'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):
(no more) mr. nice guy
fa la fa lee
(as usual, anyone that wants the whole lp, gimme a buzz ...)