Sunday, December 14, 2014

“Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment” (1986)

Sigue Sigue Sputnik - not the first but certainly exemplary and refulgent in that long line of UK groops who thought that if you got the attitude right, the concept right, the image right, the interview chat right...  that the music could be an afterthought... that make-do would be sufficient to carry it all off

They swallowed the McLaren line (the music doesn't matter, the schmutter and patter is what counts) hook and sinker

Oh I bought it, for the duration of the first single -- literally, paid my own money *

The sound is Tony James imitating Alan Vega imitating Billy Idol and his producers

But the flimsy became apparent with this

Then you learned that they couldn't sell ads to fill the spaces on the album Flaunt It

That the million dollar advance was only 30 thou

When you've come over like you're the Gordon Geckos of cyber-rock, promised world conquest and the ultimate ruthless rush...

And haven't delivered

probably you should have the decency to crawl away and curl up in a ball of embarrassment

But they always cling on

(And don't forget SSS was go-round #2 for James, after the non-follow-through of Generation X)

They keep trying, as if injecting adrenalin into a knackered death's-door horse could make it spring up sprightly and win the Derby

I love the fact that the single titled "Success" got to Number 31

This peaked at Number 75

Their last "hit"

* This was when I was at Melody Maker so probably could have blagged it, but thought why not buy it at Our Price.....

 MM of course was rabidly pro SSS - or at least those in charge were, i think they thought it was a wedge issue against NME, who would have to be anti on account of their soulcialist bent or indie-ism, but then the inevitable MONSTER success of the band would leave them looking out of touch cf MM. Possibly one or two of those in charge at MM actually liked the monetarist realpolitik espoused by the band, as counter to bleeding-heart Red Wedgism  

At some point that year (86) I was dispatched by my higher-ups to attend, with a view to writing up, a business conference-styled presentation / press conference, given by Tony James, a  primitive version of power points + video as I recall it, in which he unfurled the SSS ideology to an audience of... I'm not really sure.....   potential investors?   Came bac and wrote up a long thinkpiece about how it was just a mirror to the thinking of the financial powers-that-be, there was nothing even fresh or different let alone subversive about it at all ....  said piece was quietly shelved, never appeared.

An interesting case study of how rock's smash-it-up-til-the-day-I-die rebellion posturing and the disruptor discourse of neoliberal financier class actually fit together rather well

Steve Jobs loved the Beatles, after all...

Further Reading: Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment” (1986) by Andrew Britton. No really, such an essay exists and is worth reading if you can find it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pointing out the Andrew Britton essay -- it can be found in Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton; or, you can read it on-line at