Style: During the early 1980s, New Zealand band Mi-Sex was one of the most popular groups on the Australian scene. The band mixed competently played, but derivative, new wave rock (somewhere between Ultravox and The Angels) and futuristic imagery with a carefully choreographed stage act and laser light show. Mi-Sex found a ready-made audience via appearances on Countdown, but was also able to draw capacity crowds on the pub-rock circuit.
The members of Mi-Sex all had a solid grounding on the New Zealand scene. In 1972, 22-year-old Steve Gilpin came to prominence as a New Faces winner. Over the next five years, he became a regular on the hotel and cabaret circuit. In 1977, he decided to ditch the cabaret for rock'n'roll and linked up with Kevin Stanton, Don Martin, Murray Burns and Phil Smart (drums) in Fragments of Time. With the arrival of Richard Hodgkinson, a name change to Mi-Sex (from an Ultravox song) and the adoption of a leather pants/tough guy, new wave look and sound, the band set its sights on Australia. EMI New Zealand issued the band's debut single `Straight Laddie'/`High Class Dame', but it sank without a trace. Mi-Sex arrived in Australia during August 1978. Within six months, the band was the fourth biggest drawcard on the Sydney scene (behind Cold Chisel, The Angels and Midnight Oil) and had signed to CBS.
CBS issued `But You Don't Care'/`Burning Up' (#25 in June 1979), followed by the Peter Dawkins-produced Graffiti Crimes album in July. Backed by the band's national support slot to Talking Heads and a tour as headliners, Graffiti Crimes reached the Top 20 in September. Then came the band's biggest hit, the electro-pop anthem `Computer Games'/`Wot Do You Want?' which hit #1 in October. With its simplistic, brain-teasing riff and Gilpin's mannered vocal yelps, `Computer Games' boasted little substance but was constructed for maximum effect. It came to epitomise the one word which has plagued the memory of Mi-Sex: `contrived'. That hardly mattered because, by April 1980, the single had charted Top 10 in Canada, France, Austria, Italy, West Germany and South Africa. Graffiti Crimes was also issued internationally during September 1979 on Columbia (except for Epic in the USA). The album eventually sold over 500000 copies worldwide.
In November 1979, Mi-Sex performed at the Concert of the Decade on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in front of 160 000 people. The band played alongside The Angels, Cold Chisel, Dragon, Renée Geyer, Skyhooks and Split Enz. In April 1980, Mi-Sex commenced a month-long American tour that took the band from Los Angeles to Canada to New York. The band supported Iggy Pop, The Ramones and 999 along the way, as well as headlining a number of club dates. In the band's absence, Mi-Sex was honoured with three awards at the 1979 TV Week/Countdown Awards ceremony: Most Popular Record (`Computer Games'), Best Australian Single (`Computer Games') and the Johnny O'Keefe Memorial Award for Most Promising New Talent.
The band's second album, Space Race, reached #6 on the national chart in June 1980. It produced two hit singles, `People'/`Pages and Matches' (#6 in April 1980) and `Space Race'/`Living in September' (#28 in June). A third single from the album, `It Only Hurts When I'm Laughing'/`I Don't Know', failed to chart in the Top 40. The album's success was no doubt helped by CBS's massive promotional campaign for which `Are you a clone? . . . No, I'm in the Space Race' was the slogan, and little rubber mannequins of the alien featured on the front cover popped up all over the place. Space Race also attained the #1 spot in New Zealand, just as the band undertook a triumphant homecoming tour.
Mi-Sex toured Australia and New Zealand for the next year but found its popularity in slow decline. Shanghaied (arguably the band's best album) and its singles, `Falling In and Out'/`Round and Round' (April 1981), `Missing Person'/`Water' (August) and `Shanghaied'/`The Bend' (November) failed to impress the record-buying public. Only `Falling In and Out' charted in the Top 20 (#20 in June). By that stage, the likes of Split Enz, The Angels, Cold Chisel, INXS and Men at Work had grabbed the public attention, and Mi-Sex barely got a look in.
During November 1981, fellow New Zealander Paul Dunning-Ham (ex-Coup D'Etat) replaced Hodgkinson on drums. `Castaway'/`Young Maniacs' (#23 in July 1982) and `Down the Line (Making Love on the Telephone)'/`Calling' (#37 in December) kept the band members' heads above water. At the end of 1982, Stanton was forced to leave the band due to ill-health. His place was taken by Ted `The Head' Yanni on lead guitar. When Stanton returned four months later, Yanni remained until Colin Bayley (guitar; ex-Silent Movies) replaced him in July 1983. Mi-Sex continued to issue singles like `Lost Time'/`Antipodes Army' (May 1983) and `Only Thinking'/`The Name Game' (October) to little effect. American producer Bob Clearmountain worked with the band on its fourth album, Where Do They Go? which produced two more (flop) singles, `Blue Day'/`Lady Janice' (March 1984) and `Five O'Clock in the Morning'/`Why Did You Leave?' (June).
The album had a definite American slant, and indeed `Blue Day' tickled the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 100 for a week or two. In the end, `Blue Day' and Where Do They Go? sank without a trace and Mi-Sex disbanded at the end of 1984. For a few years, Mi-Sex were bona fide pop stars, having hit on a winning formula that attracted a wide fanbase. Gilpin remained in Australia and worked with a number of bands including Under Rapz. In November 1991, Gilpin was involved in a car accident as he was returning home from an Under Rapz gig in northern NSW. He lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. He died in Southport Hospital on 6 January 1992.