To add to the above, Sputnik affected an air of arrogant ultra-capitalism, something that went down like a lead balloon
at a time when The Smiths
were still a dominant force, and the band were greatly reviled by the NME
and so forth, who thought they were a scam (in the bad sense of the word; at the time 'genuineness' was the in thing). After Sputnik fell apart Tony James
went on to join the hitherto-credible The Sisters of Mercy
in 1990, which caused widespread rioting and loss of life amongst fans of the band. Sigue Sigue Sputnik posed for publicity photographs with high-tech consumer gadgets - brick-like mobile phones, MSX
computers, compact disc players - they perfected sneers, and for many were 'the controversial band that came between the Sex Pistols
and the Beastie Boys
'; they were also essentially Billy Idol
. The final advert on Flaunt It
promised that the group would make enough money to buy EMI
, which did not happen. Sigue were in fact a self-manufactured band, essentially the last gasp of the Thatcherite New Romantic glam-rock ideal.
The name 'Sigue Sigue Sputnik' supposedly means 'Burn Burn Sputnik', although 'Sigue' is not a Russian word at all (it is Spanish for 'follow'). The band won their record contract on the strength of early demos, live shows, their flamboyant image and a rough video tape combining their music with scenes from The Terminator, Blade Runner and Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior), from which much of their fashion sense was drawn; EMI's signing fee was hyped as, variously, one or five million pounds, figures met with much skepticism. Video was, as noted in the writeup above, a big thing at the time. Just as 'interactive' and 'multimedia' were buzzwords in the mid 1990s, so 'non-linear' and 'video' were a decade earlier. The involvement of Magenta Devine gave the band an 'in' with the Def 2 / Network 7 / yoof television meteorites.
Musically they were similar to ZZ Top - rockabilly with excessive studio effects, although the music was not Sputnik's main selling point, and indeed the group's greatest career mistake was to release their music to the public. The debut single 'Love Missile F1-11' featured masses of spurious vocal effects, pitch-shifted dub delay, and although the album was more restrained an air of last-ditch studio patching emanated from every sample and sequenced bassline. Apart from the ballad 'Atari Baby' all of their debut album 'Flaunt It' was essentially the same; a weedy dugga-dugga-dugga synth'n'drums backing, two guitar chords, and the title repeated four times during the chorus. When Nick Kent said that all you needed for punk was three chords and a sneer, he didn't mean it literally; or if he did, he was a fool. Sputnik perfected the sneer and two of the chords, and left the rest to the press. Billy Idol, who was at the time Master of The Sneer, could sleep easy in the knowledge that 'White Wedding' and 'Rebel Yell' would define an age, whilst Sputnik were to become a footnote.
A second album, 'Dress for Excess' (subtitled 'Caligula 1990'), was released in 1988, by which time the group were beginning to regret the hype and posturing. This was a more concerted attempt to create a set of actual songs, and lacked the gimmick of inter-song adverts, but was otherwise dire, and a commercial failure. Indeed their debut album hadn't really taken off, the notoriety reminding too many people of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who had similarly had trouble selling their only worthwhile album. The shouty 'Success' was guest-produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman, whilst the track 'Rio Rocks' (sample lyric: "Rio rocks / Rio rocks / It's a city in shock / Rio rocks") was dusted off for the 2002 world cup, but apart from that the group vanished from the mainstream radar.
There was a comeback of sorts in 2001, with the album 'Pirate Space' and a collection of pre-fame demos. This latter attempted to position the band as a genuine street phenomenon unfairly ruined by the record company. Nowadays the band have a certain kitsch charm - kids who grew up with Ferris Bueller and 'Love Missile' are currently hitting their thirties - and their appropriation of Japanese manga was genuinely innovative.
A new album, 'Ultra Real', was released in 2003, and the band still tour regularly.