Sparks | Artist

Sparks | Artist

Tags: Era_1970s, Gender_Male, Genre_Art_Rock, Origin_USA, Type_Artist

Sparks is an American Art Rock band formed 1972 in Los Angeles by brothers Ron and Russell Mael. The original lineup comprised Ron Mael (keyboards), Russell Mael (vocals), Earle Mankey (guitar), Surly Ralph Oswald (bass) and John Mendelsohn (drums). Originally called Halfnelson, they changed names after the release of their Todd Rundgren produced debut album Halfnelson, which was renamed Sparks upon its second issue. The Mael brothers both attended UCLA, Ron studying cinema and graphic art and Russell, theatre arts and filmmaking. Detesting the folk music scene, they instead developed Anglophile tastes for bands such as the Who, Pink Floyd, the Kinks and The Move. In fact their early albums were much more popular in the UK than in their native USA. They are noted for Russell's distinctive falsetto voice, Ron's keyboard playing style with minimal bodily movement and an idiosyncratic, theatrical stage presence, typified in the contrast between Russell's animated, hyperactive frontman antics and Ron's deadpan scowling. Sparks' sound has always been very much their own, spanning rock, pop, disco and orchestral, always with their highly stylised arrangements and quirky lyrics. Their music is often accompanied by sophisticated and incisive lyrics, often about women or Shakespearean literature references. They collaborated with Giorgio Moroder to record the excellent No.1 in Heaven, and with Franz Ferdinand on the not altogether successful FFS project. Outstanding albums include Halfnelson (1971), A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing (1973), Kimono My House (1974), Propaganda (1974), Indiscreet (1975), No.1 in Heaven (1979), Angst in my Pants (1982), Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins (1994), Lil' Beethoven (2002), Hello Young Lovers (2006), and 2023's The Girl is Crying in Her Latte. The excellent 2013 archival compilation New Music for Amnesiacs: The Ultimate Collection, is also highly recommended. Sparks has influenced many later genres including synth pop, new wave, post-punk and alternative music, influencing a wide range of other artists including New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Björk. As a matter of interest, both Ron and Russell are seen in the audience during the Ronettes' performance in the concert film 'The Big T.N.T. Show' filmed in 1966.

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Featured Albums: Sparks

Related Artists: Halfnelson, Jet, Franz Ferdinand, Earle Mankey, Giorgio Moroder

Video Clips: Wonder Girl, No1 Song in Heaven, When I'm With You

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