We arrive at the North Sea studios, where Todd Rundgren-fan Alfred Lagarde is rigging his three master. Sparks are allowed to help him with this. Ron Mael is talking with a sonorous voice and twinkling dark eyes, while constantly busy with a cassette recorder : On - off - on - changing tapes, etcetera. I don't see any microphone but cannot hear a sound either. A weird act, I think to myself...
The same questions about Todd, the Kinks and their single "Wonder Girl", during which I notice again that Todd Rundgren is being avoided. After having improvised a cheerful Christmas jingle, the group can go to Hilversum. Manager Larry urges to reserve some time to take a shower and to wash their hairs as the boys always want to look immaculate during a television performance. And rightly so.
The television recording is for "Top Pop" and there might be a chance to go to the radio station Hilversum 3. It all appears a bit strange to me as these boys do not strike me as trying to build up a busy career. They just seem to be genuinely friendly to one and other, constantly seeing things in perspective and analysing pros and contras of all that is happening to them.
Ron Mael, whose moustache and twinkling eyes remind me of Chaplin - some say Hitler but according to Ron Hitler only influenced him on his piano techniques - does not say much, sees everything and replies with cryptic remarks. Like to Felix Meurders' question, what the title of the song "No More Mr. Nice Guys" means... "Look, this title wants to express the fact that there are not that many nice guys around nowadays, like you for instance"... Felix Meurders looks at him confused but then screams the song's title into the microphone. Felix Meurders as well starts talking about Todd Rundgren, but without any result.
Meanwhile Ron Mael is still playing with his cassette recorder and now I notice that it does have a built-in microphone. He has actually been recording everything that has been said today ! Then we return, in the pouring rain to the television studios where the others have used their time to change into neat suits, which is part of the dandy-look. A colourful wide tie finishes the job.
On the way back to the studio I tell Ron Mael that I do not find their image to be in line with their music, especially when it concerns their lyrics. Those lyrics have quite unusual subjects and are not easy to understand instantly. Ron confirms this, they do have a problem to determine for what kind of audience they are making music. Their experience in Switzerland has made him think again. Moreover, the British audience are comparing their music with that of T. Rex. The band was quite surprised about that comparison.
Constant Meijers : How do you write your songs ?
Ron Mael : I first make the music and after that the lyrics. For the lyrics I don't have any specific subject, except for the fact that they shouldn't be common.
Constant Meijers : Why was your new album (A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing) not produced by Todd Rundgren ?
Ron Mael : Well, actually the first album was also only partly done by him. Todd Rundgren is extremely nice, but if you had to work with him, you wouldn't have much space for your own ideas. We did not feel his way of producing was suitable for our music. However, he could not be convinced otherwise. We started to behave a bit nasty and aggressive towards him and finally he didn't turn up anymore. Thaddeus James Lowe, the engineer finished the job and he's also produced our latest album.
Well, that's quite some news. Todd Rundgren was frozen out. With the deadly sense of understatement and humour of Ron Mael, this doesn't even seem impossible to me. Now I understand why they preferred not to talk about him and got kind of itchy about all those questions from people who were not specifically interested in Sparks, but rather in him.
During the make up session before the television broadcast, I read my Aloha story to them outloud. When I mention the fact that it's unbelievable, that a band with a name like Halfnelson and such a lovely album cover, has to try again with a much simpler name and approach, there's a lot of affirmative mumbling.
Ron Mael: I wish Mr.Grossman had read that phrase. He was against our old image and wanted us to change radically. We could not convince him otherwise, so we just had to do it. After all, he's the big boss.
...So it turns out that Grossman was the ugly guy and not their (and Fanny's) manager, Roy Silver, as is mentioned in the biography from the record company.