Sparks Ron Mael & Russell Mael in UK

Sparks : Russell Mael & Ron Mael in England
Sparks "Kimono My House" - Russell Mael & Ron Mael
The Maels went to England and Sparks relocated to the UK
The Maels formed their first group, Halfnelson, in 1969. Los Angeles was the place. The band featured songwriter Ron Mael on keyboards and Russell Mael as lead vocalist. The band was rounded out by another pair of brothers, guitarist Earle Mankey and bassist Jim Mankey, and drummer Harley Feinstein. - read more...

Famous producer Todd Rundgren helped land the group a contract with Bearsville Records and produced their self-titled 1971 debut Sparks recorded a second Lp "A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothings" one year later. But both albums sold poorly. The record label thought Sparks had more of a British sensibility and maybe something could be generated with the band in the UK. and they sent the band in England for a month.

So Sparks attempted their first European Tour in 1972. The band played in Great Britain, in Holland and did a TV show at Zurich, Switzerland. Sparks took England as the temporary headquarters. Initially they were holed up in Beckenham, Kent but they got tired of catching the 10.49 from Victoria, so they moved to South Kensington, to the basement flat attached to legendary theater critic Kenneth Tynan’s house. Sparks performed "Wonder Girl" on Britain's "Old Grey Whistle Test" TV show. Bob Harris host described them as a cross between Frank Zappa and the Monkees and the worst thing he'd ever seen. The band returned the compliment and Bob Harris turned to the camera whispering scathingly "mock rock"... Then during a short trip in Switzerland Sparks performed "Wonder Girl" at "Hits A GoGo", a german musical show co-produced by Swiss TV broadcast. In November the boys did a gig in Scheveningen, Netherlands.

Sparks Live in London - England - Europe Tour 1972
Sparks in London - First EuropeanTour
The Maels, the Mankeys & Harley Feinstein

English audience were marvelled at Ron Mael's appearance and Russell Mael's look and the British press was comparing Sparks music with that of T-Rex. The band was quite surprised about that comparison. Impressively, Sparks earnt themselves a month’s residency at the Marquee Club straight away, playing there once a week and supported in one occasion by the unknow Queen... and Freddy Mercury took notes.
In America Sparks played to six people at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, in London the Marquee Club was packed and there were queues around the block.
After three months in Europe, Sparks returned to play at home, in Los Angeles, California. But fresh from the promising European tour, the Maels, the Mankeys and Harley Feinstein were impatient in Los Angeles 'cause they were vegetating. - read more about Sparks first European tour...

During the European tour, Ron and Russell Mael had the offer for the two of them to come back to England by Island Records. British label liked the songwriting and the singing and the general image of Sparks. But they weren’t sure if they wanted to undertake bringing an American band over here to reside permanently. Island decided to just bring over the nucleus of the songwriting and singing and they told the Maels if they were willing to relocate and get a band together over here, they would sign them.
So, at the end of 1972, figuring that their music and lyrics would be more appreciated overseas than in the United States, Ron Mael & Russell Mael phoned the guy who had looked after them while they toured Europe and the original band sort of disintegrated. Ron and Russell's mum Miriam and their stepfather Oscar Rogenson had already moved to London, so the Mael brothers went to England to exploit the European sensibility of their music and Sparks relocated to the UK.

Muff Winwood produced Sparks "Kimono My House" Lp
Muff Winwood
A&R man - Producer

In England the Maels met John Hewlett. John Hewlett, founder of that legendary group John's Children, which at one time included Marc Bolan, was the man who had helped Sparks on the 1972 European tour and told Muff Winwood of Island Records about the brothers. John Hewlett became their manager and introduced them to him.
Muff Winwood, elder brother of Stevie, had been the bass player of the Spencer Davis Group. After the band split, in 1967, he then accepted a job as an A&R man for Chris Blackwell's newly formed Island Records. Muff Winwood had a penchant for bringing his boss offbeat, commercially questionable groups like Sparks and he convinced Chris Blackwell to sign the Maels.
Today, it seems extraordinary that a record company would make the commitment that Island made at the time based solely on liking the band. It was a time when there were people at record companies who signed what they loved musically without analyzing former sales or wanting to change what bands were doing. Those were the days...


more than 30 pages in french
back to the main page
SPARKS 1969-1973
the early years of the Maels

Most of informations regarding Ron Mael & Russell Mael on this webpage were obtained from official sources. Some additional infos from Martin Gordon, Carl Van Breukelen and Petteri Aro. Many thanks to Christophe "Outer Space" Horlin. Visit his website at

©2006 by XAVIER LORENTE-DARRACQ / GRAPHIK DESIGNS - FRANCE duplication strictly prohibited