Poison Girls - Biography
By Oliver Hall
The Poison Girls was the English anarcho-punk band led by Vi Subversa, a 42-year-old mother when the band formed in 1977. Her teenage children, Gem Stone and Pete Fender, had their own punk band called Fatal Microbes and later formed Rubella Ballet. Poison Girls was closely associated with Crass and the two bands frequently played together and collaborated.
The Poison Girls’ first release was the split EP Fatal Microbes Meet the Poison Girls (1979 Small Wonder / Xntrix), a co-release between the UK independent label/shop Small Wonder and Subversa’s label Xntrix. Crass drummer Penny Rimbaud produced their debut LP Hex (1979 Small Wonder/Xntrix, 1980 Crass) in 1979 and 1980 saw the release of their song “Persons Unknown” on a split single with Crass’s “Bloody Revolutions” (1980 Crass). The proceeds from that split single funded the construction of an anarchist center in London. Later that year, Poison Girls released their second album, Chappaquiddick Bridge (1980 Crass), in reference to the location of Senator Ted Kennedy’s 1969 car accident that killed his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. The “All Systems Go” (1980 Crass) single was also released in 1980 on Crass Records.
The band’s self-released live album, Total Exposure (1981 Xntrix), was recorded in Edinburgh, Scotland and was their last with bassist Bernhardt Rebours. On the band’s next studio album, Where’s the Pleasure (1982 Xntrix), Subversa’s son Pete Fender plays bass and Chris Grace plays fretless bass. Synth player Cynth Ethics joined the band on the “One Good Reason” single (1983 Illuminated) and Mark Dunn replaced Grace as the Poison Girls’ bassist on the next single, “Are You Happy Now?” (1983 Illuminated). According to writer Edward Fenton, in 1983 the British paper Daily Telegraph sent Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s daughter, Carol Thatcher, to a South London youth center incognito where she met Subversa and misheard the band’s name as “The Boys and Girls.” Following this bizarre wrinkle in history came the double LP 7 Year Scratch (1984 Xntrix), which consists of one retrospective disc of studio recordings and one disc reproducing a 1983 performance.
Songs of Praise (1985 Xntrix) introduced new bassist Martin Heath, as well as his replacement, Max Vol. This album is original drummer Lance d’Boyle’s last work with the band and features him alongside his replacement, Agent Orange. The Price of Grain and the Price of Blood (1985 Upright) was the band’s last release, though Poison Girls continued to perform live until 1989, the year they played their last show in Zagreb, Croatia.