In the history of pop music, there has probably never been a group that has gotten the short end of the popularity stick more than Sparks. What has to be classified as one of the most original and outrageous bands of all time, this group, founded by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, never really got the attention that it deserved, except from their loyal fans. This top ten is more of a tribute to the band itself than to their individual accomplishments. But if you’re looking for a top ten list, here is mine.
Number 10. Something For The Girl With Everything. This song comes from what is arguably their best album ever, Propaganda. Just five seconds listen to this manic piece of genius will tell you all you need to know about Sparks’ early sound. Russell Mael’s high falsettos and Ron Mael’s unique keyboard playing are in full display here. If you wanted a time capsule recording to capture what Sparks was all about, this song will do it.
Number 9. Marry Me. This is an obscure Sparks tune that didn’t appear on any of their albums. It was a single release that must have come off the cutting room floor. But make no mistake about it. This song is truly one of their classic tunes and hopefully one day they’ll place this on some compilation album.
Number 8. Miss The Start Miss The End. This song comes off of one of their later albums before their sound changed to a more dance oriented mix. The album was Indiscreet. The song was the last tune on the album and deservedly so. The lyrics, one of Sparks’ strong points are as crazy as ever. And the melody, as almost all their melodies, is as infectious as can be.
Number 7. T*ts. Also off of Indiscreet, this song is just pure laugh out loud funny. The lyrics were very risque for the time. The music was as clever and as catchy as the words that went with it. No, this wasn’t a single nor was it ever played on commercial radio. No surprise here.
Number 6. Slowboat. This is one of their early songs from 1971. The sound is slightly different and the manic pace of their later tunes from the mid 70s isn’t quite there yet. Sparks was still feeling their oats with this one and yet it is still one of their best songs musically. The talent was their even then.
Number 5. This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us. This incredible tune is from their 1974 album Kimono My House. It is probably as close to a commercial success as they ever came. It was a moderate hit in the UK but didn’t make a dent in the US charts. You have got to see this video. This song is without a doubt vintage Sparks.
Number 4. Falling In Love With Myself Again. This song is also from their 1974 album Kimono. There has never been a more tongue in cheek and musically infectious tune as “Falling”. One listen to this and you are instantly swept up in the world of Sparks. The only reason this isn’t number 1 is because of the three songs above it and the incredible album that came after it.
Number 3. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to one album over and over, Propaganda would be the one. The number 3 song Achoo, comes from this album. This was their first US single in the summer of 1975, though the album came out a year earlier. It never made it as a hit but this song is all Sparks, all the time. Achoo. One size fits everyone. It doesn’t get anymore insane than this.
Number 2. Bon Voyage. Also from Propaganda, this song really shows the true genius of Ron Mael as a composer. The string arrangements on this are pure inspiration. The song is one of the more unusual of the Sparks tunes and yet fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. This one just had to close the record, which it did, at least in the US release.
Number 1. And finally, also from Propaganda, is probably the most infectious tune that has ever been written. I am of course speaking about the classic concoction, Reinforcements. This is one of those songs that once you hear it, you can’t stop singing it. It is just that good.
Sparks was a true treasure. They were so far ahead of their time and the springboard for so many copycat groups who did achieve some success. I just hope they remember that Sparks was the group that opened the doors for them.
And for that, we will be eternally grateful.