“There goes my love rocket red”: Sigue Sigue Sputnik highlights “Take Off to Right Wing Rock”

By on March 26, 2018

“Parents hate it, politicians ban it,” Night Flight’s Pat Prescott says in Night Flight’s “Take Off to Right Wing Rock” — compiled around the idea that right-wing politics had co-opted the music business in the era of Reagan — “but ironically today’s rock is not the subversive cry of revolutionaries like the Clash and the Sex Pistols.”

One of its highlights of this special episode — which first aired on November 29, 1986, during President Ronald Reagan’s last term — is “Love Missile F1-11,” an ’80s homage to the Military Industrial Complex by Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who Ms. Prescott tells us were “England’s unabashed capitalist imagemakers.”

Watch “Take Off to Right Wing Rock” on Night Flight Plus.

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Directed by Hugh Scott-Symonds, the video for Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s debut single, “Love Missile F1-11,” was actually promoted with a video designed to look like a movie trailer.

Led by ex-Generation X bassist Tony James, the band are depicted as as psychedelic Mad Max-like futuristic soldiers of fortune in a futuristic Blade Runner-ish cityscape.

The lyrics were less unique, mostly sex & drug double entendres strung together with Cold War nuclear missiles substituting for erect penises (“The U.S. bombs cruising overhead/But there goes my love rocket red”).

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In the back of a car, post-punk drag queen shock-rocker Martin Degville, torn fishnet stockings over his face, is seen installing a silencer on his MAC-10 fully automatic sub-machine gun, the standard prop weapon seen in dozens of ’80s TV shows like “The A-Team” and “Miami Vice” (MAC-10s were so popular that Military Armament Corporation marketed their product as “the gun that made the ’80s roar”).

This scene necessitated the use of “censored” bars so the video could be played in certain countries because Degville’s actions were seen as an “Instruction in the Use of a Firearm.”

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Style-wise, the official EMI video wasn’t too different from one James had made originally for himself, copying sections from his favorite futuristic, dystopian or post-apocalyptic movies together on to a single VHS tape, which he then dubbed over with the band’s original demo for “Love Missile F1-11.”

Some of the images on this original so-called “Pirate Trailer” — exploding helicopters, gunfire and rockets — were meant to illustrate the future James felt his band would exist in.

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Most viewers reacted, as James said later, “with a combination of excitement and revulsion at these futuristic images which flickered over the robotic rock and roll soundtrack.”

Unfortunately, or not, James accidentally ended up adding movie dialogue to the band’s master tape of the track,  a happy accident and an example of the post-modern cut-up method in modern recording before it became commonplace.

Read more about Sigue Sigue Sputnik below.

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After briefly collaborating with Stiv BatorsThe Lords of the New Church, and jamming with ex-New York Dollsfh/Heartbreakers’ Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, James first tried to recruit Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch to join his band, to no avail.

He also met with future Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, but didn’t want a “real” girl fronting his new band.

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After first finding guitarist Neal X and singer Martin Degville — “a vision of the future,” a “freak weirdo” in 6-inch stilletos, with colorful feathers in his hair — James was finally putting together the band he wanted.

He found their moniker, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, the name of a Moscow street gang, in a London newspaper (it reportedly means “burn, burn satellite”).

Instead of bringing a demo tape to all of the London-based record labels, James showed his bootleg VHS tape.

They eventually ended up signing with EMI’s Manhattan Records, who gave them a £1 million contract, and disco king Giorgio Moroder produced their first sessions.

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An advert in the May 24, 1986 edition of Billboard told us to “Get ready for the fifth generation of rock ‘n’ roll,” adding “Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s principle interest are video nasties, affluence, rockets, home computers and excitement.”

Released on February of 1986, “Love Missile F1-11″ would reach #3 on the UK’s charts that year, and hit the charts in a number of other countries, selling a reported 70,000 copies a day at its peak before anybody even thought about obtaining copyright clearance for the samples used in the record (the U.S. version would replace the samples with mimicked bits).

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The UK music press didn’t quite know what to make of them. A headline in the glossy pop magazine, Smash Hits, would even ask the question everyone wanted to know the answer to: “Sigue Sigue Sputnik: the Future of Rock and Roll or a Load of Codswallop?”

Sigue Sigue Sputnik “exploded on to the pop scene… with a riot of preposterous headgear and a £1m record deal,” the UK’s Guardian would later claim, before adding: “Three months later, the Sigue Sigue Sputnik phenomenon was over.”

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Sigue Sigue Sputnik never truly reached the height of their debut single, crash-landing like aliens from another planet into a musical landscape that just wasn’t ready to accept them.

They would ultimately score three UK top 40 hits — “Love Missile F1-11″ was also added to the soundtrack of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, helping its sales immensely — but Sigue Sigue Sputnik were pretty much gonzo by 1988.

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Watch Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s “Love Missile F1-11″ video — which kicks off with a clip from the U.S. Senate’s 1985 “Porn Rock” hearings before videos by Van Halen (with the Blue Angels), the Top Gun anthem, Christian rockers Stryper, and more — in Night Flight’s Watch “Take Off to Right Wing Rock,” now rocketing on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.