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Sparks

Sparks is the vehicle for the skewed pop smarts and wise-guy wordplay of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, Los Angeles natives who spent their childhood modeling young men's apparel for mail-order catalogs. While attending UCLA in 1970, the Maels formed their first group, Halfnelson, which featured songwriter Ron on keyboards and Russell as lead vocalist; the band was rounded out by another pair of brothers, guitarist Earle and bassist Jim Mankey, and drummer Harley Feinstein.

Halfnelson soon came to the attention of Todd Rundgren, who helped land the group a contract with Bearsville and produced their self-titled 1971 debut. Their quirky, tongue-in-cheek art pop failed to find an audience, however, and their manager successfully convinced the Maels to change the group's name. After becoming Sparks, they almost reached the Hot 100 with the single "Wonder Girl," and 1972's sublimely bizarre A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing cemented the band's cult status, scoring another near-hit with "Girl from Germany."

While touring the U.K., Sparks were warmly received by the British music press, and ultimately, the Mael brothers relocated to London, leaving the rest of the band behind; Earle Mankey subsequently became a noted producer, while Jim later joined Concrete Blonde. In need of a new support unit, the Maels placed an advertisement in Melody Maker, and with guitarist Adrian Fisher, bassist Martin Gordon, and drummer Norman "Dinky" Diamond firmly in place, they recorded 1974's glam-bubblegum opus Kimono My House, which reached the Top Five of the U.K. album charts and spawned two major British hits, "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" and "Amateur Hour."

With new guitarist Trevor White and bassist Ian Hampton, Sparks returned later that year with Propaganda, another U.K. smash that scored with the hits "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" and "Something for the Girl with Everything." Overblown production from Tony Visconti derailed 1975's Indiscreet, however, and when the record fared less successfully than its predecessors, the Maels returned to the U.S., where they recruited Tuff Darts guitarist Jeff Salen, former Milk & Cookies bassist Sal Maida, and drummer Hilly Michaels for 1976's Big Beat.

By 1977's ironic Introducing Sparks, recorded with a series of Los Angeles session players, the Mael brothers were treading water, so they enlisted disco producer Giorgio Moroder to helm 1979's synth-powered dance-pop confection No. 1 in Heaven, which spurred the group to renewed success in England on the strength of the hit singles "The Number One Song in Heaven," "Beat the Clock," and "Tryouts for the Human Race." Moroder's sidekick Harold Faltermeyer took the production reins for the immediate follow-up, Terminal Jive, which scored a massive French hit with "When I'm with You."

Sparks left disco in the dust with 1981's Whomp That Sucker, recorded in Munich with a new supporting band comprised of guitarist Bob Haag, bassist Leslie Bohem, and drummer David Kendrick (who also played together as the Gleaming Spires). After 1982's Angst in My Pants, they recorded 1983's Sparks in Outer Space; the wonderful "Cool Places," a duet with the Go-Go's Jane Wiedlin, nearly reached the U.S. Top 40, and was the band's biggest hit.

The disastrous 1984 LP Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat derailed any chart momentum the band had gathered at home, however, and after 1986's self-explanatory Music That You Can Dance To, Sparks -- again reduced to the core duo of Ron and Russell -- recorded 1988's Interior Design, which was followed by a long hiatus. Outside of composing the music for a film by Hong Kong action maestro Tsui Hark, Sparks remained silent until Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins, released in 1994. Plagiarism followed four years later. With 2000's Balls, the band ushered in a more productive era, releasing Lil' Beethoven in 2002, Hello Young Lovers in 2006, and Exotic Creatures of the Deep in 2008. The following year, the band was commissioned by Swedish National Radio to compose a piece of radio theater, resulting in their eclectic twenty-second album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. It received its live premiere in 2011, at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Maels also produced new recordings, with their remix of Yoko Ono's "Give Me Something" and a new theme song for the American public-radio program Bookworm. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Where did they come from
I don't care I love em
1:kiss ur left hand
2: say ur crushes name
3:close ur hand
4:say ur name
5:say a school day
6:post this on at least 15 more songs and ur crush will ask u out on the day u said
james2meet
WRONG LYRICS WRONG SONG STUPID
Oh Ya
<3
capital_lett e r s
Probably the greatest American band...after Molly Hatchet
micmock
Love sparks hospitality on parade pineapple how you getting home future future great songs funtimes!
The first Sparks song I heard was Angst In My Pants . I was total hooked and now many years later I like it even more. Of all thier songs I love, Angst In My Pants still the best. Give it 100 years, and it won't go away.
tjwh06
Late 70's, early 80's Sparks the best!!!!!
Kimono My House will always be a favorite of mine!
I wish they would show up to my organic restaurant SunCafe in Studio City. They only live a few miles away in the hills of Los Angeles! My favorite group of all time.
The Sparks just happened before their time had come. They would have found an audience with the internet in their toolbox. I'm just glad I knew of them then!
Last 4 albums of Sparks are masterpieces , every bit as innovative and brilliant as anything the Beatles produced. May be the ONLY group to keep getting better with every album.
I saw them a few years back in Central Park NYC. Excellent! I've heaerd you'll never meet chicks at a Sparks concert. While not quite true, it wasn't that far fetched.
warrenroejrg o l f
remeber the sparks? I know there's a few of you from the ol" magic mountain days!
SPARKS!!! There'd be no WEEN without Sparks. And that is not a world I want to live in.
andersonclyn n
Sparks is an absolutely amazing group.

Unfortunatel y , though, it seems to me that there is no 'halfway point' in liking Sparks. It's either a complete love for them, or a passionate hatred for them. In the case of all the people I know, they seem to take the latter stand. And that really bothers me! Honestly--wh a t is there not to love?
I am a new Sparks fan, but I am loving what I hear. One person that gave credit to Sparks for inspiration was David Byrne, which is one of the reasons I checked them out.:)
Sparks recently bought the Rights to ALL of the Music they have recorded. The record labels where glad to sell them the Recordings.. . . Sparks now OWNS all ( Except for SONY records ) their Songs in recorded form. CHA CHING!

Sin
Best Pop Rock Band of all time. All want to be like Sparks, more than a few Bands credit Sparks with inspiring them.. of course those Bands Had HITS! Sparks has not reached the Top of the Charts and I think they like it that way!

You either HATE Sparks or LOVE THEM, no in between. Best Band on EARTH!

Sin
Sparks was slightly intersting in the 70"s with their tongue-in-ch e e k lyrics but never reached their potential.
Further, any band with a drummer named 'Dinky Diamond' deserves all the glory-hole listening time they can get -

Kimono My House, Indiscreet, Propaganda and to a lessor extent Big Beat and Angst In My Pants are nearly flawless glam rock-punk masterpieces . . .
The Sparks are the single most under-rated band in all of pop rock history - if you don't agree, you're simply wrong!
Why isn't Lil' Beethoven included?!

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