The Artist of the Week feature on my old radio show Music for the Masses has proved a vaguely interesting source of features for this blog, although it does seem to contain some errors, hyperbole, and possibly plagiarism. This week, Sparks.
This week’s Artist of the Week is the ever-wonderful and ever-evolving Sparks. Now, unfortunately we can’t really afford to go into too much detail, otherwise we’ll be here all night, but anyway, the story goes like this… Ron Mael and Russell Mael formed their first band Halfnelson back in 1971, releasing their first (and only) album that year. The following year they crossed the Atlantic and started recording with a new line-up, now known as Sparks.
They first saw UK success with the seminal but not overly electronic This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us, which peaked at number two in 1974. Slowly the hits began to die away, and by 1976 they were once more failing to reach the chart – however, they resolutely refused to give up.
In 1979, they managed a comeback when they travelled to Germany to work with Giorgio Moroder on the essential Number 1 in Heaven album. This brought them two further substantial hits, but unfortunately they failed once again to hold onto their success, as the follow-up album Terminal Jive flopped. However, it brought them hits in France, and in the early 1980s they finally managed to break their homeland, America.
In 1989, they began one of their most interesting chapters to date. After fifteen albums and countless singles on an almost infinite number of record companies, they decided to give up and make films instead. Sadly, the constant delays and broken promises of the film world led to them abandoning their new career after four years and returning to music instead.
Their comeback in 1994 brought them success across Europe, as they embraced the swiftly growing genre of Europop. The classics When Do I Get to Sing “My Way” and When I Kiss You both reached the top forty, as did a reissue of This Town released in 1997 with additions from rockers Faith No More.
Recent years have seen them once more failing to make the charts, but continuing to release album after album. Their most recent, their nineteenth album L’il Beethoven, was convincingly given five-star ratings across the board, and they even scraped a minor hit single with Suburban Homeboy, but the album itself failed to chart.
Rumour has it they are now working on a new album, as it’s now nearly three years since L’il Beethoven…