THE SPARKS BROTHERS
Sparks is the “Greatest” band you have never heard of!
Director Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim) brings a documentary of Sparks,a band formed by 2 brothers that has put out over 25 albums, had hit songs, been an influence on bands like Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys and the Beatles! Ron and Russell Mael grew up in Santa Monica California in a musical family so it was only natural that they would want to play music. Ron and Russell would form Sparks, their band together with studio backing musicians and brought their unique sound that became a precursor to Electronic music to the US.
Record executives like the “different” sound that Russell and Ron were making but it was Todd Rundgren, the lead singer of the band Utopia, that loved the quirkiness and had them signed them to a contract with Bearsville records. Sparks first album was “Halfnelson” released in 1971 featuring the single “Wonder Girl” that was embraced by critics but the US public just didn’t get it. Following a similar rest with the second album “A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing” featuring the song “A Girl from Germany” and Ron’s signature look that everyone compared to Hitler!
Russell and Ron were not the most successful rock stars, but they were the hardest working brothers in the music business. Ron and Russell would write together every day and were sent over to England to see if they liked the music across the pond. Sparks would put out two albums “Kimono in my House” and “Propaganda” in 1974 and both were top 10 albums in the UK but only Propaganda cracked the billboard top 100 in the US.
Sparks would go from record company to record company as they continued to release albums to little crowd reaction in the US but were huge overseas in Germany and Japan. Russell’s relationship with punk musician Jane Wiedlin of the Go Go’s that came out of Jane’s love for their music and funny videos. Ron and Russell asked Wiedlin to sing on their new single “Cool Places” from the “in Outer Spaces” record. The song was a hit and Outer Space hit 88 on the top 100. Russell and Jane lasted about as long as Outer Space did on the charts.
Edgar Wright uses some Icons in music to tell the story of the Sparks Brother story. Todd Rundgren, Beck, Flea (Bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Weird Al Yankovic, Gorgio Moroder and Nick Rhodes and John Taylor (Duran Duran) all weigh in on how the Sparks Brothers influenced them. Ron Mael made an impression on one of the greatest musicians of all time, Paul McCartney, when he saw the Beatles founder used his likeness in the new video for McCartney’s hit song “Coming Up”.
The Sparks Brothers continue to write and perform to this date and are hoping to release over 100 albums before they are done!
I am Karl and a Flick Fanatic but I also love music and have a broad spectrum of what I listen to. I had heard of Sparks before I saw the film and loved the song “Cool Places” but I had no idea that Sparks had put out 25 albums! As I watched Edgar Wrights tribute to Sparks I found myself loving even more of their music.
If you are fan of music or just like a great Documentary then find out where in your city that “The Sparks Brothers” is playing and go check it out! Then if you are like me you will be hitting up Amazon for the Sparks greatest hits CD!!!
Flickanalysis Grade: 5 Stars
COOL PLACES VIDEO
THE NUMBER ONE SONG IN HEAVEN VIDEO