I want room service, I want the club sandwich, I want the cold mexican beer, I want the ten thousand dollar a night hooker. I want my shirts laundered like they do at the Imperial Hotel in Bejing. I want my Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
In case you’re wondering: The quote is from the book/movie Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson.
As a man of reason, as a fan of Johnny Cash, the Clash, Elvis Costello (unless he keeps making records that whine along to „classical“ instruments) and numerous other „serious“ bands, I will not even try to start to explain my fascination with the world of the band and image they call Sigue Sigue Sputnik. After all, one of this blog’s categories is named after a SSS song (and in case you didn’t notice yet: They’re all named after songs).
Founded by Tony James, former member of Generation X and The Sisters Of Mercy ( I guess he was young and needed the money), the band reflected a comic book style, computer game and movie influenced, manga driven, sexy, charming and ironic world in the 80s – long before those styles became mainstream. They let companies advertize their products inbetween songs on their 1986 debut album „Flaunt It“ (available and in my record collection as a vinyl LP in a toy-style box full of japanese graphics), something that was done before only on The Who’s „Sell Out“. Later versions of the album had the ads removed by EMI because they feared trouble with companies mentioned on a record that contained references to movies like Clockwork Orange, a book and film that some people still mistake for glorifying violence.
SSS’s fascination with certain computer brands was laughed upon by many because they played around with images and logos by Atari and a computer system introduced for only a short time by Sony in the 80s (I believe it was called something like „MMX“, but I am not entirely sure), brands that were gone at the end of the 80s, so critics laughed at SSS’s vision of the future.
Well… I am not saying that SSS had a vision clearer than others (in fact, I think it was entirely unimportant which brands they used as long as they looked cool), but let’s face it: Along with Apple’s apple, which logo do you have on your t-shirt? Right, Atari’s. And who builds the coolest mobile phones? SonyEricsson. See what I mean? They weren’t completely wrong. :)
But back to the topic.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik played a gig at Maria am Ostbahnhof (before they moved) in Berlin about a year ago. I went, expecting almost no other person to be there. I was wrong. It was sold out, it was brilliant, it was loud, it was fun. The crowd was a mixture of aged old-school punk rockers, some goths (hello?) and curious 80s revival kids. A slightly fatter version (I am not blaming them, we’re all not getting younger) of the band played and smiled all the way through the set, along with wigs, a female keyboard player, the wonderfully bizarre Roland Midiguitar and all the T-Rex, Garry Glitter and Eddie Cochran inspired songs. They were so good that I bought their latest CD.
The real reason for writing these words, though, is that a band like SSS is a wonderful example of the real power of the internet as a people’s medium. No record company cares for them anymore, they don’t make the press in big ways anymore, yet they do sell records (and shirts!), their gigs are sold out and people know about the recent developments regarding the departure of singer Martin Degville and his new band Sputnik2 (sic!) from the original line-up. In fact, they know so much that dozens of cool SSS fan sites can be found (check out the links sections of the band’s official page or on this german fan page).
Videos can be found as well as pages of the numerous band spin-offs: Fin de SiËcle is Tony James‘ version of a Sign o‘ the times-area Prince reborn and photographed by a Helmut Newton wannabe (their site won’t work with Safari, but the few sound clips sound great) and Carbon/Silicon is Tony James‘ band (does this man ever sleep?) with Mick Jones of The Clash. The latter, an old friend of James, is currently touring as a bass player with SSS, so it hit me double when the Knaack gig in Berlin last wednesday was cancelled.
Carbon/Silicon promote the use if MP3s and Kazzaa on their first song, so if James (or his publishers) would only stop making people take off SSS songs from their sites, the story would be perfect.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The band you hate to love. Expect to keep on doing so.