Mi-Sex owed its success — riding the new-wave scene of the late 1970s and early 80s — to one-time cabaret singer Steve Gilpin's desire for a new musical direction. Convinced there were too many rock acts to compete with, Gilpin evolved the band Fragments of Time into techno-pop rockers Mi-Sex in 1978 (taking the name from an Ultravox song). They put out their first single that year, followed in 1979 by their biggest hit, ‘Computer Games', which topped the Australian charts. Mi-Sex disbanded in 1984. Gilpin died in 1991 after a car accident; the band reformed in 2011 with Noiseworks' Steve Balbi on vocals.
Auckland Museum's Volume exhibition told the story of Kiwi pop music. It's time to turn the speakers up to 11, for NZ On Screen's biggest collection yet. Turning Up the Volume showcases NZ music and musicians. Drill down into playlists of favourite artists and topics (look for the orange labels). Plus NZOS Content Director Kathryn Quirk on NZ music on screen.
"Things are not always the way they should be", sings Steve Gilpin in 'Blue Day', from Mi-Sex's 1984 album Where Do They Go. Reaching number 24 in Australia and 36 in NZ, it was their last charting single before the band broke up; it's also on the APRA Top 100 NZ Songs list at number 54. The band plays on a darkened studio set, a strong neon-blue visual style complementing the soft, haunting keyboard intro. Artificial light suggests the day outside; pushed up jacket sleeves and genie pants are an unmistakable reminder of mid-80s fashion.
After a debut single that flirted with punk parody, this moody, accusatory follow-up firmly points Mi-Sex in the direction of the electronic influenced rock that will characterise their future sound — and make them one of Australia's leading acts in the 80s. In his leathers, lead singer Steve Gilpin has firmly said good-bye to his previous career in light entertainment. The video places the band members amongst outsized pieces on a giant chess board — a rather curious staging choice, perhaps, given that the king and queen in the lyrics are playing cards.
Mi-Sex moved further into the futuristic sci-fi world signalled by their hit single ‘Computer Games’ with the release of their chart topping second album Space Race in 1980. The lead-off single ‘People’ emerged at a time when the world was still coming to grips with cloning, genetic engineering and test tube babies. The video showcases the band’s well honed combination of techno-pop and the more straight ahead rock’n’roll beloved of Australian pub audiences — with some visual special effects reserved for the future shock of the spoken segment.
A last-minute addition to their 1979 album Graffiti Crimes, 'Computer Games' was a huge hit for Mi-Sex, reaching number one in Australia, two in Canada and five in NZ. Computers and arcade games were a real novelty in 1979 and the band's synth-driven sounds were a perfect match. The video starts with the band breaking into the Sydney data centre for then-supercomputer giant ControlData. Printers spew paper forth, and as the band performs, old school graphics including a driving game and TIE fighters, are projected behind them. Advance one level on green!
"Once a band has made it here in Godzone, the big question is: where to now?". As presenter Karyn Hay put it back in 1981, there was only one answer — Australia. RWP reporter Simon Morris headed to Sydney to meet Kiwi musos who'd made it (Marc Hunter, on hiatus from Dragon), and those trying (Sharon O’Neill, Dave McArtney, Mi-Sex's Kevin Stanton, Barry Saunders from The Tigers). Hunter muses on Sydney brashness versus NZ introspection, O’Neill shyly promotes 'Maybe' to Molly Meldrum, and expat music producer Peter Dawkins explains what makes a hit.
The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. As this documentary shows, the Ngaruawahia edition attracted an audience of 45,000 concertgoers.
This 1974 end of year special for music show Popco sees acts performing cover songs in locations around Christchurch, plus inside the studio. Presenting and singing are Hayden Wood, Rob Guest (before musicals fame) and Steve Gilpin (before Mi-Sex). The performers include Space Waltz (in their glam rock glory), Annie Whittle (on the banks of the Avon), the Maggie Burke dancers in Cathedral Square, Rockinghorse (featuring 'Nature' composer Wayne Mason), Mark Williams (sparkling in green lurex), Bunny Walters, Drut (complete with a flaming guitar) and Beaver (in the finale).
Before Simon Morris became resident film reviewer and arts presenter for Radio New Zealand, he had a freelance television career encompassing scriptwriting, reporting and directing. He wrote for high-rating soaps like Close to Home, City Life and Shortland Street, directed classic music videos and was a key part of the Radio with Pictures team.