Sparks are an American pop and rock band formed in 1972 by brothers Ron (keyboards) and Russell Mael (vocals). Usually considered a duo, they started as a group and have featured various supporting musicians over their long career. The two brothers are characterized not only by contrasting physical appearances and stage performances (Ron sinister and static, Russell flamboyant and animated) but also by an eccentric approach to songwriting, subject material and lyrics. Commercial success has been just as eclectic. Their first UK hit was This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us, which got to no. 2 in 1974, followed by a string of hits, although just as many "misses" before making the charts again in 1979 with the Giorgio Moroder produced The No.1 Song in Heaven and Beat the Clock, aimed at the disco market but still retaining intelligent lyrics and creative songwriting with a fashionable electronic sound. Sparks continued to write and record throughout the eighties and nineties, despite a lack of any great commercial success, making them into a kind of 'cult' band. Their latest album, their 25th, entitled Hippopotamus is to be released in September 2017. Read more on wikipedia.
Links to Peel
Peel took an early interest in the group, playing at least one track from their debut album, when they were known as Halfnelson, and, with his liking of unusual names, was particularly taken by the name of the band's guitarist, Earle Mankey. Russell Mael, who in 1979 took on the role of a DJ and hosted a Radio One show with "two hours of his favourite music" . mentioned that in the early 1970s, the group were surprised to receive a small royalty cheque from the BBC, and BBC airplay may have influenced their decision to move to the UK.
Available playlists from the early 1970s are scarce, but Peel played at least one track from the 1973 album A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing. The 1974 follow-up Kimono My House (which featured the hits This Town.. and Amateur Hour) featured in his 1974 Top Ten albums. He had also featured Sparks in one of his 1974 Sounds On Sunday shows. In September 1977 he played three tracks from the new album Introducing Sparks on the same night. He was one of the first DJs to play The Number One Song In Heaven on its release in March 1979 - the single didn't reach the mainstream and chart until two months later. After playing the long version of the track, he mentioned that he had a copy of the new album although he hadn't had a chance to listen to it yet. He promptly played a track from it the following night, choosing Tryouts For the Human Race which was released as a single seven months later. He does not seem to have featured any of their other new material after that.
- 03 April 1973: Nothing Is Sacred (LP – A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)
- 06 October 1974 / Sounds On Sunday - unknown tracks
- 19 December 1974: Bon Voyage (LP – Progaganda)
- D025 (19 & 23 June 1975): Get In The Swing (LP - Indiscreet)
- 29 September 1977: three tracks from new LP Introducing Sparks, titles unknown
- 14 March 1979: The Number One Song In Heaven (long version) (12")
- 15 March 1979: Tryouts For The Human Race (LP - No. 1 In Heaven)
- 11 March 1995: Wonder Girl (LP – Sparks)
- 05 March 2002: This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (7")
- 11 April 2002 (BBC World Service): This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (7")