X-Ray Spex – ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’

Could have been the saxophone was anathema to a punk in 76; it doesn’t present itself as an instrument you can just pick up and play. But anyone introduced to punk through ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ by X-ray Spex wouldn’t be too foolish to think it had been an integral element of the genre. Lara Logic’s playing dismisses any preconceived notions anyone might have of the saxophone as anything like smooth. The sound and tone she achieves is reminiscent of how the saxophone was used on those Little Richard records in the 1950s (‘Tutti Fruitt’, ‘Jenny Jenny’), when it was the solo instrument of choice, before the guitar supplanted it.

Throughout ‘Oh Bondage’ the saxophone is used as a parallel to Poly Styrene’s vocal, just able, by accident or design, to sit alongside, competing at times (I mean, it actually jumps the main vocal by coming in before – the audacity), but always complementing. Logic left, or was sacked (depending on what you read), shortly after recording ‘Oh Bondage’, to be replaced by another sax player, Rudi Thompson. Maybe the mix they found here was too hard to sustain and conceive of again. Indeed, on their album Germfree Adolescents, ‘Oh Bondage’ (the preceding single) was left off. But it is on ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ they used the saxophone to pursue their own particular goal. And this maybe was something that many hadn’t thought anyone able to do with the saxophone for a long time.

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