Essex-based quartet Poison Girls formed during 1976 but – fronted by husky-voiced 40-something mother of two Vi Subversa (real name Francis Sokolov) – they were never going to compete with the spiky-haired, safety-pin-sporting icons riding the crest of punk’s first wave.
They nonetheless achieved a lasting impact.
Their political and ideological solidarity with Crass led to the two pioneering anarcho-punk outfits playing over 100 shows together between 1979 and 1981 and recording the seminal Bloody Revolutions/Persons Unknown split 45, which topped the independent singles chart in May 1980.
Poison Girls’ initial releases – the Violence Grows split EP with Fatal Microbes and the Hex mini-LP – were released through Pete Stennett’s Small Wonder label during 1979.
At a benefit for the Theatre Royal in the East End in 1979 a group of skinheads, possibly British Movement, certainly under the command of a couple of adults, made a concerted attack on Poison Girls the moment they sang the line “Remember the Holocaust” in Bremen Song.
The band were hit by beer cans, punches, boots. Lance D’Boyle came out from behind his kit to the front of the stage, naively inquired “What’s the problem?” and had his scalp split by the sharpened metal point of an umbrella. A roadie was badly beaten up. Then somebody called the police and the stormtroopers scarpered.
Their arresting debut LP Chappaquiddick Bridge initially appeared on Crass‘ eponymous imprint in the autumn of 1980.
Despite production from Crass’ Penny Rimbaud and the LP’s exploration of typical anarcho-related topics including war and peace, feminism and gender stereotypes, the tautness and discipline of tracks such as Another Hero and the abrasive Underbitch recalled The Au Pairs rather than Crass’ lumpen punk ranting, while the erotically predatory Other presaged the sexual-politics-related themes that would dominate Poison Girls’ second LP, Where’s The Pleasure? (1982).
After the group disbanded in 1989, Vi lived in Orgiva, Spain, returning to the UK for a 60th birthday gig at the London Astoria in 1995 and finally settling in Brighton.
Vi Subversa died in her sleep on 19 February 2016.
Vi Subversa (Francis Sokolov)
Lance D’ Boyle