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Squeezing Out By Sparks By Robert Nevin

I first saw Sparks on one of those concert programs. I don’t think it was Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert, but something like it. I had never heard of them before and Russell Mael even admonished the studio audience for clapping as he introduced “BC”. “You don’t know it, so what are you clapping for?”

The thing is, I was so knocked out by the first song, and especially by the Mael brothers that I ran and got my cassette recorder and taped the rest of the set from the TV speakers! Word!

What a strange, quirky and thoroughly engaging pop band! I listened to that tape until I scraped up the money to buy “Kimono My House” which stayed on my turntable for weeks. I had never heard this brand of pop music before. Insanely clever, funny, odd but never dull lyrics put to strange melodies my younger brother described as “baby music” when he first heard it. I immediately picked up “Propaganda”. Sparks were my band.

Try to imagine my joy when in 1976 they came to the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, CT for a show! It was probably the most badly promoted gig I have ever been to. Somebody fell down on the job, because only about 300 people showed up! The opening act was The Persuaders! Completely acapella, they were tremendous!

Even before such a small crowd, Sparks did not fail to please. They did all my favorites from the two albums and one of their earlier notable songs “Wondergirl”. And by the way, the band rocked! For all the quirkiness, Sparks were a very good pop band.

I left the concert and raced a few blocks to the highway onramp. I had taken the bus into Hartford, so I had to thumb a ride home. Just as I’d hoped I got picked up by a couple who had been at the show. They had even seen the band on the same rock program I had seen.

In the sad story of the loss of my early record collection, my two Sparks albums have long since disappeared. I have a couple of their later efforts, but they lack the incindiary fun of “Kimono” and “Propaganda”. It was thrilling to discover the albums again on iTunes and I emptied the last $7 in my account to grab a handful of my favorite tracks.

The tracks I picked up and recommend highly:

Talent is an Asset – Pure genius! Russell’s falsetto and Ron’s deceptively simple “baby music”.

Here in Heaven – A suicide pact gone wrong. But we find out that heaven is very clean.

BC – The story of Aaron, Betty and Charlie, such as it is.

Amateur Hour – Another song that would sound silly if you weren’t rocking out so hard!

Thanks But No Thanks – This is simply a masterpiece. Only Sparks could write a song about a child who wants to take candy from strangers!

I think I can safely say Sparks remains a band without compare.

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