Invisible Sex: The Greatest Band That Never Was

In the 1981 documentary Urgh! A Music War, I saw a performance by a band that I'd never heard of before. The subtitles said that the band was called Invisible Sex, playing in London. They all had bizarre clothing on them: an unfitting white thing over their bodies, which seemed like a cheap bodysuit made out of paper (apparently "neoprene boiler suits" which I wouldn't believe, because the same article said they wore gas masks, which is defintively not on video - you can see parts of their faces!), and a mask that covered most of their face. The knee-jerk association was The Residents. Just the suits were kind of like bloated yellow Devo uniforms.

At the start of the song, they're throwing something, perhaps candy (would make sense: whatever it is, it is small) at the audience. They then proceed to what may be the most amusing show in the whole film, playing a song called "Valium". In total, there are nine of these weirdos on stage. One's singing. One's playing the drums. One's playing the bass. One's playing the synthesizer. One's standing around with a guitar doing short scratches until he gets to rip it up. The rest are dancing until the guitar solo starts. This is when what I, as one oriented more to the punk than prog rock direction, as weird as it is, applaud, because they're simultaneously having a great solo and making fun of it: the three dancers grab cardboards that are shaped like guitars and start to play them. The song ends with vocals, cardboard guitars are thrown in the audience, and we're quickly cut to David Thomas of Pere Ubu, leaving the watcher to wonder "what the hell just happened", even though the film is full of fast cuts.

As I said before, I had not known about this band before. They were all performing under pseudonyms as well: at the end of the film, they were all credited "Gene Something", such as Gene I, Gene Axe, Gene Machine and so on. After the film I proceeded to search for more information about the band with a hilarious performance and good song. I found out that they were largely unknown, and that many people were sharing that "who are these people"-question with me. But just under a year ago from when I saw the film, what had remained a mystery for over 25 years had started to uncover. Tom Toomey, still a performing guitarist, was found mentioning the band in an interview by one of the sites asking the question (actually just a front for the urgh2 Yahoo! group dedicated to discussing the movie), and was e-mailed. His reply can be seen on the site. Tom was supposedly the guitarist, "Gene Axe". Tom doesn't seem to remember everything exactly, but there's little reason to suspect the man of lying. He didn't even know his solo was being recorded.

Tom came out of nowhere in February 2008. According to a post of his on the current Yahoo! group, the bass player of the group is said to have later become Chris de Nero of Adam and the Ants. He has also said that he auditioned for the band, after which they rehearsed, played two gigs and quit. In his e-mail Tom also mentions that Gene Wow might've been called Mike Sex. I remember seeing that name as an alias of a minor musician in Wikipedia, but after hours of searching, I simply cannot find it again. Perhaps it was a dream. And perhaps it's for the best, because in the Yahoo! group the man has wished to keep everyone else than Tom anonymous. Still, message me if you have info.

The original Yahoo! group had been deleted for some reason: the most interesting thing about it was, that it had had an anonymous user claiming to be the Invisible Sex singer, but was slow on replying and such. This man (with an e-mail including Gene in it) came back to the group in June 2008, and despite still remaining anonymous, posted proof. A photo of Invisible Sex standing in line, and later the month he created a MySpace for the band after having the tapes digitized. Three of them are live recordings from The Venue, London, October 1980, one is a skit and one's details are unknown. Oh, what could have been. He also provided a list of what did each Gene do.

Gene Wow: Lead vocals
Gene Yus: Keyboards
Gene Axe: Guitar (Probably Tom Toomey)
Gene Machine: Female dancer
Gene I: Drums
Gene Junction: Female dancer
Gene Tee: Saxophone
Ranking Gene: Male dancer, fire blowing, percussion, "keeper of the stash"
Banana Gene, AKA Gene Banana: Bass

The Urgh! A Music War recording of "Valium"
The MySpace
The Yahoo! Group
A feature on Tom Tooley's band

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