Sparks Propaganda story - Part one

Sparks Propaganda British live tour unit
Sparks' first British tour live unit. When they were six...
Ian Hampton, Dinky Diamond, Adrian Fisher, The Maels & Trevor White
In May 1974 Sparks did the BBC's flagship music show "Top Of The Pops". Russell Mael had manic wide-eyed hyperactive movements while his brother keyboardist Ron frightened the nation's children.
Sparks' TV performances gained notoriety in no small part to Ron Mael's appearance : his toothbrush moustache, his tie, and disciplined haircut reportedly prompted John Lennon to exclaim "Christ, they've got Hitler on the telly !"...

Russell & Ron Mael were shocked at the show's power, their first TOTP performance had a tremendous effect. The next day people stopped them in the street and Radio One DJs were talking about that creepy guy with the moustache.

Ron Mael : "Television had just become important and the close-up had begun to matter. On TV you could make in impact with a small, subtle action that would have had no effect in concert, in a big hall. You could strike people in a big way - a raised eye-borwn, a changed expression, a moustache. I'd done them live before, but nobody had nocited ! Now they began to have a massive effect." (The Word #36, February 2006)
And Sparks' keyboardist told the Daily Express that he was in fact not related to Charlie Chaplin. Of over 3.000 articles written about the group during 1974-1975, only two failed to mention Adolf Hitler...
The "Kimono My House" Lp peaked in the UK at #4 and the single "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" had quickly jumped to #2 on the British pop charts. Sparks was voted brightest hopes for 1975 in a Melody Maker readers' poll. Ron Mael : "It was us and Roxy Music at the time, with people wondering what we'd do next, who'd look like what."

Sparks Propaganda First British Tour
Ron Mael, Russell Mael and Trevor White - 1974
Russ Mael realised the importance of heavy duty thread...

Now Sparks had to tour to promote the "Kimono My House" album. As previous bass player Martin Gordon quarreled frequently with Ron Mael & Russell Mael, he was fired after "Top Of The Pops" had been broad-cast and Sparks manager John Hewlett drafted Jook's bassist Ian Hampton to replace Martin Gordon in the band.
Sparks also had hired keyboardist Peter Oxendale to be able to reproduce correctly things from the record live on stage but the Maels finally decided to add the line-up a second guitar player instead of a keyboardist and "Sir" Peter Oxendale was replaced in the live tour unit by Jook's guitarist Trevor White.
In spring 1974 Sparks’ new line-up was as followed : Russell Mael on vocals, Ron Mael on keyboards, Dinky "Norman" Diamond on drums, Ian Hampton on bass and guitarists Adrian Fisher & Trevor White.

The "Kimono My House" British tour commenced on the 20th of June at Winter Gardens, Cleethorpes. This concert was followed by more than fifteen gigs until the 7th of July 1974. The hit single "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" gave them their first taste of fame and large crowds of screaming fans. Much to the group's delight, they discovered Oxford literaly critics mingling among tear strained girls, smack dab in their audiences. Singer Russell Mael also realised the importance of heavy duty thread, as trousers were ripped from his frail frame on more than one occasion. Russell Mael : "What we were doing - despite being I think a bit musically challenging, though totally accessible too - was being received as though it was the Bay City Rollers, as far as crowd reaction goes. (...) It was a bizarre phenomenon for us to be performing songs in concert with lyrics such as those in "Talent Is An Asset" about a young Albert Einstein growing up, and in turn having fans throwing themselves at us on stage. They'd run on stage and try to grab you, although if they got hold of you, they weren't quite sure what to do next. We had the screaming girls and the other fans who thought there was a deeper side to what we were doing... They didn’t like the screaming girls." Few months later during a Parisian gig one strapping French girl opted for a bearhug so intense that she cracked Russell's ribs...

Sparks "Propaganda" Cd album
Sparks - "Propaganda"

A second single from "Kimono My House", "Amateur Hour" b/w "Lost And Found" proved to be a worthy successor to "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us". The song was successful with British and European public and rose to #7 into the charts.
And that brings up to "Propaganda", Sparks' fourth album, and definitive work, combining the eccentrics and variety of the Bearsville records, and the energy of "Kimono My House". The "Propaganda" Lp which retained the same producer, Muff Winwood, was recorded during August and September of 1974 and it charted instantly. The record was packaged under one of the strangest covers to come along in a long while and was the first Sparks' album cover starring Ron Mael & Russell Mael on the front - read more...


Sparks became a British band
go back to the main page
SPARKS 1969-1973
the early years of the Maels

Most informations regarding Sparks Propaganda album
were obtained from Madeline Bocaro :

Additional infos from Christophe "Outerspace" Horlin, Carl Van Breukelen and Ian Hampton

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