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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Exotic Creatures Of The Deep

1. Intro

2. Good Morning

3. Strange Animal

4. I Can't Believe That You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song

5. Let The Monkey Drive

6. Intro Reprise

7. I've Never Been High

8. (She Got Me) Pregnant

9. Lighten Up, Morrissey

10. This Is The Renaissance

11. The Director Never Yelled 'cut'

12. Photoshop

13. Likeable

x

Track List: Hello Young Lovers

1. Dick Around

2. Perfume

3. The Very Next Fight

4. (Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country

5. Rock, Rock, Rock

6. Metaphor

7. Waterproof

8. Here Kitty

9. There's No Such Thing As Aliens

10. As I Sit To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral

x

Track List: Lil' Beethoven

1. The Rhythm Thief

2. How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?

3. What Are All These Bands So Angry About?

4. I Married Myself

5. Ride 'em Cowboy

6. My Baby's Taking Me Home

7. Your Call's Very Important To Us. Please Hold.

8. Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls

9. Suburban Homeboy

x

Track List: 12'' Mixes

x

Track List: Plagiarism

1. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat

2. This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us

4. Funny Face

5. When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'

6. Angst In My Pants

7. Change

8. Popularity

9. Something For The Girl With Everything

10. This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us (Feat. Faith No More)

11. Beat The Clock

12. Big Brass Ring

14. Propaganda

15. When I'm With You

19. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth

x

Track List: Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

1. Gratuitous Sax

2. When Do I Get To Sing "My Way"

3. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing

4. Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give A Damn

5. I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car

6. Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

7. Now That I Own The Bbc

8. Tsui Hark (Featuring Tsui Hark & Bill Kong)

9. The Ghost Of Liberace

10. Let's Go Surfing

11. Senseless Violins

x

Track List: Profile: The Ultimate Sparks Collection (1: Keep Left)

Disc 1

1. Wonder Girl

3. Girl From Germany

4. I Like Girls

5. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us

6. Barbecutie

7. Amateur Hour

8. Talent Is An Asset

9. Lost And Found

10. Hasta Manana, Monsieur

11. Propaganda

12. At Home, At Work, At Play

13. Something For The Girl With Everything

14. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth

15. Achoo

16. Get In The Swing

17. Looks, Looks, Looks

18. Happy Hunting Ground

19. Big Boy

20. Nothing To Do

21. Over The Summer

22. A Big Surprise

Disc 2

1. Beat The Clock

2. The Number One Song In Heaven

3. Tryouts For The Human Race

4. When I'm With You

5. Funny Face

6. Tips For Teens

7. Upstairs

8. Angst In My Pants

9. Sextown U.S.A.

10. I Predict

11. Moustache

13. Cool Places

14. All You Ever Think About Is Sex

15. With All My Might

16. Change

17. Music That You Can Dance To

18. So Important

x

Track List: Interior Design

1. So Important

2. Just Got Back From Heaven

3. Lots Of Reasons

4. You Got A Hold Of My Heart

5. Love-O-Rama

6. The Toughest Girl In Town

7. Let's Make Love

8. Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

9. A Walk Down Memory Lane

10. Madonna

11. Madonna (French Version)

12. Madonna (German Version)

13. Madonna (Spanish Version)

14. The Big Brass Ring

15. So Important (Extremely Important Remix)

x

Track List: Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat

1. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat

2. Love Scenes

3. Pretending To Be Drunk

4. Progress

5. With All My Might

6. Sparks In The Dark (Part One)

7. Everbody Move

8. A Song That Sings Itself

9. Sisters

10. Kiss Me Quick

11. Sparks In The Dark (Part Two)

x

Track List: In Outer Space

1. Cool Places (Sparks And Jane Wiedlin)

2. Popularity

3. Prayin' For A Party

4. All You Ever Think About Is Sex

5. Please Baby Please

6. Rockin' Girls

7. I Wish I Looked A Little Better

8. Lucky Me, Lucky You

9. A Fun Bunch Of Guys From Outer Space

10. Dance Godammit

x

Track List: Angst In My Pants

1. Angst In My Pants

2. I Predict

3. Sextown U.S.A.

4. Sherlock Holmes

5. Nicotina

6. Mickey Mouse

7. Moustache

8. Instant Weight Loss

9. Tarzan And Jane

10. The Decline And Fall Of Me

11. Eaten By the Monster Of Love

x

Track List: Whomp That Sucker

1. Tips For Teens

2. Funny Face

3. Where's My Girl

4. Upstairs

5. I Married A Martian

6. The Willys

7. Don't Shoot Me

8. Suzie Safety

9. That's Not Nastassia

10. Wacky Women

x

Track List: Terminal Jive.

1. When I'm With You.

2. Just Because You Love Me.

3. Rock 'n' Roll People In A Disco World.

4. When I'm With You (Instrumental).

5. Young Girls.

6. Noisy Boys.

7. Stereo.

8. The Greatest Show On Earth.

x

Track List: No.1 In Heaven

1. Tryouts For The Human Race

2. Academy Award Performance

3. La Dolce Vita

4. Beat The Clock

5. My Other Voice

6. The Number One Song In Heaven

x

Track List: Indiscreet (21st Century Editions)

1. Hospitality On Parade

2. Happy Hunting Ground

3. Without Using Hands

4. Get In The Swing

5. Under The Table With Her

6. How Are You Getting Home?

7. Pineapple

8. Tits

9. It Ain't 1918

10. The Lady Is Lingering

11. In The Future

12. Looks, Looks, Looks

13. Miss The Start, Miss The End

x

Track List: Kimono My House (21st Century Editions)

1. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us

2. Amateur Hour

3. Falling In Love With Myself Again

4. Here In Heaven

5. Thank God It's Not Christmas

6. Hasta Manana Monsieur

7. Talent Is An Asset

8. Complaints

9. In My Family

10. Equator

x

Track List: A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing

1. Girl From Germanny

2. Beaver O'Lindy

3. Nothing Is Sacred

4. Here Comes Bob

5. Moon Over Kentucky

6. Do Re Mi

7. Angus Desire

8. Underground

9. The Louvre

10. Batteries Not Included

11. Whippings And Apologies

x

Track List: Sparks

1. Wonder Girl

2. Fa La Fa Lee

3. Roger

4. High C

5. Fletcher Honorama

6. Simple Ballet

7. Slow Boat

8. Biology 2

9. Saccharin And The War

10. Big Bands

11. (No More) Mr. Nice Guys

x

Track List: Introducing Sparks

1. A Big Surprise

2. Occupation

3. Ladies

4. I'm Not

5. Forever Young

6. Goofing Off

7. Girls On The Brain

8. Over The Summer

9. Those Mysteries

x

Track List: Propaganda

1. Propaganda

2. At Home, At Work, At Play

3. Reinforcements

4. B.C.

5. Thanks But No Thanks

6. Don't Leave Me Alone With Her

7. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth

8. Something For The Girl With Everything

9. Achoo

10. Who Don't Like Kids

11. Bon Voyage

x

Track List: Two Hands One Mouth: Live In Europe

1. Sparks Overture (Live)

2. Hospitality On Parade (Live)

3. Metaphor (Live)

4. Propaganda (Live)

5. At Home, At Work, At Play (Live)

6. Sherlock Holmes (Live)

7. Good Morning (Live)

8. Under The Table With Her (Live)

9. My Baby's Taking Me Home (Live)

10. Singing In The Shower (Live)

11. The Wedding Of Jacqueline Kennedy To Russell Mael (Live)

12. Excerpts From The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman (Live)

13. Dick Around (Live)

14. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth (Live)

15. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (Live)

16. The Rhythm Thief (Live)

17. Suburban Homeboy (Live)

18. When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way' (Live)

19. The Number One Song In Heaven (Live)

20. Beat The Clock (Live)

21. Two Hands, One Mouth (Live)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Molly Hatchet??? Surely you jest my friend.
Report as inappropriate
loubro2006
Yeah FFS hardly got attention that's true.
Report as inappropriate
loubro2006
The S in FFS. Hearing Sparks now and still have no clue who he is. But I know Franz Ferdinand and that's about it. Sparks sounds good though, I'll listen more when I have the time in the fall.
Report as inappropriate
The new FFS collaboratio n is great as well, though not really as popular...
Report as inappropriate
heard/saw Sparks first time on Don Kirchners Midnight Special in mid-70's. Became instant fan when I heard b.c.
Report as inappropriate
lonewolf36
Los Angelos
Been a Sparks fan since early 70's..
Report as inappropriate
Where did they come from
I don't care I love em
Report as inappropriate
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
Report as inappropriate
james2meet
WRONG LYRICS WRONG SONG STUPID
Report as inappropriate
Oh Ya
Report as inappropriate
<3
Report as inappropriate
capital_lett e r s
Probably the greatest American band...after Molly Hatchet
Report as inappropriate
Love sparks hospitality on parade pineapple how you getting home future future great songs funtimes!
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
tjwh06
Late 70's, early 80's Sparks the best!!!!!
Report as inappropriate
Kimono My House will always be a favorite of mine!
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
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!
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
warrenroejrg o l f
remeber the sparks? I know there's a few of you from the ol" magic mountain days!
Report as inappropriate
SPARKS!!! There'd be no WEEN without Sparks. And that is not a world I want to live in.
Report as inappropriate
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?
Report as inappropriate
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.:)
Report as inappropriate
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
Report as inappropriate
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
Report as inappropriate
Sparks was slightly intersting in the 70"s with their tongue-in-ch e e k lyrics but never reached their potential.
Report as inappropriate
Further, any band with a drummer named 'Dinky Diamond' deserves all the glory-hole listening time they can get -

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

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