m- Sparks plug
They provided the blueprint fora generation of synth-poppers. Now Sparks are back and find themselves in a town that‘s‘just about big enough for them and Damien Love.
Alter the tnterview‘s over. i follow Ron
and Russell Mael through the labyrinthine corridors of the BBC on their way to inject some glamour into
Nicky (‘ampbell's new TV show (other ' moments.
guests including Sydney Devine —— oh. how we laughed and the ex-Tennents Lager ‘loveliesfl As we near the studio. ntore and more people begin to
at being an audience for the night. and. from the vantage of a few steps behind the brothers. it‘s clear to see the wake of turned heads and open tnouths Ron Mael leaves among them to tnark his passing. You‘ll remember Ron. Even if you‘re not a music fan. chances are you‘ll remember Ron Mael. standing
motionless at the centre of the swirling. : . ' were genuinely scared. but wanted to
gloriously histrionic shriek of ‘This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us‘. staring faintly qui/zical and vaguely sinister out frotn the big- happy -hair party of the early 70s. resplendent in shirt. tie. slicked-back hair and toothbrush moustache. When Sparks performed ‘This Town . ‘ on lap ()lqllll' l’ups in W74. the show still had the power of hitting an entire nation at once. and the intense. alien paranoia of their music. coupled with the way they looked. fused that moment onto the consciousness of a generation. Sparks on 7‘()7‘l’ lined tip alongside Bowie. Bolan and Roxy in the small canon of seminal TV music
Sparks: the schmooze brothers
‘We‘ve been hearing reactions from other musicians. that it was a deﬁning
Q kind of moment.‘ says an unreasonably appear. lining the walls. waiting to play )")U”g:l00k"‘g Russell MEL [be operatic lungs and curly hair of the duo.
‘but we found out from the more general public that it was a really bold
thing. apparently. We‘ve talked to a few ‘
people in Britain who said that when we‘d come on. they‘d hop behind their sofa and kinda peer over the top. because they were afraid of him (Ron ). We‘ve heard that tnore than once; they
have a little peep anyway.‘ Peeping at Ron today. he seems the
? living embodiment of one of David 3 Byrne's Stop Making Sense rules -— ie
‘l’eople will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit.‘ Okay. so the toothbrush has kinda petered into a sharp. spivvy pencil line. but the crisp white shirt. the pinstripe trousers. the immaculate tie -- it‘s all there. intact. leaving the impression that. for twenty years now. he‘s had it pretty easy deciding what to wear of a morning. But he couldn‘t have looked like this constantly. Could he“?
‘l’retty much.‘ Ron replies. ‘I mean
there are occasional days when I'll wear a black turtleneck or something but . . . I don‘t let my hair down a lot. it‘s pretty much the way I am all the titne. That's actually something that‘s more difﬁcult for me in Los Angeles — the way I look there is greeted with scepticism more than in Europe.‘
Now resident in London. Sparks have always claimed a deeper afﬁnity with Europe than their native America. lending them the air of perpetual visitors. never truly at home. ‘When we go back to LA.‘ says Ron. ‘we don‘t feel locked into that thing. l mean. we obviously feel some afﬁnity just because we were born there. but we deﬁnitely feel like outcasts. But you get used to that feeling. and it‘s a good thing to always feel a little on edge — it spurs you on creatively. For better or worse. we never feel too comfortable.‘
()utcasts or not. when Sparks played a one-off London show last year. with hip young guitar—slinger Bernard Butler in tow. they were greeted by a frankly gushing music press like prodigal sons. This seemed also to be the time of some belated dues-paying. Look at the blueprints: heavenly. chattering keyboard cascades conjured up by a grim. silent ﬁgure while this extra— buman voice sails along over the top. Soft Cell? Yazoo'.’ Associates? Erasure? Pet Shop Boys'.’ Nuff said.
This isn't a comeback for Sparks. rather our belated discovery of them. As last year‘s album. Gratuitous Sax
3 Aml .S'e/tse/ess Violins. demonstrates. the otherness. wit and glamour are still ‘ there. married to contemporary dance
rhythms. creating something else all together.
‘For us.‘ says Russell. ‘when they talk about Alternative Music. and it's the guitar stuff. . . 1 mean. it‘s alternative to Whitney Houston. but it seems like you've heard guys with guitars for 30 years - it's just the faces have changed.‘ Some faces. meanwhile. never seem to change. never seem to ﬁt . . .
‘ .S'parksplay the US/H’I‘ Hall. lirliII/mtjelr
()Il Thurs 23.
ism- Peak time
‘We always try to make rock ’n’ roll records and end up making pop records without really meaning to. Obviously, I write fairly poppy, “nice” melodies, and that’s just what I do. So this time, as usual, we set out to make a rock ’n’ roll record and, to our surprise, it didn’t end up sounding like Pretab Sprout or someone. It sounds more or less the way we want it to.’
It’s that time of the morning when a largely unawake Justin Currie discusses the merits of Del Amitri’s new album, ‘Twisted’. ln generous measures both riltsome and reﬂective, it’s a moody beast, launched (tor reasons best known to its creators) with a gig atop Ben Nevis in mid- winier.
‘I didn’t chose the title “Twisted” because it suggested being tucked up,’ he continues. ‘I chose it because I thought the character that was singing a lot at these songs didn’t sound a particularly nice guy, and l
i r \ ‘ .i‘ ‘ I‘
c ' ’. ’ "
thought it you met this guy that sang some of these songs you’d probably think he was a bit . . . twisted. I was aware that the title might sound a bit like a pseudo-Sonic Youth album title, but that isn’t really where it’s coming from, it’s just more to do with personality than music, it that makes sense.’
So is this twisted narrator some kind of composite personality ot Currie and co-writer Iain llarvle’s?
Twisted whisker: Del Amitri ‘Well, probably, yeah. lyrically, there’s a lot less directly personal songs on the record, so whenl listen to the lyrics I can imagine these characters and I think a lot of the characters are a bit . . . well, they all sound hugely sexist to me, and they all sound a bit nasty. So yeah, maybe there’s an element of that to me and lain.’ (Alastair Mabbott) Del Amitrl play The Barrowland, Glasgow on Sun 19 and Mon 20.
COUNTRY SKIN DEEP
. 1-} g ' .573. i
Charley Pride: bucking the
Back in l965. Chet Atkins signed a young country singer to RCA in Nashville. His ﬁrst couple of singles were sent out to radio stations with no accompanying photographs. and he quickly won a following among the core white southern country audience. Almost nobody knew that the new singer was black. and by the time they found out. they were already booked on one of the best voices in mainstream country music.
It‘s no surprise that they were fooled — despite being raised in a sharecropper‘s farm in Mississippi. the cradle of blues and southern soul. Charley Pride never sounds black. He heard country music on the radio. and decided that this was what he wanted to sing. come hell or high water. and a small matter like the colour of his skin wasn‘t going to stop him.
'l‘ve always said that I'm an American singing American music. I‘m not a black man singing a white man's music. lt’s all a matter of pigmentation. and l‘ve tried all along to eliminate the skin hang- ups in our society. I heard this music that really appealed to me when l was a kid. and that music just happened to be country, but even now I don‘t like to be pigeon- holed — I‘ve always tried to broaden my musical horizons. and I've had hits in the pop charts as well as the country.‘
Pride was not the ﬁrst black musican in country music — harmonica player Deford Bailey was a staple of the Grand Ole Opry from 1926 to I94! — but he remains the only one to have made it big in the redneck world of Nashville country. He sold more albums for RCA than anyone except Elvis. but parted company with the label in 1986. when the ‘moguls from the East Coast started to pile into Nashville looking for young singers to cash in on the new audience. and forgot it was as older guys who had started to make this music so big.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
Charley Pride plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Tue 14 and Usher Hall Thurs [6,
The List 10-23 Mar I995 35