Quiz Á¢€” complete the following statement:

SparksÁ¢€â„¢ heyday was/is Á¢€”

(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 Á¢€Å“Cool PlacesÁ¢€, their duet with the Go-GoÁ¢€â„¢s Jane Weidlin,
(C.) In the mid-90s, when they had dance club hits with Á¢€Å“When Do I Get to Sing Á¢€ËœMy WayÁ¢€â„¢Á¢€, Á¢€Å“When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)Á¢€ and Á¢€Å“The Number One Song in HeavenÁ¢€ (featuring Jimmy Sommerville) or,
(D.) Currently happening with the release of their critically acclaimed Á¢€Å“LilÁ¢€â„¢ BeethovenÁ¢€ in 2002 and Á¢€Å“Hello Young LoversÁ¢€ just last month.

If youÁ¢€â„¢re from the UK, you probably answered (A). If youÁ¢€â„¢re from the U.S., you probably answered (B). If youÁ¢€â„¢re a fading club kid, you may have answered (C), and if youÁ¢€â„¢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 wasnÁ¢€â„¢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 Á¢€Å“I PredictÁ¢€, a single inspired by the National Enquirer:

YouÁ¢€â„¢re gonna take
A walk in the rain
And youÁ¢€â„¢re gonna get wet
I predict

YouÁ¢€â„¢re gonna eat
A bowl of chow mein
And be hungry real soon
I predict

Sparks were flying high after having adopted another band called Bates Motel to back them up. Á¢€Å“Angst In My PantsÁ¢€ was the second album to come from this lineup, and lead-off single Á¢€Å“I PredictÁ¢€ was a fairly big hit along the west coast. It even nabbed the boys a spot on Á¢€Å“American BandstandÁ¢€. This was probably SparksÁ¢€â„¢ most successful period in the States Á¢€” they finally charted on the Hot 100, they were featured on the soundtrack to the movie Á¢€Å“Valley GirlÁ¢€, they were one of the most played artists on the nationÁ¢€â„¢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. IÁ¢€â„¢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 donÁ¢€â„¢t get it and thatÁ¢€â„¢s okay. While the early 80s were probably SparksÁ¢€â„¢ most accessible period for America, it seems most of the nation just wasnÁ¢€â„¢t quite ready for songs about instant weight loss, living female cigarettes who die a fiery, ashy death, and the dangers of being Á¢€Å“Eaten By The Monster Of LoveÁ¢€.

Á¢€Å“Angst In My PantsÁ¢€ laid the groundwork for Sparks in the States that they built upon a year later withÁ¢€¦well, thatÁ¢€â„¢s another Lost in the 80s post. Trust me, Sparks gave me a lot to work with here Á¢€” as one of my all-time favorite bands from the 80s(…and 70s, and 90s, and 00s…), youÁ¢€â„¢ll be reading about them here again soon.

Á¢€I PredictÁ¢€ peaked at #60 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart.
Á¢€Å“Angst In My PantsÁ¢€ peaked at #173 on the Pop Albums Chart.

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About the Author

John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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