Once the punk band Generation X broke up, Tony James saw that the ex-singer, Billy Idol, was seeing substantial success. In 1984 he recruited the musical novices Martin Degville (vocals), Neal X (guitar), Chris Cavanagh (electric drums, drums), Ray Mayhew (drums, electronic drums), and Yana Ya-Ya (AKA Jane Farrimond, did keyboards and special effects). He only did so because of their looks. With that, James (played space guitar) didn't fully intend on the band being musical, instead being saturated with the vision of a cyberpunk dystopian future, with flavors of postmodernism, sci-fi pop culture, technology, and commercialism. Tony James himself called the band "Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the fifth generation of rock 'n' roll". And thus, Sigue Sigue Sputnik was born.
They signed on with EMI and released their first single, "Love Missile F1-11" in 1986, and it hit No. 3 on British charts. Two other songs reached the British Top 40 hit singles: "Twenty First Century Boy", and later "Success".
The band name means "burn, burn satellite" in Russian and to reference the Soviet Union-built artificial satellite. Their sound is categorized by heavy usage of synths, special effects, and movie samples from James' favorite films. Their looks also garnered attention as they wore large colorful wigs, loads of fishnets, and "glam punk" style clothing, provided by Degville himself. It's unclear if they just wanted fame, attention, or if it's the point they wanted to make. With the kind of beginning they had, it can be inferred it was a bit of both.
They made two studio albums in the original run: Flaunt It and Dress For Excess. To promote their first album, they made many interviews and TV appearances, even as selling empty space in between tracks for adverts. Their second album, Dress For Excess released in 1988, being advertised as "This time, it's music". The band broke up soon afterwards.
Some songs found radio play and popularity in other countries like Japan and Brazil.
- '80s Hair: To the extreme as it was a part of their image (big and colorful hair).
- Advert-Overloaded Future: A part of the image of the future, and ran with it as they sold advert spaces in their lyrics booklets and even in the spaces of their songs.
- Alliterative Name: The band name, starting with "S".
- Cyber Punk: Mixing punk and electronic music in the style of Suicide, this band takes its inspiration from movies like Blade Runner, The Terminator, A Clockwork Orange, and Mad Max. It also involves dystopic and post-apocalyptic themes in its songs, as well as many references to violent video games, high-tech sex (not necessarily with a human) and the suggestion they are from the future. They also play the evil corporation completely straight, by effectively being it.
- Drag Queen: Martin Degville is a self-proclaimed "she-male", and was known for being a drag queen. He is also friends with Boy George.
- Gratuitous Japanese: In the video for "Love Missile F1-11" and all over the packaging of Flaunt It.
- Humongous Mecha: Featured one on the cover of Flaunt It.
- Rock Me, Amadeus!:
- "Twenty First Century Boy" has Toccata And Fugue in D minor by Bach.
- A quotation in the beginning of "Albinoni vs. Star Wars" is Adagio in G Minor by Remo Giazotto.
- Intercourse with You: They frequently sing about sex in their songs, though the most blatant is the aptly named song "Orgasm".
- Sampling: Very heavy usage, especially of movie audio clips.
- Singer Name Drop: A robotic voice names off the band members at the beginning of "Twenty First Century Boy".