Tag Archive | "Sparks"

Sparks – Nottingham Rock City (September 23, 2017)


Sparks – Nottingham Rock City (September 23, 2017)

Posted on 26 September 2017 by Joe

Good heavens! It says on Wiki that an early version of Sparks existed in 1968 under the name Halfnelson (mind you it also says Donald Trump is human, so I’m taking this with a pinch of salt).

After a quick name change to Sparks their 1972 breakthrough single, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us, exploded on the scene.

It fitted seamlessly with the ongoing glam rock movement of Marc Bolan in feather boa and half a ton of face glitter, an emaciated Bowie in his ambi-sexual Ziggy persona and reformed bovver boys Slade trampling all before them in a tide of bad spelling and big choruses.

sparks cropped

Among them were Sparks, wonderful Sparks, with an Adolf Hitler lookalike on piano and a singer who sounded like a strangled cat. Ron and Russell had arrived.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us was so left of centre it caught everybody off guard. That means our dynamic duo have been rocking ironically in a semi-operatic style for nearly fifty years. That is surely an excellent definition of longevity!

It is a wonder of the age that these two guys still remain relevant at the transient coalface of fickle rock n roll. Their new album Hippopotamus is as good as anything they’ve ever created: funny, catchy and just jolly good fun.

The band, all five of them come on dressed in white shirts with horizontal black stripes. Ron and Russ then enter stage right to tumultuous cheers. They look like confused convicts, Russ might be wearing a shiny black syrup of fig, it’s hard to tell but what other frontman do you know who skips when singing? A marvelous sight indeed.

Then there’s Ron who sits almost motionless at his keyboard looking like a not very scary replicant from the new Bladerunner film, and trying not to grin.

Tonight they gave us a set comprising nineteen songs – a good humoured, sentimental knees up for the art rock crowd then progressed apace.

Kicking off with the grin inducing hugely fantastic What the Hell Is It This Time? from the new album and finishing with another 1972 hit Amateur Hour ninety minutes later.

Sandwiched in between were killer recreations of the buoyant and irresistible Good Morning, Scandinavian Design, the lyrically genius I Wish You Were Fun, a blinding Missionary Position and especially Edith Piaf Said It Better, which was phenomenal.

Oldies included, When Do I Get to Sing My Way and 1974’s Propaganda. They even dropped in Johnny Delusional, from their successful 2015 collaboration with Franz Ferdinand – FFS. But it was This Town and 1979’s Number One Song In Heaven that blew the roof off.

The stoney faced Ron’s live party trick – to leave the piano half way through the set, come centre stage, take his tie off, loosen his jacket and do a groovy dance  – was priceless. He even smiled!

An emotional farewell and speeches from both of them followed. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Brothers in arms.


Words by John Haylock, picture by Rod Dykeman

For more information about Sparks, visit their website here.


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Posted on 11 June 2015 by Joe

Luke Haines is an utter bastard. There I was ready to write my review of FFS – the collaboration between 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks and latter day art rockers Franz Ferdinand, when the former Auteurs man wrote this perfect review of their album.

So gone are my lines about the playground chatter concerning Sparks’ emotionless keyboardist Ron Mael looking like Hitler. Gone are the references to FFS putting younger bands to shame with their inventiveness and clever take on pop and rock. Haines has already covered that.


So what I’m left with is simply an echo. This album is just great, with the pop and witty lyrics of stellar tracks such as Johnny Delusional or Police Encounters providing power, bombast and a tonne of other adjectives that make you want to get up a dance. Even the slowy, Little Guy From the Suburbs, is full of clever, Bowie like balladry.

From start to finish it feels hectic, fun, insane and emotional, especially with Ron’s brother Russell’s high pitched vocals in full effect here.

What also emerges is one of music’s best collaborations, and one that had an inevitability to it, with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos being a huge fan of Sparks. Russell and Kapranos’s deep and high vocals are also perfect aligned here, like Difford and Tilbrook in Squeeze they deserve to be together.

While both acts have a solid back catalogue to fall back on for the tiresome heritage pop trail, here they’ve created something wholly new, which as that eloquent git Haines points out, shows a band that is “experimenting and unafraid, whilst the younger dudes are sticking to the stencil.”


by Joe Lepper


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