Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 24 (August 15, 2021): Sparks

Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 24 (August 15, 2021): Sparks

This Week’s Theme: Sparks

Ms. Faux, Faux Jr., and I recently watched the new Edgar Wright documentary The Sparks Brothers, so the theme for this week’s show has to be Sparks. I will admit that, although I have been an above average Sparks fan for a while now, I mainly listen to three albums – Kimono My House, Number One Song in Heaven, and Angst in My Pants. Granted, I have probably listened to them more than most people, and those are three great albums to pick if you are a casual fan, but the documentary led me to realize that I have made a horrible mistake in my life: I should have been listening to Sparks a lot more all of these years! I am especially disappointed in myself because, and you will know this from Faux Show Number One, I am a huge Tony Visconti fan and he produced their fifth album in 1975.

Because of my negligence, I have a lot of catching up to do, and I bet you do, too. This week’s show includes a selection of songs from throughout the career of brothers Ron and Russell Mael. Sparks are extremely prolific and the only artist I can think of who was as diverse throughout his career was David Bowie, so I did not attempt to make this a career-spanning retrospective. I instead selected some of my favorite songs along with a variety of great songs that showcase their range.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion of the importance and influence of Sparks on popular music over the last 50 years then you should watch the film. I will simply say that they are impressive and I like their music even more now than I did before watching it.

Trailer for the documentary

Welcome to Radio Faux Show number twenty-four.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.


Amazon Music

British Hits

Sparks never had a Top 40 hit in the US, but according to one of my favorite music reference books, Virgin’s Hit UK Singles Vol. 2, they had 11 Top 40 hits in the UK. This is why some fans are surprised when they find out that the band is from California. They really are the most British American band ever.

In addition to their hit single discrepancy between the US and UK, their albums share the same fate. They have never had a Top 40 album in the US, but have had 6 in the UK. Their highest charting album in the US was 1974’s Propaganda which peaked at #63. By comparison, it reached #9 in the UK.

Sparks songs selected for this week’s show

“Amateur Hour”

“Batteries Not Included”

“Cool Places”

“Eaten By The Monster Of Love”

“I Predict”

“Lighten Up, Morrissey”

“Music That You Can Dance To”

“My Baby’s Taking Me Home”

“Never Turn Your Back On Mother Nature”

“So May We Start”

“Sparks Documentary Fanfare”

“The Number One Song In Heaven”

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”

“Tips for Teens”

“Under the Table With Her”

“Wonder Girl”


“So May We Start” is a brand new song written for the new film Annette. After attempting to work in film twice before, the brothers Mael have finally succeeded. This film recently debuted at Cannes 2021 as the opening film on premier night and received a 5 minute standing ovation. Sparks wrote all of the music. Russell also wrote the screenplay.

A special comment about humor in music

If one hangs around music geeks long enough, they are sure to discover a specific conceit that clearly separates them into two groups: those who appreciate humor in music and those who despise it. I am firmly in the former group, and I have been there since my earliest memories of listening to music. I own original 45s of Dickie Goodman songs and “Disco Duck.” I have fond memories of childhood compilation albums with songs like “Gitarzan” by Ray Stevens and “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley. As a teenager I went along for the ride the moment I heard Weird Al’s “Another One Rides the Bus” and I am still on board. Throughout my adult years I have discovered dozens of great artists who aren’t afraid to display a sense of humor, such as Bonzo Dog Band, They Might Be Giants, and Randy Newman, just to name a few. Sparks fall firmly into this category. I have never understood why some people find humor in music repulsive. As the saying goes, “to each his own,” but I secretly wish that everyone could find joy in listening to these artists in the same way I have. In these times especially, we all need as much laughter as we can get.

Artist of the Week: Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a writer. As best I know he does not sing, at least not professionally (I’m sure he’s danced around his kitchen singing Sparks songs at the top of his lungs, but that is his own private business). But he opens the show so, on that technicality, I’m picking him as Artist of the Week. His decades-long career has seen a prolific and varied output, but I want to write about three very specific Gaiman creations.

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman may be best known for his work in the field of comic books and graphic novels, especially his Sandman series, but in 2008 he published an incredible young adult novel called The Graveyard Book. Like most great YA novels, this work can be enjoyed by adults as well. I won’t go into plot, but if you are a reader and haven’t read this book then I think you should do so. You can find it at your public library.

Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book

Fortunately The Milk

In 2013 Gaiman wrote a novella for an even younger audience. Fortunately The Milk is a nonstop laugh-out-loud story that any parent can relate to. If you have children around 10 years old then this is a must have, not only for them to read themselves but to read out loud to them. You will laugh until the milk comes out your nose, if you can keep the carton safe!


Based on one of the main characters in Gaiman’s Sandman series, Lucifer is a Fox television show that got canceled after 3 seasons (heartbreaking to us fans) but then got immediately picked up by Netflix (redemption!). The fifth and final season finished airing this year, and then a sixth season was announced. Hooray! The show combines procedural detective show stuff with an original and intricately detailed storyline that provides plenty of twists compared to most shows of its type. Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar, and he is fantastic. And if you don’t know Tom Ellis then I implore you to watch the British comedy series Miranda, starring Miranda Hart, Ellis, and several other hilarious costars. It is one of the funniest shows of the century so far, and much better than its unwatchable American remake Call Me Kat.

In Memoriam

Dusty Hill: Dusty Hill was the bass player and back up vocalist for ZZ Top. He sings lead on this week’s selection “Hi Fi Mama.” Hill died on July 28, 2021.

La Grange live in 1982

Chuck E. Weiss: Chuck E. Weiss was an LA songwriter and vocalist. He is the subject of Rickie Lee Jones‘ debut #4 hit “Chuck E.’s in Love.” Weiss died on July 20, 2021.

What’s in Chuck E’s bag?

Ron Popeil: Ron Popeil was the founder of Ronco. Anyone who watched tv from the ’50s through the ’90s is familiar with his work. “But wait, there’s more!” He is an easy celebrity to parody and satirize, but Popeil changed how we think about advertising and how we think about our kitchen tools. He died on July 28, 2021. Luckily Weird Al has ensured that no one will ever forget the inventions of “Mr. Popeil.”

Mr. Microphone: Hey good lookin’, we’ll be back to pick you up later
Pocket Fisherman: And what about good old American panfried fish?
GLH Canned Hair: The babes are back!

Happy Birthday (August 15)

Vinny Denunzio: Vinny Denunzio was the percussionist on the Feelies influential 1980 debut album Crazy Rhythms. His signature moment is the percussion on their cover of John Lennon’s “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.”

Floyd Ashton: Floyd Ashton was an original member of The Tams. Their 1962 version of the Joe South composition “Untie Me” was their first R&B hit.

Billy Pinkney: Billy Pinkney was a founding member of Clyde McPhatter’s group The Drifters and “Money Honey” was their first single. Most people are more familiar with later versions of The Drifters who had hits including “Up on the Roof” and “Under the Boardwalk” in the ’60s, but the original Drifters with Pinkney singing bass are foundational in the history of R&B and rock and roll. Pinkney actually sings lead tenor on “Money Honey,” showcasing his vocal range.

Elvis shows why The Drifters are important

Matt Johnson: Matt Johnson is the lead singer of The The and “Infected” is the title track from their 1986 album.

Nesbert “Stix” Hooper: Stix Hooper is a drummer and a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders. The Jazz Crusaders (or Crusaders) were a group featuring several great jazz artists, including pianist Joe Sample.

Shirley Kwan: Shirley Kwan is a Cantopop artist who was most successful in the ’90s.

Sylvie Vartan: Sylvie Vartan is a contemporary of the more well-known French pop star Francoise Hardy, but Vartan had plenty of success as well, especially in France in the ’60s and ’70s.

Hugo Winterhalter: Hugo Winterhalter was a conductor and arranger who began his career in the ’30s working with legends such as Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey. He was most successful in the ’50s and ’60s and worked with many singers of that era. Jimmy Webb’s classic “Macarthur Park” is one of Winterhalter’s most popular songs as a conductor.

Jimmy Webb: Jimmy Webb wrote some of the most well-known songs of the ’60s and ’70s, including “Macarthur Park.”

Now, how long did it take to bake it? And why didn’t you check the weather report?

Happy Birthday Oscar Peterson, a Ms. Faux Artist of the Week

When Ms. Faux saw that I had selected Neil Gaiman, who isn’t even a musician, as artist of the week instead of Oscar Peterson she told me to make amends or else. [This is an unfair characterization. The discussion was, indeed, heated. – Ed.] Oscar Peterson is Ms. Faux’s favorite jazz artist, and one can’t argue with that choice. He is also the greatest Canadian jazz artist. During his 60-year career he accomplished everything one can accomplish in the world of jazz and his influence lives on today and most likely for as long as there are jazz pianists.

Trying to select just one or two Peterson recordings is nearly impossible, so I went with “C Jam Blues” from the most famous Oscar Peterson Trio album, Night Train, and “When Your Lover Has Gone” from a great album with the Trio backing Ben Webster on saxophone.

An entire concert of the trio live with Ben Webster in 1972
The trio live in 1965
Live at Ronnie Scott’s in 1974


Rickie Lee Jones “Chuck E.’s in Love”

The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes For You”

2 for “Two”day

“Weird Al” Yankovic “Mr. Popeil” and “Virus Alert”

Oscar Peterson Trio “When Your Lover Has Gone” and “C Jam Blues”


Sparks “So May We Start” from the 2021 film Annette and “Sparks Documentary Film Fanfare” from The Sparks Brothers soundtrack

Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll

The Tams “Untie Me”: The Tams had some minor hits in the early ’60s and one Top 10 hit in 1964 with “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).” I am not a Tams fan, but they deserve credit for their post-’60s work more than their early recordings. The Tams are one of the main groups of artists responsible for the creation of what is now known as “beach music” and the popularity of the dance “The Shag.”

The Drifters “Money Honey”: This is one of the first rock and roll songs and one of the first bands to play rock and roll.

The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You”: The Flamingos are one of the most influential doo wop groups of the mid-’50s. They are best known for this song, but they put out a string of releases for five years before this hit.

As Seen on TV

The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You”: In 1976, the television show Happy Days was a cultural phenomenon and The Fonz was one of the most recognizable characters in America. One of the first albums I owned was called Fonzie Favorites. It was a compilation of a bunch of classic ’50s songs, including this one by The Flamingos. Looking back at it now, some classics of the early days of rock and roll are included, and as a collection it is pretty good. But it has always been burned into my memory not for the classic hits, but for the ridiculous originals that were included. Even as a child, I could tell that something was off with these “bonus” tracks. I listened to them over and over for years because they are so ridiculous you can’t help but want to listen. Here is a clip from Tom Scharpling’s radio show where he discusses these absurd tracks.

Fonzie, Fonzie, he’s our man, if he can’t do it no one can

Sparks “I Predict”: One of the best K-Tel albums was 1982’s The Beat. It includes ’80s classics such as “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls, “We Got the Beat” by The Go Gos, “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran, and many others. Sitting at track four of side one on the record is “I Predict” by Sparks. This was the first time I ever heard Sparks and I have loved the song ever since. It was years later before I realized who Sparks were, but thank you K-Tel for that early introduction!

“Weird Al” Yankovic “Mr. Popeil”: This song is Weird Al’s tribute to Ronco founder Ron Popeil. “I wanna crazy glue my head to the bottom of a big steel girder. Help me, Mr. Popeil!”

Creation, Duplication, Inspiration, Theft


Sparks “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”: After their second album failed to sell, the Mael brothers broke up their band and moved to England. They then formed a new band and recorded their breakout album Kimono My House. “This Town…” is the song that put them on the UK charts and is still beloved by their fans in the UK and around the world.

Sparks “Number One Song In Heaven”: This is the title track to their 1979 album. Produced by Giorgio Moroder, the album is foundational in the evolution of electronic music.

Sparks “Amateur Hour”: This is the second single from their third album and solidified their hit maker status in the UK.


“Weird Al” Yankovic “Mr. Popeil”: This 1985 track is one of Weird Al’s “style parody” songs and he nails the B-52s sound perfectly.

“Weird Al” Yankovic “Virus Alert”: Another “style parody,” this 2006 song is in the style of Sparks who are a major influence on his work.

Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart”: Joy Division claims that they listened to the Sparks “Number One Song in Heaven” repeatedly while recording their trademark song “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” This discovery of Giorgio Moroder’s sound also strongly influenced the sound of New Order, the follow-up band to Joy Division after Ian Curtis’ death and a highly influential electronic dance band in the ’80s.


Siouxsie and the Banshees “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”: This cover version of the Sparks song is from Siouxsie and the Banshees’ 1987 album of cover songs. Looking back now at the artists selected to cover on the album, including Dylan and the Band, Billy Holiday, The Doors, and Roxy Music, it is telling that the Sparks song was chosen as the opening track.


Scooter “In Rave We Trust – Amateur Hour”: Scooter are a techno band and are one of the most successful acts in German music history. This 2017 song samples the vocals from Sparks “Amateur Hour” almost 50 years after the original version was released.

Let’s Take a Trip Around the World

The Netherlands

Golden Earrings “Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Gi-Dong”: This 1968 song was a # 1 hit in the Netherlands, the first chart topper for one of the most successful acts in Dutch rock history. If the name looks familiar it may be because they later dropped the “s” from their name and had hits with “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone.”

Radar Love live in 1973

Hong Kong

Shirley Kwan “Nan De You Qing Ren”: Shirley Kwan is a singer and actress who found success in the ’90s with her unique version of Cantopop.


Sylvie Vartan “Nous deux ca colle”: This is one of hundreds of songs recorded by this French pop star and actress who has had a career for over 50 years.

Sylvie Vartan live in 1980

A Little Jazz

Ben Webster with The Oscar Peterson Trio “When Your Lover Has Gone”

The Oscar Peterson Trio “C Jam Blues”

The Jazz Crusaders “Young Rabbits”: The Jazz Crusaders (or Crusaders) started out as a straight-ahead jazz group in the ’60s and then evolved into one of the most successful fusion acts of the ’70s. They featured several great jazz players, including Joe Sample on piano.

A full concert of the Crusaders live at Newport Jazz in 1987

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

Track List

TrackArtistSong Title
1Neil GaimanAmateur Hour (Lyric Read)
2SparksSo May We Start
3SparksTips For Teens
4ZZ TopHi Fi Mama
5The FeeliesEverybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
6Rickie Lee JonesChuck E’s in Love
7The TamsUntie Me
8The DriftersMoney Honey
9Larry WilliamsBony Maronie
10SparksI Predict
11“Weird Al” YankovicMr. Popeil
12“Weird Al” Yankovic Virus Alert
13SparksThis Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us
14Siouxsie and the BansheesThis Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us
15Joy DivisionLove Will Tear Us Apart
16SparksThe Number One Song in Heaven
17ScooterIn Rave We Trust – Amateur Hour
18SparksAmateur Hour
19SparksMusic That You Can Dance To
20The TheInfected
21SparksEaten By the Monster of Love
22Golden EarringsDong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Gi-Dong
23Shirley KwanNan De You Qing Ren
24Sylvie VartanNous deux ca colle
25SparksUnder the Table with Her
26Hugo WinterhalterMacarthur Park
27Ben Webster with the Oscar Peterson TrioWhen Your Lover Has Gone
28The Oscar Peterson TrioC Jam Blues
29The Jazz CrusadersYoung Rabbits
30SparksLighten Up, Morrisey
31Sparks (featuring Jane Wiedlin)Cool Places
32Sparks Wonder Girl
33Sparks Never Turn Your Back On Mother Nature
34Sparks My Baby’s Taking Me Home
35Sparks Sparks Documentary Film Fanfare
36Sparks Batteries Not Included

One thought on “Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 24 (August 15, 2021): Sparks

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