I have to admit that Sparks are my most favorite band in the whole wide world. But you don’t really need to know that. All you need to know is that Russell Mael visited a karaoke parlor in Tokyo last year during Sparks tour of Japan, when he noticed they carried the Mael brothers’ classic hit “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us.” What else could Russell do but have a go?
Mr. Mael’s rendition is certainly superb, and would definitely pass any audition for a Sparks tribute band. He may also have hit upon a new trend for touring bands: visit karaoke bars and sing along to their hits. Russell Mael has certainly thrown down a gauntlet that will be difficult to better with this performance.
Fun with Ron and Russell Mael, interviewed by Julie Brown on Music Box in 1985. Ron (as one commentator notes) is particularly “perky,” perhaps due to the excellent review in Sounds that claimed he was a better song-writer than Lennon and McCartney. Ron disagrees, but admits he is maybe a better song-writer than George Harrison.
I do love Sparks, those delightfully talented brothers Ron and Russell Mael, whose music has made the world so much better. They arrived in my life at the moment The Bonzos left, and offered a similar wit and sophistication with a syncopated beat. This documentary is made from found footage, for a journalism class in 2010, by jedenobel. It’s seems somehow right that Sparks should have a homemade fan documentary, and this one doesn’t disappoint, being both entertaining and informative, and with plenty of clips.
Opening with “Happy Hunting Ground” and finishing with “Suburban Homeboy”, this is fifty minutes of sheer bloody joy, as brothers Ron and Russell Mael take us and an audience, at the Isle Skye Festival, from June 2006, through the glorious history of Sparks.
This should have been something: When Sparks met Jacques Tati in 1974, to discuss Ron and Russell Mael’s’ starring roles in the French comedy legend’s next feature Confusion. N’est-ce pas incroyable, non? As the brothers explain over at the fabulous Graphik Designs website:
Russell Mael: “We were discussing with a guy from Island Records in Europe fun things to do that weren’t involved with being in a rock band and how to just kind of expand the whole thing… JacquesTati’s name was brought up and we just kind of laughed it off. Anyway, he approached Jacques Tati and somehow got him to come meet us. Jacques Tati didn’t know anything about Sparks because he was 67 years old and doesn’t listen to rock music.”
Ron Mael: “We were to be in Tati’s film Confusion, a story of two American TV studio employees brought to a rural French TV company to help them out with some American technical expertise and input into how TV really is done. Unfortunately due to Tati’s declining health and ultimate death, the film didn’t get met.”
Confusion was to be a “visionary project” in which Tati offered a critique of the encroaching globalization of the world through advertising and television. It was planned as a follow-up to his masterpiece Playtime that dealt with the damaging alienation caused by modern corporate life. Tati had even decided on a shock opening to his new feature. In the first reel, his famous comic alter-ego, Monsieur Hulot would be killed off, in a mix-up with a real and prop gun.
The film had Hulot working in a rural TV station and his death leads to the arrival of two young American TV execs (Ron and Russell), who have plans to modernize the TV station.
What should have been one of the greatest pop-comedy films ever made, sadly never happened after Tati went bankrupt and his declining health put the project on hold. However, Sparks did write a song for the film, Confusion, which appeared on their Big Beat album. Instead of starring roles, the brothers made a cameo appearance in the 1977 blockbuster Rollercoaster. Plans to film Confusion lingered on for a few years, until Tati’s death in 1982 brought the project to a close.
Bonus clips of Sparks, plus their demo ‘Landlady, Landlady, Turn-up the Heat’ after the jump…