Saturday, March 2, 2013

1974 - Sparks are the next big thing

For the average teenage record buyer in 1974, turning on the radio to hear Ron Mael's electric keyboard ushering in the falsetto tones of brother Russell singing "Zoo time is she and you time, the lions are your favourite kind and you want her tonight....."  - was a moment of pure delight. With 'This town ain't big enough for both of us', Sparks provided one of those wonderful eureka moments, when a record gets you off your feet and down to the record shop because you have to own that record right now.
It was new and exciting in a pop world that had become devalued by so many second-rate groups jumping on the glam rock gravy train. "This Town...' harked back to the excitement we felt when we first saw and heard David Bowie and Roxy Music in 1972. It was exotic and dramatic and not only that, it rocked.

They may have been new on the UK scene but Sparks had already made two albums in the US. But it was the third album 'Kimono My House' where the whole thing came together, built around Ron's intriguing lyrics. Moving from their native LA, they came to the UK and signed to Island Records. Their quirkiness was probably better suited to the UK pop charts anyway. The first single made an immediate impact and the following week they were on Top of the Pops. Their first appearance on TOTP showed they had a visual quirkiness to match the oddball lyrics and quasi-operatic delivery. Ron Mael with his Hitler moustache and mild smirk; curly-haired flamboyant Russell taunting his brother for a reaction. These guys knew how to put on a show.
The NME's Ian MacDonald was full of praise for this pop phenomenon in his review of the album Kimono My House in May 1974. "Ron Mael has set the whole lop-sided wobbly man of technique and 'tradition' spinning again. Melody lines spiral up and down (care of the extraordinary voice of brother Russell) through intervals and over chords that seem to echo from somewhere in the classics....there's more energy on Kimono My House than anything I've heard since...you know when.".