Quiz â€“ complete the following statement:
Sparksâ€™ heyday was/is â€“
(A.) In the mid-70s when, as part of the glam movement that included Bowie and T. Rex, they scored several Top 20 hits,
(B.) In the early 80s, when they broke thru into the American market with massive MTV airplay for â€œCool Placesâ€, their duet with the Go-Goâ€™s Jane Weidlin,
(C.) In the mid-90s, when they had dance club hits with â€œWhen Do I Get to Sing â€˜My Wayâ€™â€, â€œWhen I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)â€ and â€œThe Number One Song in Heavenâ€ (featuring Jimmy Sommerville) or,
(D.) Currently happening with the release of their critically acclaimed â€œLilâ€™ Beethovenâ€ in 2002 and â€œHello Young Loversâ€ just last month.
If youâ€™re from the UK, you probably answered (A). If youâ€™re from the U.S., you probably answered (B). If youâ€™re a fading club kid, you may have answered (C), and if youâ€™re a twenty-something hipster and part-time Pitchfork writer, you surely answered (D). After 35 years and 20 albums touching upon just about every era and sub-genre of pop music, any answer is really acceptable.
Ron and Russell Mael recorded the first Sparks album back in 1971to a largely indifferent public. It wasnâ€™t until three years and two albums later that the UK got into the witty wordplay and unconventional song structures (and subjects) to make Sparks unlikely teen idols. It took America a few more years to catch on, but by 1982, Sparks finally broke into the Hot 100 with â€œI Predictâ€, a single inspired by the National Enquirer:
Youâ€™re gonna take
A walk in the rain
And youâ€™re gonna get wet
Youâ€™re gonna eat
A bowl of chow mein
And be hungry real soon
Sparks were flying high after having adopted another band called Bates Motel to back them up. â€œAngst In My Pantsâ€ was the second album to come from this lineup, and lead-off single â€œI Predictâ€ was a fairly big hit along the west coast. It even nabbed the boys a spot on â€œAmerican Bandstandâ€. This was probably Sparksâ€™ most successful period in the States â€“ they finally charted on the Hot 100, they were featured on the soundtrack to the movie â€œValley Girlâ€, they were one of the most played artists on the nationâ€™s most influential new wave radio station, KROQ, and here they were trading quips with Dick Clark. Make sure you watch the interview between songs to see Ron leave eternal teenager Dick Clark in hysterics:
I firmly believe you must have a specific type of brain wiring to be a Sparks fan. Iâ€™ve played Sparks songs for friends of mine that have nearly similar tastes in music and have been rewarded with blank stares. Some people just donâ€™t get it and thatâ€™s okay. While the early 80s were probably Sparksâ€™ most accessible period for America, it seems most of the nation just wasnâ€™t quite ready for songs about instant weight loss, living female cigarettes who die a fiery, ashy death, and the dangers of being â€œEaten By The Monster Of Loveâ€.
â€œAngst In My Pantsâ€ laid the groundwork for Sparks in the States that they built upon a year later withâ€¦well, thatâ€™s another Lost in the 80s post. Trust me, Sparks gave me a lot to work with here â€“ as one of my all-time favorite bands from the 80s(…and 70s, and 90s, and 00s…), youâ€™ll be reading about them here again soon.
â€I Predictâ€ peaked at #60 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart.
â€œAngst In My Pantsâ€ peaked at #173 on the Pop Albums Chart.
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