Disco Sunday #6: Sparks’ Moroder Phase

29 08 2007

Sparks

My man Disaster from Missingtoof knows *everything* about our disco planet, so I was shocked, SHOCKED to learn that he hadn’t heard of Ron and Russel Mael, aka Sparks. So this post is for him!

The bros. Mael formed their first band, Halfnelson, in 1968, and were discovered by Todd Rundgren. Their first record, produced by Rundgren, did poorly, but after renaming themselves Sparks (as a nod to the Marx brothers), tweaking their sound and touring the UK they began to blow up in the burgeoning glam scene. After placing an ad in Melody Maker which read: “Wanted bass player for Sparks. Must be beard free and exciting”, the band released the album “Kimono My House.” The album spawned their first big UK single, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”, and has been covered by bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees as well as The Darkness. It’s not terribly disco but it’s definitely bizarro, and worth a listen to help get yer musical edumacation straight:

MP3: Sparks – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”

America continued to ignore Sparks, while their popularity in the UK continued to grow. This was in no small part based on their appearance on shows like “Old Grey Whistle Test”, in which viewers learned that the band’s bizarro pop melodies were being made by this guy:

RonSparks

Ron plays it totally stone faced, cold and creepy, in sharp contrast to the bouncy hooks and Freddy-esque falsettos of vocalist Russell. And then there’s the Chaplin…ok, fine: Hitler mustache (I’m pretty sure they’re Jewish, so it’s, you know, OK). The overall effect is fantastically off-putting, in that “are they kidding? Of course they are! I think!” kinda way. And it makes for pretty compelling TV, as you can see in this clip from Top of The Pops for their song “The Number One Song in Heaven” from their 1979 album of that name produced by Giorgio Moroder:

MP3: Sparks – “The Number One Song in Heaven”

Here’s a second song from that same Moroder-produced album, which is my favorite and certainly the most relevant to Disco Sunday. The track is called “Beat the Clock”, and is probably their most enduring dancefloor track. I even saw it on a Sasha comp around ’99 (so sue me, I have a Sasha comp!)

MP3: Sparks – “Beat The Clock (Remix)”

Sparks

Sparks finally made a splash in the U.S. in 1983 with a new, uber-synthpoppy sound. Their album “Sparks in Outer Space” featured a hit single, “Cool Places”, that featuring the Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin on vocals. The whole album is infectious, in a simplistic, minimal kinda way, with the as-always-characteristic sardonic lyrics. I love this track for many things, not the least of which is the line “Think of all the places/we’ve had our little fun/In the church at Christmas/Busted by that nun.”

MP3: Sparks – “All You Ever Think About is Sex”

xx,
Baron von Luxxury

MP3: Sparks – “The Number One Song in Heaven”
MP3: Sparks – “Beat The Clock (Remix)”
MP3: Sparks – “All You Ever Think About is Sex”
MP3: Sparks – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”

Buy Sparks on Amazon
Sparks Webby Web
Sparks Fan Site

Sparks

P.S. Rumor has it that Disaster is taking his DJ gear outta the closet and back from R. Kelly for a big gig in SF on Friday…check Missingtoof dot commmm for deets!

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Disco Sunday #5: Summer. Night. City.

12 08 2007

ABBA Summer Night City

Sorry I’ve been absent for a little while but some stuff went down, and it wasn’t exactly the cherry I’d hoped for on top of my 10 weeks in NYC. But you know what my mom says, which is incredibly genius advice? “Life is for the living.” And for me, the pulse of life is in the throbbing heartbeat of disco. From the timeless 16th note whirl and phase of Moroder to the robot rock of Daft Punk; from the sugary yet hedonistic Swedish pop of Abba to the jangly hi-hat imperfection and post-punk revisionism of LCD Soundsystem; from the retro-Chic of Escort to the slow space of all things Troubleman. From 106 to 131 and all the BPMs in between, it’s The Shit That Keeps Me Fiddling While Rome is Burning.

And so, for my transition back to the real world (insofar as “the real world” is blogdom and San Francisco), here is my first ever DJ mix. It’s called Baron von Luxxury’s So Fucking Disco: Summer Night New York City ’07 Mixx, and it’s by me: Baron von Luxxury, which is my fake name.

It was interesting putting this together since making a “DJ mix” is, it turns out, not quite the same as doing a live DJ set. For one thing, you’re not reacting to a crowd in real time, which is half the fun of performing, since I’m never quite sure what I’ll play next. The other major difference is that it’s meant to be listened to in a different context than a dark room filled with sweaty people – presumably with headphones on the subway or in the background on a laptop. Which, I suppose, could both still be dark and sweaty environments.

Anyway, for this first mix I decided to have it be a snapshot of my most recent live set opening for Scissors for Lefty at Union Hall, Brooklyn on July 21. I also added a few original edits and what I am calling “blends” (sorry, I can’t bear to call them mashups). And because it’s my first mix, it’s got a few tracks from my best of 2007 so far, just so I can catch up. To make up for the not-so-newness of those bloghouse faves, I have also included a special treat for you: the worldwide exclusive debut of “Tom Cruise is a Gay Scientologist”, an awesome new and heretofore unblogged track by my latest discovery, NYC’s Black Russians. You heard it at Disco Workout first!

Enjoy, and feel free to pass this little disco valentine along to the people you love.

xx,
– Baron von Luxxury

Baron von Luxxury’s So Fucking Disco: Summer Night New York City ’07 Mixx
1. “Love Theme from Baron von Luxxury” – Baron von Luxxury
2. “So Fucking Disco (BvL Blend)” – Pase Rock
3. “All Through The Night (BvL Blend)” – Escort
4. “Disco Dynamite” – Mr Flash
5. “Intro” – Alan Braxe and Fred Falke
6. “Into the Groove” – Madonna (snippet)
7. “Transexual (BvL Blend)” – Mr. Oizo
8. “Shadows” – Midnight Juggernauts
9. “Ghetto Ways (Baron von Luxxury’s Super Thanks for Asking Remix)” – Scissors for Lefty
10. “We Are Rockstars (BvL Frida Edit)” – Does it Offend You, Yeah?
11. “Theme From S’Express” – S’Express
12. “UFO (Van She Tech Remix)” – Sneaky Sound System
13. “Acceleration (BvL Blend)” – Franz and Shape
14. “Rock and Roll is Evil (Devin Dirt’s Fat Elvis Remix [BvL Blend])” – Luxxury
15. “I Get Around (Midnight Juggernauts Remix)” – Dragonette
16. “All Systems Down” – Knightlife
17. “Black Arabs” – Black Arabs
18. “Rolling Down The Hills” – Glass Candy
19. “Summer Night City” – ABBA
20. “Tom Cruise is a Gay Scientologist” – Black Russians
21. “Love Theme from Baron von Luxxury (reprise)” – Baron von Luxxury

Download Baron von Luxxury’s So Fucking Disco: Summer Night New York City ’07 Mixx here.