Sigue Sigue Sputnik

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Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Origin London
Genres New wave, post-punk, glam punk
Years active 1982–1989, 1995, 1998, 2001–2004
Labels Parlophone, Sputnikworld Ltd
Past members Tony James
Martin Degville
Neal X
Ray Mayhew
Chris Kavanagh
Yana YaYa

Sigue Sigue Sputnik were a British new wave band formed in 1982 by former Generation X bassist Tony James. The band had three UK Top 40 hit singles, including the song "Love Missile F1-11".

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

Tony James in San Francisco, 1986

Tony James sought to form a "fantasy band" after leaving Generation X.[1][2] He recruited Neal X (Whitmore) via an advert in Melody Maker, and then set about recruiting a singer.[1] After considering approaching Andrew Eldritch and Annie Lennox, he recruited Martin Degville after meeting him in the YaYa clothes shop in Kensington Market where he was working.[1] Degville was a clothes designer and supplied the band's wardrobe, and YaYa became the band's base.[1] Early names considered for the band included Sperm Festival and Nazi Occult Bureau, and they had not decided on a name by the time they played their first concert, supporting Johnny Thunders in Paris.[1] James's former Gen X colleague and then drummer for Thunders, Mark Laff, played that first gig with the band.[1]

On their return to London, they recruited drummers Ray Mayhew and Chris Kavanagh, both of whom acquired drum kits from former drummers for the Clash, Topper Headon and Terry Chimes respectively.[1] There was a further Clash link, with Mick Jones working with the band as live sound engineer.[1] At the suggestion of Fachna O'Kelly, manager of The Boomtown Rats who had provided much of the band's equipment, the band adopted the name Sigue Sigue Sputnik—believed[by whom?] to be a reference to a Russian street gang (which was said to translate as "burn, burn satellite". Though the spelling "sigue" does not exist in Russian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, the equivalent Russian word сиг does exist, but with the unrelated meaning of a type of whitefish of the Coregonus genus).[1][2] A more plausible source of the band's name is an actual Filipino prison gang founded in the 1960s, Sigue-Sigue Sputnik, "sigue-sigue" meaning "care-free" and "sputnik" a reference to the Russian-made satellite launched in 1957. They also recruited Degville's YaYa co-worker Yana (real name Jane Farrimond) to play keyboards.[1] The band's sound was, according to James, arrived at by accident, when he inadvertently mixed elements of film soundtracks with their demo track "Love Missile F1-11" while putting together a video compilation from his favourite films.[1]

Commercial success (1984–1989)[edit]

Interest in the band increased sharply in 1984 after James was interviewed by the NME, with several record companies sending representatives to their next performance at the Electric Cinema in London, and they were invited to perform on The Tube.[1] The band were signed by EMI, with the contract reported to be worth anywhere between 1.5 million US dollars and 4 million pounds.[1][2][3][4] The band's first single, the Giorgio Moroder-produced "Love Missile F1-11", was released in February 1986, and reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart, number 2 in South Africa and was a major hit in several countries in Europe and Asia.[1][5] Its popularity was boosted by its inclusion in the John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The samples used in the single had not received copyright clearance, and were replaced in the US version.[1] The follow-up, "21st Century Boy" reached number 20 in the UK and, despite largely negative reviews, the album that followed, Flaunt It, again with Moroder at the controls, went top ten in the UK, and also reached number 96 in the US.[1] The album included paid commercials between tracks,[6] James stated prior to its release that they would sell 20-30 second advertising slots for between $2,500 and $7,000.[7] He explained this by saying "commercialism is rampant in society. Maybe we're a little more honest than some groups I could mention," and "our records sounded like adverts anyway".[8][9] Advertisements that did sell (including spots for i-D Magazine and Studio Line from L'Oréal) were complemented by ironic spoof ads including one for the Sputnik corporation itself claiming that "Pleasure is our Business".[5] A subsequent tour was characterised by poor ticket sales and crowd violence.[10]

It was two years before the band followed this up, and subsequent releases fared less well. The Stock Aitken Waterman produced "Success" peaked at number 31 in late 1988 and the singles that followed peaked outside the top 40.[1] Second album Dress for Excess peaked at number 53 in the UK but sold well in Brazil.[1] The band split up in July 1989, with James joining The Sisters of Mercy later that year.[1] Chris Kavanagh went on to Big Audio Dynamite II joining Mick Jones.[5] Mayhew formed Mayhem Deranged. Degville claimed to have spent the next few years travelling and making a couple of "specialist" porn films.[9]

A collection of early demo recordings from 1984 and 1985, along with three tracks from 1990, First Generation, was released in 1991.[11]

Reunions[edit]

In 1995, James and X formed a new version of the band with singer Christopher Novak, John Green (keyboards), and former Gen-X guitarist Derwood.[1] Their song "Cyberspace Party" was a major hit in Japan, and an album, Sputnik: The Next Generation, was released there, selling 50,000 copies.[1] The band split up again but reformed in 1998, this time with Degville back on vocals and with Claudia Cujo on drums, as Sputnik 2.0.[1] They reformed again in 2001 with Degville and Neal X, which resulted in the release of Piratespace.[9][12] In 2004, Degville left the band to pursue a solo career, and has performed as Sputnik2, Sputnik2 The Future, and Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic (SSSE). Neal X has been playing with Marc Almond.[5] James later formed the group Carbon/Silicon with Mick Jones.

Image[edit]

James claimed that he had chosen his bandmates for their looks, and the band's slogan was "Fleece the World".[8] James billed the band as "Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the fifth generation of rock 'n' roll".[2]

The themes and imagery in the band's songs were often influenced by futuristic, dystopian or post-apocalyptic films such as A Clockwork Orange, The Terminator, Blade Runner and the Mad Max trilogy.[2][5] Visually, their image included fishnet masks and brightly coloured wigs.

The band's music, image and inspiration also mashed together a range of other pop culture influences, including former Tronics member Zarjaz[13] and electronica influences of Suicide and the New York Dolls.[5]

Members[edit]

  • Tony James - space guitar, electric guitar, synth guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, backing vocals (1982-1989, 1995, 1998, 2001-2004)
  • Martin Degville - vocals (1982-1989, 1998, 2001-2004)
  • Neal X - electric guitar (1982-1989, 1995, 2001-2004)
  • Ray Mayhew - drums, electronic drums (1982-1989)
  • Chris Kavanagh - drums, electronic drums (1982-1989, 1995)
  • Yana YaYa (Jane Farrimond) - keyboards, space echo, special effects, effects (1982-1989)

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • 1986 Flaunt It - UK No. 10
  • 1988 Dress for Excess - UK No. 53
  • 2001 Piratespace
  • 2002 Blak Elvis vs. The Kings of Electronic Rock and Roll
  • 2003 Ultra Real
Compilations

Singles[edit]

  • 1986 "Love Missile F1-11" - UK No. 3, SA No. 2[15]
  • 1986 "21st Century Boy" - UK No. 20
  • 1986 "Massive Retaliation"
  • 1986 "Sex Bomb Boogie"
  • 1986 "Sci-Fi Sex Stars"
  • 1988 "Success" - UK No. 31
  • 1989 "Albinoni vs. Star Wars" - UK No. 75
  • 1989 "Dancerama" - UK No. 50
  • 1989 "Rio Rocks"
  • 2001 "Love Missile F1-11" (Westbam remix)
  • 2002 "Everybody Loves You"
  • 2004 "Grooving With Mr. Pervert"[14]

Other album appearances[edit]

Videography[edit]

Videos

  • 1986 Love Missile F1-11
  • 1986 21st Century Boy
  • 1986 Sex Bomb Boogie
  • 1988 Success
  • 1988 Dancerama
  • 1988 Albinoni vs Star Wars
  • 1988 Rio Rocks
  • 2002 Everybody Loves You
  • 2003 Live in Tokyo - DVD

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Thompson, Dave (2000) Alternative Rock, Miller Freeman, ISBN 0-87930-607-6, p. 615-617
  2. ^ a b c d e Handelman, David (1986) "Sigue Sigue Sputnik: 'Fantasy band?'", Gettysburg Times, 8 August 1986, p. 26, retrieved 2010-09-25
  3. ^ Berens, Jessica (1986) "Sigue Sigue Sputnik Stop at Nothing", SPIN, April 1986, p. 19, retrieved 2010-09-25
  4. ^ Strong, Martin C. (1999) The Great Alternative & Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 0-86241-913-1, p. 564-5
  5. ^ a b c d e f Schabe, Patrick (2003) "TONY JAMES AND THE ARGONAUTSSS", PopMatters, 29 May 2003, retrieved 2010-09-25
  6. ^ Newsweek, Volume 108, p. 43
  7. ^ Goddard, Peter (1986) "Sigue Sigue Sputnik is out to sell the sounds of silence", Toronto Star, 27 July 1986
  8. ^ a b Sanderson Healy, Lauren (1986) "With Cynical Hype, Five British Rockers Ride Sigue Sigue Sputnik to Semistardom", People, Vol. 26, No. 8, 25 August 1986, retrieved 2010-09-25
  9. ^ a b c Leigh, Danny (2001-02-09). "'I just kept cool, you know. Travelled. Did a couple of porn movies'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  10. ^ Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Where Are They Now?: Yahoo Music, 20 May 2010
  11. ^ Popson, Tom (1991) "Early Sigue Sigue Sputnik unearthed", Chicago Tribune, 5 April 1991
  12. ^ "Sputnik set to go into orbit again", Evening Times, 19 January 2001, p. 32
  13. ^ "The 80s Fight Back", Record Collector, July 1988, Issue 227, p. 6
  14. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 498. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ Brian Currin. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (S)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 

External links[edit]