Friday, August 19, 2005

'i smiled like herbert hoover when they played ...'

during the '70s, we, (a.g., me and whoever else), hung around this record shop on magazine street called 'jim russell's record stop'. jim russell was a very strange guy. he was selling promo copies of all the latest lp's for 2 bucks a shot, (which was like having a sorta napster for vinyl ... it says on the sticker, 'promo - not for sale', dunno how he got away with it but i am glad he did). he always kept his front door bolted shut and only let in familiar faces, (it was not a very good part of town at that time, and he was robbed a few times), but the store was a treasure trove of music. it looked like and smelled like a warehouse of vinyl. yep, quite a funny guy, he would follow us around telling all these tall tales about his part in the shaping of rock and roll and claimed to have started everyone's career in music, from elvis and the beatles to my dad's band, the dukes of dixieland, (we busted him on the last claim, bigtime). the store was quite famous with acts that blew thru new orleans in the 70s, attracting even bruce springsteen, who was said to be quite confused after meeting mr. russell. stuff like that got the store quite a lot of mentions in rags like 'creem', 'crawdaddy' and 'rolling stone' . ol' jim is quite a character.

we would spend whole weekends digging thru the miles and miles of vinyl he had amassed. aquiring lp's was very easy at $2 apiece, i'd grab anything that looked good, had a funny name or had something to do with somebody else. finding such gems as jade warrior, van der graff generator, flash and roxy music, just becoz the cover was so weird, and such was the case with the 'halfnelson' lp. i saw that it was produced by todd rundgren, engineered by james lowe and that was good enuff for me, and the fact that the cover was so cool. i knew nothing about the band other than they looked strange and sounded even stranger, even by '71 standards. less than a year after the album came out the band would change their moniker to 'sparks' and re-release the lp, (with a silly faux-brick cover replacing the witty 'girl in the backseat' photo). the music was so different from anything else that was out in 1971, and it still is. the mock bubble-gum of 'wonder girl', the hint of incest in the'fa la fa lee', (..'she ain't heavy, she's a brother to me ...), the punkish 'mr. nice guy', the lush sound of 'fletcher honorama' and the rocking vaudeville feel on 'big bands'.

'sparks' went on to reach a huge cult status over the years, (mainly in europe), with an ever changing cast of players revolving around the mael brothers, (russell of the quirky, soaring, operatic vocals and ron, who writes some of the most disturbingly funny songs while looking like a robotic nightmare of charlie chaplin). they also have some of the funniest titles ever on pop records, like 'kimono my house', 'thank god it's not christmas', 'angst in my pants', 'falling in love with myself again' and the brit-hit 'this town ain't big enough for the both of us'.
'sparks' have quite a catalouge now, but the halfnelson lp is still the wittiest, diverse and creative record they ever made. and, of course, it is not available on cd, and neither is their 2nd lp, 'a woofer in tweeter's clothing', which is a bit heavier and darker than it's predecessor, but every bit as whimsical and ahead of it's time. i dunno why i love bands in the early years, but for me the 1st 4 albums by sparks were the best.

and now for some of the awesomely great, hard-to-come-by 'halfnelson' lp in mp3 (via yousendit):

wonder girl
(no more) mr. nice guy
big bands
fletcher honorama
fa la fa lee

(as usual, anyone that wants the whole lp, gimme a buzz ...)


Blogger J. Marquis said...

Sparks was a band I was always sort of fascinated by even though I really didn't buy their stuff. I liked their album covers, song titles and the fact they hired Todd as a producer.

11:41 AM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

todd is all over the first lp, but not as much as he usually is while producing. like i said, anything with the mark of todd is in my collection . ...
you need to get these songs!

8:58 PM CDT  
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9:27 PM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

well, shoe enough i did wreck this template all on my oddy-knocky . . . thanks for noticing.
now i know where to look for footwear when i am looking.

9:42 PM CDT  
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9:59 PM CDT  
Blogger Laurie said...

No wonder your posts are so great and you know so much about music. That music store sounds so cool.

3:26 PM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

thanks l.k.,
the store is still there, you should visit next time you have free time in the easy. . . tho i don't believe he is selling promo for 2 bucks a pop anymore, shucks.

3:46 PM CDT  
Blogger griff le riff said...

cheers for the half nelson stuff sleepy,
"this town aint big enough for the both of us" is all over british radio at the mo, as Justin from The Darkness has released a cover under the moniker British Whale.
Russel Mael shows up in the video...

5:14 AM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

great griff, i didn't know about that it on the wife! if not i'll have to dig it up on winmx. i am going to see the viddy now. . . thanks man!

8:05 AM CDT  
Blogger sonicfrog said...

Just watched vid. I'm hooked. Now hook me up with some tasty 1971 music vittles. And dammit, we're trying to find a name for CPG's new album, due in October, and "A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing" would have been great. But I can't use it now that I know it's been used. Never mind that I never thought of the name until I read it here. Anyway, I kinda like "Cautiously Narcissistic", but that’s because I thought of it and It reminds me of me...

11:38 AM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

yeah, the viddy is cool. both of the mael bros hosting a dart match, very clever ... definately not gonna be on mtv anytime soon.
about the title thingy, it helps me to step back and just think of something ordinarily mundane. how about something like 'springtime in fresno', or 'face down at the corner bar', or you could just rip the sparks title 'a woofer ...', hell, the replacements called an album 'let it be'. you'll know it when it's right.

5:47 PM CDT  
Blogger Devilfish said...

Cheers Sleepy old boy this is the first time I have heard these tracks and I love um.

10:55 AM CDT  
Blogger homercat said...

Excellent!!!! I have always loved Sparks, great post eh?

1:46 PM CDT  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

thanks homer, did ya check out the viddy from british whale? it really is hilarious! go see it before its gone!

2:46 PM CDT  

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