audience.

The advice given during the song 'Daughters and Sons' ('Daughters and sons/ sing your own songs/ got your own songs to sing') seems to have been heeded, as both Vi's kids (Pete Fender and Gem Stone) went off and created their own bit of anarchy with the bands Rubella Ballet and Fatal Microbes, both of whom raised a fair amount of attention and interest.

The Poison Girls' own career was mainly ignored by the music press. Having a front woman in her mid-forties spouting radical feminist ideas was probably not the most eye-catching of copy. But in the true spirit of punk, Vi merely questioned established gender roles and stereotypes, in similar ways to bands like the Slits and X Ray Spex had.
But both of those bands featured young women, of course, and their digs at patriarchy were hardly going to raise the spirit of Mary Woolstonecraft.

Whereas the Poisons were so provocative they forced listeners to delve deep into their own consciences, and many didn't really want to do that (the residual machismo that was ubiquitous to music journalists at that time wouldn't have led to the band being office favourites).

During the time the band were active they fell out with most of their genre mates, they upset the extreme left (the SWP accused the band of describing their party as bullies) and they upset the extreme right (ditto. And they meant it). But for those who connected with their philosophy and ideology, they were a deeply motivating and inspiring force.

Released on clear vinyl, on Xntrix Records. Recorded live in Edinburgh, 5/7/81.
Along with many other Poison Girls' recordings, this has not had a CD release.

I believe, they were a band that never got the recognition they truly deserved.

The Poison Girls:
Vi Subversia - voice, guitar.
Richard Famous - guitar, voice.
Lance D'Boyle - drums
Bernhardt Rebours - bass, voice.
Nil - tapes.

If there is an interest in this album, I will post more of the Poisons', now hard to get, albums in the future.
I hope you enjoy this

The Poison Girls - Total Exposure

Persons Unknown
State Control
Old Tart's Song
Bully Boys
Another Hero Bites
Don't Go Home Tonight
S.S. Troopers
Daughters and Sons
Fucking mother
Dirty Work

Get it here


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this!

Truly would appreciate more of their stuff :)

Combom said...


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Thanks, AndyC

roy rocket said...

Thank you for the feedback on this.
I was wondering whether anybody cared about music such as this anymore; but your comments have restored my faith, and I will certainly be posting up more of the Poisons' harder to obtain material in the near future.
Also, look out for some Astronauts, RDF and Culture Shock; they'll all be coming your way as soon as I can muster.
Shanti, roy

Anonymous said...


Stop said...

Oh so many memories.Saw Vi and Poison Girls with Omega Tribe in Brighton.Was a top night.Would love to do it all again.

roy rocket said...

Pretty much grew up with the Omega Tribe.
Must post their album!
Thanks for the thought.
Shanti, roy

kendo said...

Great..Thanks for posting I got statment a 4 cd boxset with hex, chappaquidick bridge,songs of praise & wheres the pleasure, I thought It was everything theyd released good band that where not afraid to experiment with differnt sound on every lp. Sadly never saw them live

martin41smith said...

Thanx for this, i remember having the symbol on my punk jacket, them crass and zounds were A+

si said...

Just discovered your blog Roy - I must say you've posted some fabulous stuff here - I've snaffled the RDF tape - brilliant - thanks for that - great band were RDF - I (zed) did a fair few gigs with them in the late 80s early 90s - very enjoyable. It's pleasing to see you championing the Poisons - they seem to be fading from memory as everybody clammers to shout about Crass - absolutely nowt wrong with Crass - but I reckon had it not been for that touring trio (Crass, PGs, and Annie Anxiety) the 'anarcho' scene may not have reached as many people as it did - I mean, PGs and Annie most definitely appealed to those that might have been turned off by Crass and vice versa...yap yap yap...

Anyway, I've added your blog to the top blogs on my blog:

All the best