One of the most original and, in terms of frontman Andi Sex Gang's longevity, persistent of all the early-'80s British goth bands, the Sex Gang Children came together in early 1981 around a nucleus of Sex Gang, bassist Dave Roberts, guitarist Terry MacLeay, and drummer Rob Stroud. All were unknowns, ensuring that the group's name was more fascinating than their membership. A William Burroughs line that had been grafted into a song by Bow Wow Wow, "Sex Gang Children" was promptly co-opted by one Boy George when he bowed out of that band after just two live shows in February 1981 to form his own group. But hopeful of landing a swift record deal, George conceded that Sex Gang Children was not a name that would take them far. He chose Culture Club instead, then gifted the discarded name to Andi.
By early 1982, the Sex Gang Children were regulars at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith, where they recorded their debut album, the cassette-only live album Naked. The Illuminated label moved in for them within weeks of its release; the band's first single, the four-song Beasts EP, was in the stores by August 1982. Days later, however, it was out of them again, after somebody realized they'd not procured the necessary permissions for the Diane Arbus photo on the picture sleeve. With a major lawsuit apparently imminent, the record was briefly withdrawn while the sleeves were removed, but still Beasts reached number eight on the indie chart and hung around the listings for much of the next 12 months.
Even more impressively, the band was attracting attention from further afield, as well. Tony James, midway between playing bass with the now-sundered Generation X and masterminding the nascent Sigue Sigue Sputnik, was sufficiently enamored to produce the Children's next single, October 1982's "Into the Abyss."
Spring 1983 saw Sex Gang Children's sophomore album, Song and Legend, top the independent chart for a fortnight, before spinning off two hit singles, the title track and the tumescent, eerily fiddle-fired "Sebastiane." Of course, the band also starred on The Whip, the now-legendary goth compilation conceived by Dave Roberts, but despite these successes the Sex Gangs quickly discovered that record companies and contracts are not, necessarily, the answer to an artist's prayers. When the band's contract with Illuminated expired in June 1983, any number of major record labels were actively in pursuit of the group. Buoyed by a swaggering confidence that really did seem to be their right, the band turned them all down, convinced that something better was just around the corner. Sadly, it wasn't. They had burned their boats with Illuminated as well, and slowly things began disintegrating.
Rob Stroud was first to depart, simply not turning up to a show. (He later resurfaced in Aemotii Crii.) The band initially replaced him with Steve Harle, before turning to former Theatre of Hate drummer Nigel Preston, and in September 1983, a one-off deal with the independent Clay label brought a new single, "Mauritia Mayer." Added to the stockpile of material cut since the last album -- an impressive bundle that included fresh sessions with Tony James -- it boded well for a new LP. Barely had this lineup settled down, however, than Preston quit to rejoin his old Theatre of Hate mate Billy Duffy in the Cult.
The Cult's own former drummer, Ray Taylor-Smith, promptly replaced him, only to be forced out just months later when, returning to London from their first American tour, the band discovered that the Sierra Leone-born drummer was in the U.K. illegally. He was deported home, at which point Roberts, too, quit the band.
Andi and MacLeay kept the Sex Gang Children alive for a few months more, returning to Illuminated to cut a new single, "Draconian Dream," with a new rhythm section of Cam Campbell and Kevin Matthews. Producer Simon Boswell also remixed "Dieche," the B-side of the old "Into the Abyss" single. This became the A-side and, in July 1984, Sex Gang Children scored their final independent hit.
Unfortunately, it was too late to save the band. They broke up weeks later, with Sex Gang promptly salvaging the material bound for their next album as the basis for his own solo debut. Since that time, Sex Gang has maintained a profile that is all his own, while the Children, too, have resurfaced on occasion, both to record new material and repackage old. ~ Dave Thompson