Released today in 1989: Rio Rocks

Parlophone SSS6

Parlophone SSS6

The story of Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the 1980s was about to come to an end. As Tony James notes in his overview of the band’s history, “I had not thought about it at the time, but in retrospect, we seemed to be following a similar trajectory to the [Sex] Pistols, right down to their tour of the USA and finishing with a jaunt to Brazil….”

It seems incredible that they had survived beyond their over-hyped debut album, but Sputnik were still releasing singles until the end of the 80s. Their second long-player, Dress For Excess, had appeared in 1988 and had a number of producers amongst them Stock Aitken Waterman, who provided them with their first hit for more than two years with Success. Elsewhere, sales were limited. The goal of breaking the American market had already been more or less abandoned by the group as unrealistic before any chance of a hit was wiped out permanently: at some point in early ’89, EMI shut down their recently-acquired Manhattan subsidiary and left some artists, including Sputnik, without a record deal. The business side of being a rock star was wearing James down. “I was losing any control of the organization by this stage” he said. “I think I just couldn’t handle it any more, wanted to be like the others, just a guy in the band having a great time with someone else taking care of business. Except there was no one else to do that, so I decided to bring in an ‘experienced’ tour manager for Brazil.”

Brazil was the one country where everything Sputnik touched turned to gold – or platinum in the case of the Dress For Excess album. Perhaps it was the inclusion of a track called Rio Rocks. Whatever the reason, they had a receptive audience there and toured in 1989. Ticket sales were good but little profit made it to the group members. “I was expecting that we would be millionaires in Brazil, not realizing that it was really hard to get the money out of the country with the Brazil/pound exchange rate being completely ridiculous. They had something like two hundred per cent inflation over there,” said James. Added to this, the ‘experienced tour manager’ “had stolen all the money earned from the Brazilian tour to feed his own serious drug habit.”

On their return to the UK, Rio Rocks (produced by Brazilian musician Liminha) was released as their latest (and, as fate would have it, final) single. Although energy within the band was low, promotion continued for the single throughout August, with a special edition 12” featuring new remixes of the track, and press releases stated that they were working on material for a third album. However, on his web history of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, James notes this final entry in the Sputnik office diary:

On the first of September 1989, the money ran out and I had to pull the plug on the Sputnik Movie and all its players. But boy what a ride it had been. Believe me, the thrill of a lifetime and I don’t regret one single moment.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 31
1981
BOW WOW WOW Prince Of Darkness (RCA RCA100)
The HUMAN LEAGUE Love Action (I Believe In Love) (Virgin VS436)
SIMPLE MINDS (Jim Kerr) Love Song (Virgin VS434)
UB40 One In Ten (DEP International DEP2)
1989
Malcolm McLAREN Something’s Jumpin’ In Your Shirt (Epic WALTZ3)
SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK Rio Rocks (Parlophone SSS6)
THEN JERICO (Mark Shaw) Sugar Box (London LON235)

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