EMI America (1983–1984)
Jon St. James
John Van Tongeren
The original Q project was composed of Stacey Swain as lead singer, Jon St. James on guitars, and Dan Van Patten and John Van Tongeren on vocoder and synthesizer. In 1982 the band reformed with two new members, drummer Karl Moet and synth player Rich West, alongside the official lineup of Van Tongeren, St. James and Swain. After the reformation, St. James was forced to change the name of Q because of copyright problems (famed producer Quincy Jones reportedly had "established use of the 'Q' moniker"). Swain explained in a 2006 radio interview that the band was renamed SSQ after Jon St. James "was fishing in a lake 'no bigger than a bathtub' and made a joke that the boat was the 'S.S. Q,'" referring to the current band Q. St. James had another reason for the name: "SS" stood for "Stacey Swain", who had become the most recognized of the band's members.
SSQ first released their debut album Playback in 1983 under Enigma Records. The band's first live performance was held at the Greenworld Distribution warehouse in Torrance, which was then the location of the Enigma label. The video for "Synthicide" later premiered on West Coast television and brought greater notoriety for the five-member band. By 1984 Stacey Swain was already eclipsing her bandmates in popularity. The band ultimately shifted its focus on Swain specifically, with Moet, West, Skip Hahn and St. James as backup performers. Hahn officially replaced John Van Tongeren on keyboards, vocoder and bass just before the release of Playback.
"Synthicide", "Big Electronic Beat" and "Clockwork" appeared on the soundtrack of the 1984 comedy Hardbodies, while "Synthicide" and "Anonymous" appeared on the soundtrack of the 1985 comedy Cavegirl. Jon St. James served as composer of the latter film, with Stacey Swain having a brief appearance as the character "Brenda". SSQ also contributed two tracks, "Tonight (We'll Make Love Until We Die)" and "Trash's Theme", to the soundtrack of the 1985 zombie flick The Return of the Living Dead. "Tonight" is the track played by boom box when Trash, played by Linnea Quigley, performs the film's famous graveyard striptease.
In television, SSQ recorded background tracks for productions including St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues and WKRP in Cincinnati. In addition, the recorded but unused title track for Playback was included on The Enigma Variations Vol. 1 various artist compilation album.
The new lineup carried on with Swain under the name Stacey Q, and they acted as musicians on her first two albums, Better Than Heaven and Hard Machine. They went on to success with dance-pop tracks like "Two of Hearts" and "We Connect". Rich West, Karl Moet and Skip Hahn were collectively credited as "SSQ" on the credits of albums and singles released as "Stacey Q". The backup members also recorded some material without Stacey Swain on vocals. One such track, the hip-hop-inspired "Pleasure Dog", was featured on The Enigma Variations Vol. 2.
- Playback, 1983
- "Synthicide", 1983
- "Big Electronic Beat", 1983
- "Screaming in My Pillow", 1983 (music video single only)
- "Tonight (We'll Make Love Until We Die) / Trash's Theme", 1986 (in Japan only)