Rexy: Running Out Of Time
Originally released in 1981 and long since out of print, the singular LP from London based pop duo Rexy entitled ‘Running Out of Time’ for a long time now has been the holy grail for fans of British New Romantic leftfield pop.
Meeting in the heady milieu amongst London’s ‘Blitz Kids’ scene, which in 1979 brought a dash of much needed colour to another wise grim and gray capital – hot on the heels of the election of Margaret Thatcher and sanitation strikes – fashion student ‘Rex’ Nayman and Eurythmics band member Vic Martin formed Rexy after bonding over a shared affinity for maverick pop music and creatively flamboyant DIY clothing fashions.
“The Blitz was a place to create your look, be who you wanted to be. I got bored of punk. While I’ve always loved soul, funk disco and jazz I’m also into latin, electro, show tunes, lounge and lots of kitsch stuff which was all played there.” Rex used to frequent the The Blitz with some of the scenes most recognisable faces – a heady mixture of designers, promoters and musicians which included Stewart Mechem, Steve Strange, Princess Julia, Stephen Linard, Philip Sallon, Marilyn and Judith Frankland who designed the black wedding dresses for Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video. “It felt like anything was possible. I remember going there once in a tee-shirt made from a Brussel Sprouts Bag!” Rex recalls.
With such a distinctive look it’s hardly surprising she caught the eye of Martin. “Vic came up to me and asked if I wanted to make a record, obviously based on the way I looked as he had no idea as to whether I could sing or not…I said yes, cos why wouldn’t you? Though I thought at the time it might be a wind-up! He already had the song he wanted a front person for and the record deal so we went to a recording studio in Covent Garden and because I didn’t know what to do to the backing track I just spoke the lines”.
Writing and rehearsing together, it wasn’t long before the pair’s relationship also blossomed into romance. The first fruits of the pair’s musical communion was the (Don’t) Turn Me Away single. Released the same year as the group’s formation in 1980, the cut’s clicking drum machine, maddeningly catchy synth bassline, and spoken-word delivery recalls contemporaries like Young Marble Giants and Laurie Anderson, but offers more fun and more funk.
As a result, newly formed Kingston label Alien Records funded Rexy to record a full length. Rex paints the scene again, “Alien Records consisted of Nigel Lucas, a bespectacled cycle rider and his girlfriend, a macrobiotic American called Charlene; you would be hard pushed to find a pair less Rock ‘n’ Roll. The song Alien is about them. The album was made at a dive of a recording studio in Kingston. It was below a record shop, stunk of damp and when the record shop was closed you had to go up a ladder and through a trap door to use the toilet…Oh, the glamour!”
The result was Running Out of Time (ROOT), a ten-song LP of idiosyncratic, catchy synth-pop, which was released in 1981. Whilst songs like the title track explore the same territory marked out by the band’s first single, the album isn’t just confined to an intimacy of subdued post-punk. Pieces like the almost instrumental, Nervoso, and Alien display the band’s proficiency at creating propulsive, large-scale pop productions, the songs’ swirls of glistening keyboards and fast-paced hi-hat hits coming across like ‘70s disco outfit Space produced by French pop guru Jean-Claude Vannier.
Before long and even with the little promotion provided by their small label (“it was a case of every expense spared” says Rex), Rexy’s dynamic sound picked up momentum, taking them to Europe for TV appearances, notched up Radio 1 plays and even a Top 100 hit. However, as the band’s reach began to grow, Nayman and Martin’s romance started to falter, and before long, both their romantic and musical partnership came to an end. Over the subsequent years, as the pair fell out of contact, the band’s idiosyncratic and peculiar output faded from earshot. Rexy managed one more EP (also titled Running Out of Time), and a single – In the Force (1981). Vic continued his musical career, playing keys for Boy George and Curiosity Killed the Cat, amongst others, whilst Rex continued to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
Over time ROOT became a favourite of the initiated few. Nervoso picking up currency as an underground disco classic through appearances on mixes like Joey Negro’s Under the Influence and connected with contemporary pop outsiders Mount Kimbie, Ariel Pink, Connan Mockasin and most importantly Samantha Urbani (best known as front-person for New York City band Friends, as well as guest vocalist with Blood Orange), who felt so passionate about the record she started a record label URU to reissue it, in conjunction with Lucky Number. “I felt like the album had been fossilized in a perfect way, by its singularity, its mystery, and its illusiveness. This turned it into its own little esoteric, yet totally relatable and honest world.” Urbani comments on ROOT.
On contacting the pair to propose the re-release of their album, Urbani and Lucky Number learned Rexy and Vic hadn’t kept in touch nor seen each other for over 30 years. The proposal meant a reunion and sparked their interest in making music together again. Whether this will produce any new recordings or shows is anyone’s guess, but until then, Running Out of Time is ready to be justly re-categorised by a new generation of listeners from being a pop oddity to being an absolute classic.