Sparks In Holland - Aloha Magazine Review 1972


After the recordings for "Top Pop" are finished, (featuring the "marvellous" Penny as the Wonder Girl), the suits go back into the suitcases and I use the opportunity to talk a bit with manager Larry Dupont. From him I learn that they all have a university degree from UCLA. Ron Mael has a Bachelor degree for graphics (he has amongst others, designed the inner sleeve for Todd Rundgren's second album), Earle & Jim Mankey have an engineering degree while Russell Mael studied theatre and arts. Larry Dupont himself also studied graphics but all of them gave up their studies to concentrate on music and commercials only. Larry Dupont is also a photographer (he did the cover of the new album). He worries about the gig that they will be doing that night in Scheveningen, as they don't really feel like another non-concert concert.

I feel it my duty to warn him, as Tiffany's is not exactly considered a giant concert hall. I ask whether the band is living under a certain tension now that their single, Wonder Girl has a possibility to become big. He tells me that it's not really an issue as they are all far too busy to focus on things like that. Moreover, the song has already reached the first place in local charts at weird places like Houston, Alabama and Idaho. They all find this quite peculiar but they are looking forward to playing in these "weird places".
In New York, they played for the first time in front of an audience who actually knew what band was going to perform (at Max's Kansas City) and who were very enthusiastic. There had even been a number of fans waiting outside !

In Scheveningen, a slight disappointment awaits Sparks. The club is extremely small, as is the stage of a meter and a half, which is right beside the dance floor. The entire space is about 25 square metres and it is virtually impossible to get a decent sound and perform a stage act. They were told that the venue was big enough to hold 800 people and for that reason, quite a large PA system was rented. Unnecessary and only partly useable in this small and cold room, where there is space for a mere 400 people, at the most.

Again there wouldn't be a nice gig, again they were mislead. The PA is put in place, as good as they possibly can and they are informed that the support act has cancelled so that they have to play an hour and half twice. Ron Mael suggests to play the same setlist twice, with a difference in the sequel when they play the second part.
After a last sound check, they get into their coats and decide to find a restaurant. At Bali, (an Indonesian restaurant) the guy at the front claims that the restaurant is full. He suggests us to try the restaurant at the other side of the road, Cosy Corner. A promising name, so we hasten ourselves into that direction. After we have found the entrance we go inside and bump into a somewhat confused waiter who starts to explain that the kitchen is closed at 9:30, (it was 8:45) and that we'd better hurry if we'd want to eat anything.

He suggested us to all choose the same dish, so that everything would be simpler and faster. Our request to place two tables together almost results into the man's heart attack and he firmly refuses. While we are translating the menu, he clearly gets impatient and keeps repeating that the kitchen will be closed any minute now. We order as fast as we can and as soon as he has left for the kitchen, we shift the two table against each other. Apparently, that was the straw that broke the camel's back as the poor man is now utterly disturbed.He keeps saying that this is impossible and that this restaurant is not used to this sort of behaviour. "But there's nobody else in the restaurant", I protest, "I do not understand your problem. Isn't this place called Cosy Corner?"
"That's for us to decide", he replies, "I would prefer if you all would just go. The kitchen will be closed soon anyway." Since we do not feel like looking for another restaurant, we put the table back at its place. This is easier said th h han done as the table has to be put at the exact same spot meticulously and our brutal behaviour nearly ends in a shock for the poor man. "You should be glad that we're serving you anyway", he claims, "it would be difficult enough for you to get access to a restaurant with all that long hair and the way you all look."
"What are you trying to say?", I ask him quite upset. "There's nobody else in this restaurant and you would refuse us simply because of the way we look?"
"There's no other place where you'd be allowed, believe me."
"So in fact, we should consider ourselves lucky to be served by you, is that it?"

I mumble something about cosy and long hair and feel embarrassed for the others. How is this possible. The other quickly notice what it's all about and one after another make some sort of remark, starting by Ron, who had put his coat on a chair next to him. "Oh, I apologise", he says, "I noticed the wardrobe was already closed", followed by "You could do with a haircut yourself."

On my remark that I will mention this incident in the music paper, Larry Dupont suggests: "You should write that you've found this nice little restaurant in Scheveningen for hippies, then they really will have a ball."
Since the food is excellent, the good mood returns soon enough and in a very friendly manner, we say goodbye to our host and invite him for the concert tonight. This offer he courteously turns down, claiming that he is too old for this sort of events.

The gig is poorly attended, the quality of the band unworthy. But at this point, we have got so close to them that we are all in a very optimistic mood. For me personally, this is even increased by hearing, after many years, their version of Tomorrow's White Bicycle. Noticeable is Russell's phenomenal singing, who seems to have a control over his voice, which has seldom been heard. This particularly applies for his modulations, of which he makes ample use, especially during the magnificent Girl From Germany, which ends yodelling. Ron Mael's act consists of taking various poses for several seconds each, thereby carefully avoiding any contact with the audience. This however, results in a lot of laughter. Most of the songs are (still) new to me but the band plays with full spirit.
The second set is indeed the same as the first one. Quite daring, although it might be not such a bad idea after all for an unknown band.
After having arrived at the "hotel", Ron Mael asks at what time they are supposed to leave the next day. It turns out to be around 10:00 a.m. so he suggests to leave an hour earlier to be able to drive through Amsterdam.
"Shall we place the tables together?", someone asks the next morning during breakfast. The tables are round-shaped.

In Amsterdam we first pass by the Concert Hall to show them where they should have played and will play next time (This, in fact is true. In December 1974, Sparks second concert in Holland was held at the Concert Hall in Amsterdam - Ruud Swart).
After a short sight-seeing tour, we return to Schiphol airport where the farewell is very warm. We have the feeling as if our best friends have gone and drive home with an empty feeling. At home we are re-acquainted with Sparks through their latest album, "A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing". On this we find quite a number of songs that we had heard the night before. (There will be more about that later). Finally a record again which I know I will play for days in a row. It goes to show, that music to which you feel connected is the most special.

Review by Constant Meijers, first published in Aloha Magazine Netherlands in 1972.
English translation by
Ruud Swart - Photos by Jarti Notohadinegoro.
First published on line by FanMael Sparks website - Published here by courtesy of
Carl Van Breukelen

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