Sparks - 1982 - all photos by Kathy Flynn
Sparks- Slowboat. (1971) A beautiful early song from this great band.
One of my very faves. <3
I’m talking to you, Ron Mael.
Ron Mael’s lips.
Ron Mael handsomeness via retweet from Sparks Official twitter: “Classic Ron.”
|—||Heidi Gillstrom, One Week One Band|
The Vitas Gerulaitis of Music
In the ESPN documentary on tennis player Jimmy Connors’s improbable run at the 1981 US Open, This Is What They Want, pop culture journalist Chuck Klosterman makes a brilliant analogy that Jimmy Connors is the Bruce Springsteen to John McEnroe’s Lou Reed. Like Springsteen, Connors fed off the audience he was playing for, whereas McEnroe, like Reed, was seemingly annoyed that they were even there.
Sparks are the Vitas Gerulaitis of music.
In tennis’s golden age, there were, arguably, three male stars that captured the attention of both American fans and not of the sport. There was John McEnroe, the hot young thing in both talent and temper. There was Bjorn Borg, whose Swedish good looks were only exceeded by his prowess on the court. And there was Jimmy Connors, who was almost universally loathed, yet somehow loved, and certainly commanded attention.
While not in the trilogy of tennis supremacy, Vitas Gerulaitis could easily fit in with that group —he had, after all, won a Grand Slam title. Beloved by other players, Vitas was a tennis player’s player. He had no real rivalries outside of the court and seemed to be the sole connective thread between the trilogy. Everyone loved Vitas. Who else could get McEnroe, Borg, and Connors to be pallbearers at their funeral?
Sparks are musician’s musicians. Look at all the bands that count the Maels as an influence: Nirvana, Depeche Mode, The Pixies, They Might Be Giants, Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand… Even Morrissey loves Sparks and Morrissey hates a ton of shit. A good band aspires to not only reach an audience, but to be admired by their peers for the work they do. Sparks has done that and continues to do that.
Maybe it is because they are, seemingly, much more clever than their peers. Read some lyrics of popular songs. Some are great, most are not. But with Sparks, clever writing is the staple that holds the band’s diverse catalogue together. The sound changes, but the hallmark of Sparks’s music is in their word selection.
Vitas is probably most remembered for providing the sports world with one of the great quotes of all-time. After finally beating Connors following 16 matches of being on the losing end, Vitas was asked by reporters how he managed to break his losing streak. “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row” was his response. All about the clever word selection.
Although American, Sparks and Vitas Gerulaitis both seemed, for lack of a better word, foreign to the American public. Maybe it was the pure-bred Lithuanian looks, which dubbed him the “Lithuanian Lion,” or the fact that he is wholeheartedly embraced in his ancestral home as one of their own, but people seem to forget that Vitas was an extremely proud American citizen who had never actually visited Lithuania.
With Sparks, they enjoyed a successful career in England before the bulk of Americans even knew who Ron and Russell Mael were. When Sparks did finally break into the American market, people assumed they were an English band. From an American perspective, one of the great things about England is a rich history of embracing eccentrics. It’s not expected that they’ll be hidden away or forced to assimilate; they’re embraced. And Sparks are absolutely eccentric in both sight and sound.
Being identified with McEnroe and Connors is great, they’re champions. But being Vitas is much more appealing.
Sparks Rock the Backstage Party
Backstage at a concert can be rowdy. This is because sex & drugs & rock & roll are all the brain and body need for many a formulaic rock god. But if you take away only one thing this week, I hope it is that Sparks are anything but conventional.
Summon your spirit Swedish auteur and grab a bathrobe woven of the finest Turkish cotton because Sparks have invited us to take a look at an exclusive backstage party.
Sparks Has an Angst In Their Pants
Within Sparks’s 22 studio albums, there are a huge amount of songs about love. But James Ingram they are not.
This was glanced over a bit in the week’s initial post with “Eaten By the Monster of Love,” but for Sparks, love is not the quiet storm it is for James Ingram. It is a massive hurricane that will destroy your home, pollute your land, and violently rip off a limb or two. And that’s if you don’t drown.
But, there are a few love songs in the Sparks archive that are not as destructive. Today we’re going to take a journey through five stages of love using Sparks’s music as our guide.
To get love, you gotta want love. And how do you know when you’re ready for love? Because you’ve got an angst in your pants.