Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sigue Sigue Sputnik—
Flaunt It


Released 1986 on EMI
The Seth Man, June 2000ce
From the moment they sprung fully formed from the head of ex-Generation X bassist Tony James’ head, Sigue Sigue Sputnik were a holy eighties terror to behold. Back when “cyberpunk” was still a semi-outlined thesis in William Gibson’s mind, SSS were outfitted as intentionally post-Apocalyptic video rock and roll cyber-tarts out for sex and violent thrill-seeking in the streamlined neon streets of Soho, the Ginza, Broadway and Sunset Boulevard simultaneously. More than just another record from a rock band, “Flaunt It” operates more as a virtual soundtrack to a tie-in product that happens to be a shamelessly conceived, abusively hard-sell marketing ploy rock and roll band as space punk rock and roll update for the 21st Century. The eight tracks generate a technological jungle of hyper-everything like The Munich Machine double-prong dildoing Marc Bolan and The New York Dolls in a Japanese zero gravity sex shop with King Tubby cutting an amphetamine version right on the spot. In reality, the songs are brief as hell but so infinitesimally staggered via abusive sampling of drums, guitars, vocals and samples of further samples they all roll on for over five minutes. The phrase “Fuck me” gets sampled over and over with jackhammer sexual insistence on “21st Century Boy”, their hi-tech sexy robotic phallic rocket blazing through a 24-hour neon nighttime landscape. Every song is practically the same: programmed electronic drums and synthesizers directed by producer Giorgio Moroder with blasts from Neal X and Tony James’ guitars on an express subway train running a dub gauntlet and stopping only for samples from “A Clockwork Orange,” “Terminator,” “Scarface” and other like-minded feelies. Furthermore, the tracks are also linked by audio commercials purchased expensively by like-minded clients as I.D. magazine and L’Oreal.

Tony James shopped the entire package to RCA, A&M and other biggie labels until he finally landed a deal with EMI that would prove fortuitous no only for the legendary amount of money the deal was inked at (apparently in the neighbourhood of 2 million pounds), but for the uproar it caused in the music press. A media headline was ALL THEY NEEDED.

They took it from there.

I believe James had the entire package planned out beforehand and probably even had the first album sleeve and all attendant 45s, 12 inch singles, posters, promotional videos designed before they even played a single note. And as for their first single, “Love Missile F1-11”, over ten separate versions were released and they ALL held different mixes, samples and OBI-styled Japanese packaging resplendent with the SSS logos like some manipulative multi-national corporation. One commercial later, a synth bass hums the melody of “Baba O’Riley” slowly as ultra-mixed/sampled sexual vocals break in as searing nano-chopped filtered vocals shot from speaker to speaker. “Sex Bomb Boogie” opens with loud rawkus’n’roll guitar riffing as the now-familiar sequenced drum and synth pattern from the opening track returns. It also drives on throughout the next song, “Rockit USA.” And the first track on side two, “21st Century Boy” as samples of Mozart and a vocoderised Elvis introducing the overly styled “fifth generation of rock and roll.”

They could only follow up the farcical yet attitude-ridden excess of “Flaunt It” by constructing an album comprised of no new material but re-releasing this album transposed and inverted with EVEN MORE samples. Unfortunately, they didn’t but released the dreadful misstep “Dress For Excess” that ended their contract with EMI. But for the last half of 1986, Sigue Sigue Sputnik launched an ambitious scheme to merge The Sex Pistols, The Monkees and Kiss into a futuristic overload of space glam rock and roll so prefabricated it’s almost impossible to criticize because it’s such a perfectly executed con. “What a hype!” you declare. Of course: but they let you in on that one.