Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11
Some artists and groups of the 80s, and actually of all decades, seemed to really have the time machine. And maybe they really had it, if a hypertechnological song apparently from the 90s, or maybe even the 2000s, came out in February 1986 and within a few days, in early March, climbed the UK charts to the top.
This song, which might even seem ugly to hear in some respects, brought the sounds of the future to British pop. Or maybe, more than pop, this group was really “the fifth generation of rock and roll”, as Sigue Sigue Sputnik loved to call themselves.
To be precise, they defined themselves in full as a group of “Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the fifth generation of rock ‘n’ roll”.
They were certainly the apparently random result of a crazy project, but they were by no means fools. Leader Tony James came from Generation X, the punk rock band where Billy Idol debuted. After Gen X disbanded, the streets of Tony James and Billy idol parted ways and Tony pursued his plan to create an even more transgressive, and even more forward-looking, group.
Guitarist Neal X had played for Marc Almond and Adam Ant, and one day he and Tony James saw a boy dancing in his clothing store, and onboarded him. Sigue Sigue Sputnik now also had a singer, Martin Degville, who was Boy George’s flatmate, and Boy George worked as a salesman in that shop to make some money!
Sigue Sigue Sputnik were truly transgressive and innovative: first, they made use of an endless amount of sampling (the forerunner of this technique was Paul Hardcastle with 19, but he had sampled just some syllables), created songs with absolutely irregular structures, and even inserted advertisements in various languages among the songs of their album Flaunt it.
Were they ahead, or did they bring us back? In my opinion, they were in great advance, and a great marketing operation: English group with a Russian name and obvious references to Japanese video games and hypertechnological atmospheres, special effects, absolutely no sense in the song. However, behind the scenes, they had real masters: just think that Love Missile F1-11 was produced by the great Giorgio Moroder.
The group’s name, by their admission, was supposed to mean “burn burn Sputnik” in Russian, but that wasn’t true either. Much more likely the creator of the name, the manager of Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, who had procured some instruments for Sigue Sigue Sputnik, had linked to the name of a Filipino street gang. And basically, the real meaning of the name would be, going from Spanish to Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, more or less “go, go Sputnik!”.
The video expresses all the provocative modernity of the group: subtitles in Japanese (the group was sponsored by Atari!), tons of hairspray on mohicans, some link to the world of remote technological sex (following the track anticipated by the Village People in Sex over the phone, but anticipating by at least twenty years what technology would really offer), images of war and space missiles, and the visual excesses of Miss Yana Ya-Ya, blonde vixen responsible for the group’s special effects, looking like Lady Gaga and super extravagant like her, but twenty years in advance. Did Lady Gaga actually took inspiration from her?
However, her name was also original, because if Yana could be a Russian sounding form of her name Jane, Yaya was the name of the clothing store of singer Martin Degville, a shop that in fact became the headquarters of the group.
They could have been a resounding fiasco, but the market decreed their success. And most likely their experiments also affected the development, soon after, of house music, starting with the historic turn of Pump up the volume of M|A|R|R|S.
I mean, Sigue Sigue Sputnik might have looked right like aliens from another world, but they were a brilliant idea that projected planet Earth into the future of music. And they had the honor to have this song covered by the ultimate alien, David Bowie.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik on Wikipedia