Man I love Sparks! They are simultaneously the geekiest AND coolest band in the history of rock. We need to be showing more love to the brothers Mael and their highly literate, fun, sexy and intelligent music here on DM - they are California boys after all. This bizarrely brilliant short concert film is the perfect excuse to post about them.
Sparks always move with the times, and frequently they were well ahead of it. In 1974 they took baroque opera-pop to the top of the UK charts, a whole year before Queen did the same thing to more acclaim. In 74/75 they pretty much invented New Wave (the proof lies in this film) and 4-5 years later when it had caught on Sparks had already moved on to inventing that staple of 80s pop, the synth-duo (through their incredible work with Giorgio Moroder). That’s not even taking into account the theory that 1976’s Big Beat album paved the way for power-pop. By the early 80s the brothers had settled down and repositioned themselves as perhaps THE quintessential New Wave band, hooking up with uber-fan Jane Weidlin of the Go-Gos along the way, and delivering the MTV staple “Cool Places”. Sparks were on the ball with their music videos too, recognising that the moving image was going to be key to music in the coming decades, and hiring a certain director called David Lynch to helm the promo for their classic 1983 stomper “I Predict”.
And that brings us back to this concert film. It is of course a brilliant look at the Sparks live set-up of the mid-Seventies post-glam era, but it also gives us some unintentionally funny moments too. It must have been a bit of a nightmare for the record company to position this brainy, sarky, odd-looking band as being another teeny-bop pop product, but boy did they try. See the over-enthusiastic reaction from the crowd to every single move the band make! Hear the roars that sound like they were from a different concert! Feel the prodding from assistant directors for bored audience members to get up and dance! Still, none of this hides the true, what-the-hell weirdness that shines out of Sparks, and particularly Ron Mael. Just check the moment at 1:40 when Ron gives a wry smile to an audience member and we see her shocked reaction.
This film is pretty short and only features four songs (“Something For The Girl With Everything”. Talent Is An Asset”, “B.C.” and “Amateur Hour”) and pop spotters will also be interested to see that Sparks are given an introduction by none other than Keith Moon and Ringo Starr:
Sparks Live 1974 Part 1
Part 2 after the jump…