Skip to main content

Footnote Archives: Move over, Gary Glitter; here?s Sexagisma

Get to know the glam act that injected strange, sleazy fun into the lethargic ’80s Brit rock scene

Though history prefers to condemn it as a stagnant, static wasteland, British rock through the mid-1980s was in a state of colossal ferment.

On the one hand, the dying snorts of the New Romantic movement were echoing through the tentative stabs at the Industrial electronics of Depeche Mode and Duran Duran; on the other, the dour-faced denizens of indie rock were beginning to flex their first flabby muscles.

Sourpuss pretensions were the order of the day. Precocious talent labored beneath attention-grabbing noms de guerre like We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, Half Man Half Biscuit and Turkey Bones And The Wild Dogs; mundane normality lay camouflaged beneath layers of normal mundanity — Bogshed, The Three Johns, The Sound. There was no fun anymore, no pizazz, no glamour, just the relentless hum of the Jesus & Mary Chain, and the bête noir dementia of sunglasses after dark.

And then there was Sexagisma. Ratty and tatty, oozing a subterranean sleaze-ball brilliance that simply hadn’t been thought of in over a decade, Sexagisma was a glam band with a spangle-strangled vengeance. Roxy reincarnate, the Spiders of your dreams, they erupted out of nowhere in early ’85; they’d been around for a couple of years before that, of course, but no one even noticed them and, with a stage career that revolved primarily around Specimen support slots, who could wonder about that?

But then they started stepping out on their own, and straight away, things began picking up. In April 1985, a Melody Maker live review misnamed them Sexagisma, but hit the rest of the nails on the head, championing the south Londoners like there really was no tomorrow. A slew of ecstatic reviews in the other weeklies followed, a management contract, an imminent record deal; it was, as one journalist somewhat quizzically remarked, a long way from a pizza parlor in chintzy South Kensington.

“We were offered this gig in a restaurant,” bassist Jem Soar explained. “Things had been pretty quiet for us. We hadn’t played live in a while, so we just said ‘what the hell?’” He paused for dramatic effect. “We didn’t go down very well.”

Did he expect them to? For the record (or not, as it ultimately turned out; Sexagisma passed away without issue), Sexagisma had nothing to do with mid-1980s, had nothing to do with half biscuits and bogsheds. They had nothing to do with any of the concerns which were oppressing British youth back then.

Instead... Roxy reincarnate, the Spiders of your dreams, they dressed like The Sweet on a methadone comedown; they sounded like Bowie being butchered by The Stooges. And they looked like six guys re-enacting the Last Passion of Christ in a Paris bordello, midway through your deep-dish cheese and anchovies. Yes, Sexagisma really was that good.

The band started as a joke. Vocalist Vaughan Funnel formed the band as a Glam revival party piece. Slowly, he was joined by bassist Soar; drummer Mark Carter; his guitarist brother, Vince; and keyboard whizz Mick Cronin, united around that same fascination with early ’70s Glam and Vince’s uncanny resemblance to a harsher Mick Ronson. Vivid costuming and a live set that graduated gently from 90 percent covers to 100 percent originality followed, but the key moment in Sexagisma’s rise to near-fame came with the recruitment of Andy Rogene, a Bowie obsessive, and the most shameless hussy ever to strut a rock ’n’ roll stage.

“For eight months, every time we had a gig, I’d tell my parents I was going to a fancy dress party,” admitted the boy whose idea of a wholesome performance was to don a silver Afro, then try to escape his G-string. “Finally I confessed to them and showed them a couple of photographs.&nb