Maybe it was Tony James’ FLEECE THE WORLD t-shirt, or his smirky mugging for the MTV video cameras…or that his bandmates were initially selected for their looks and attitude, not their musical ability… or that the band hyped their way to a contract from EMI which reportedly landed them millions of dollars… Maybe it was the group’s selling advertising space in between the songs on the album… okay, okay, so Sigue Sigue Sputnik gave you plenty of reasons to hate them (which is one of the reasons I love them), but they also hooked up with synthesizer god/Oscar-winning film composer Giorgio Moroder and made one of the best 21st Century Cyberpunk albums to come out of the 20th Century.
Packaged in a colorful Manga 3-D cardboard box like a Japanese Robot Toy, FLAUNT IT piled up influences (and often samples) from Blade Runner, Crash, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, Rambo, A Clockwork Orange, and Apocalypse Now over a monster mash of rockabilly, glam, punk, dub and synthpop. Like a UK Suicide with shiny new instruments, semi-automatic weapons, a codpiece full of video game tokens, and a lifetime subscription to Blockbuster Video, the band billed themselves as ‘Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the fifth generation of rock ‘n’ roll’, while playing out their own version of The Great Rock’n'Roll Swindle for the video-agers.
So where did these smarmy little cyber-pests come from, anyway? After Generation X lost their fizzle and Billy Idol hit the charts with 1982’s ‘White Wedding’, and after a brief stint in the Lords of the New Church (in which he wrote what was easily their best song, Russian Roulette’), bassist Tony James decided to give his ex-bandmates some competition by creating the ultimate rock’n’roll weapon. James named his dream band after a Russian street gang , Sigue Sigue Sputnik (‘Burn Burn Satellite’) , and created a postmodern Frankenstein’s Monster.
James: ‘Take Elvis, put him in Blade Runner. Give him Donna Summer ’s rhythm section, with two drummers, get Marc Bolan on guitar, put the whole thing in dub, add a bit of rap, add a bit of sound effects, mix in the sound of movies like A Clockwork Orange…like Blade Runner…like Scarface. That’s what Sigue Sigue Sputnik Sounds like.”
After nailing the UK charts at #3 with their debut single, ‘Love Missile F1-11’, which also appeared in the hit movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” the same year, Sigue Sigue Sputnik released their 1986 debut album, ‘FLAUNT IT’.
Critics panned it . Dismissed it as hype. Said every song sounded the same.
Well…So what if every song does kinda sound the same? To tell you the truth, I’d be extremely dissapointed if they didn’t. Every SSS song sounds the same the way every reggae dub song, or every blues song, or every (good) Ramones song sounds the same. And that’s a good thing, earthling. Tracks like “Massive Retaliation” and “Atari Baby” are nice shots at breaking form, but it’s the ones that endlessly go ” dun-nuh-nuh-nuh- dun-nuh-nuh-nuh- dun-nuh-nuh-nuh- dun-nuh-nuh-nuh…” with singer Deg yelling stuff like “SCI FI SEX AND ROCKETS, BABY!” over the top that really do it for this space cowboy.
The Sputs transcended being simply a novelty band into being a complete work of Pop Art, much like Pete Townshend did with The Who , who also featured ‘ads’ on their 1967 concept album ‘The Who Sell Out’. The public outrage and attacks by the media became just as much a part of Sigue Sigue’s image and concept as did their singer wearing fishnet stockings over his head. If you were in on the joke, you were in for a very good time. This month marks FLAUNT IT ’s 25th anniversary , and it’s still a tastefully tasteless blast of humor, ingeniously stupid lyrics, and studio trickery at every turn, and with shiny new copies available today on Amazon.com for under five bucks, still true to one of the group’s many slogans: ‘Affordable Firepower’.
NEXT WEEK: MAKE MINE MAGMA!!!