Sunday, July 28, 2013

For Sparks Fans, List Geeks, and Anybody Else: Top 130 Sparks Songs!

On the Sparks Official Fan Site, there's a small, ongoing thread where people list their top ten Sparks songs. I was never able to do this - the task of coming up with ten just seemed too overwhelming. Finally, I decided to take on the challenge.  It was an exhaustive process that took months - but hey, that's what daily commutes on the Metro are for!

I stayed loose on the criteria - that was the critical decision. I don't know if these are "my favorites" or "Spark's best" or the songs I most respect, or what. Maybe their common thread is that they move me...I don't know. Anyway, as I got absorbed in this project I came up with this list.

I didn't exactly stop at 10. So here you go - WITH COMMENTARY, my top 130 Sparks songs!

Note: Songs are listed in groups of ten, but they aren't in order within the group of ten. That would just be too hard!

Another interesting note - in the process of making this list, songs moved all over the place - but the top 30 remained remarkably constant throughout the whole process. Read into that what you will, I found it interesting!


Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth (Propaganda)
Dick Around (Hello Young Lovers)
Change (Music That You Can Dance To)
Get In The Swing (Indiscreet)
La Dolce Vida (Number One In Heaven)
My Baby's Taking Me Home (Lil' Beethoven)
This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us (Kimono My House)
Amateur Hour (Kimono My House)
Equator (Kimono My House)
Here In Heaven (Kimono My House)

Commentary: Two things stand out. One is the great diversity of albums represented - seven different ones, from all major phases of Sparks' historic career. Two is the fact that despite that very diversity, one album - Kimono My House - has FOUR songs in the top ten! Conclusion: If you don't own that album, go get it right now.

Tryouts for the Human Race (Number one In Heaven)
Number One Song In Heaven (Number One In Heaven)
Thank God It's Not Christmas (Kimono My House)
Talent Is An Asset (Kimono My House)
Bon Voyage (Propaganda)
Don't Leave Me Alone With Her (Propaganda)
Thanks But No Thanks (Propaganda)
Something for the Girl With Everything (Propaganda)
As I Sit Down To Play The Organ (Hello Young Lovers)
Angst In My Pants (Angst In My Pants)

Commentary:  Here's where you see Kimono's follow up, Propaganda, really begin to assert itself. One of the things that made this such a hard thing to do is that, as I've written elsewhere, Sparks is really an album band, despite having some great individual tracks and fantastic singles. But their work is, in my opinion, generally best appreciated on an "album" basis. Thus, I tend to think of Propganda as my all time favorite Sparks album, but it's hard to argue with the dominance of KMH in the early rounds here.

What's also interesting is to see Hello Young Lovers, a later work, have TWO songs that made it into the top twenty. Impressive! You also start to see Angst In My Pants rear its head; Angst is a major presence throughout this list.


I Predict (Angst In My Pants)
Sextown USA (Angst In My Pants)
Mickey Mouse (Angst In My Pants)
Slowboat (Sparks)
Rosebud (Music That You Can Dance To)
Falling In Love With Myself Again (Kimono My House)
Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat ((Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat)
I Married a Martian (Whomp That Sucker)
When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing (Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins)
BC (Propaganda)

Commentary: Two songs from Music That You Can Dance To in the top thirty - but only one thereafter. That must mean something. One can't help but notice that so far Indiscreet only has one song in the top 30. Don't worry - it comes on STRONG in the next set of albums, and thereafter. Nice to see a fairly obscure album, Pulling Rabbits, getting some due. Note that Whomp That Sucker has now made an entrance, and that Angst is dominating the listings.


Big Bands (Sparks)
Fletcher Honorama (Sparks)
Beat The Clock (Number One In Heaven)
Academy Award Performance (Number one In Heaven)
Funny Face (Whomp That Sucker)
Without Using Hands (Indiscreet)
Tits (Indiscreet)
Hasta Manana Monsieur (Kimono My House)
Toughest Girl In Town (Interior Design)
Looks Aren't Everything (non-album)

Commentary: Here's where a lot of personal favorites start to come into play - even if they're not necessarily considered "all time greats" by Sparks fans. Big Bands, Fletcher, Without using Hands, and Toughest Girl In Town are all just songs I've always really, really liked - period. Note the addition of Looks Aren't Everything, the first non-album release on the list. Was finally officially released about a decade ago, on a re-release of the Big Beat album.


Hospitality on Parade (Indiscreet)
Lady Is Lingering (Indiscreet)
Looks Looks Looks (Indiscreet)
Miss the Start, Miss the End (Indiscreet)
Suburban Homeboy (Lil' Beethoven)
Your Call Is Very Important To Us (Lil' Beethoven)
Good Morning (Exotic Creatures of the Deep)
Tips For Teens (Whomp That Sucker)
High C (Sparks)
Beaver O'Lindy (Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)

Commentary: Note that only ONE song from Exotic Creatures of the Deep made it into the top 50, and just barely. Yet, I consider it one of my very favorite Sparks albums! Just further illustrates the earlier point about how Sparks are best listened to on an album basis. Woofer rears its heard here, as well as FOUR from Indiscreet.


Pineapple (Indiscreet)
It Ain't 1918 (Indiscreet)
With All My Might (Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat)
Sisters (Pulling)
Here Comes Bob (Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)
Sherlock Holmes (Angst In My Pants)
Rhythm Thief (Lil' Beethoven)
Waterproof (Hello Young Lovers)
Cool Places (In Outer Space)
Upstairs (Whomp That Sucker)

Commentary: Such wonderful diversity across a spectrum of styles now - a pattern that remains for the rest of the list (though of course you see certain albums, like Kimono, less and less for obvious reasons). Who would have thought that an obscure album like Pulling Rabbits would have THREE songs in the top 60? And FINALLY an entry from In Outer Space - a good album that always seems like it should have been a great one, but just doesn't quite make it.


Metaphor (Hello Young Lovers)
Reinforcements (Propaganda)
Propaganda/At Home At Work At Play (Propaganda)
Goofing Off (Introducing Sparks)
Happy Hunting Ground (Indiscreet)
My Other Voice (Number One In Heaven)
How Are You Getting Home (Indiscreet)
Song That Sings Itself (Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat)
National Crime Awareness Week (non-album)
When Do I Get To Sing My Way (Gratuitous Sax)

Commentary: The diversity trends continues. A second non-album track (a great late '80s single) makes the list. Yet ANOTHER personal favorite from Pulling Rabbits. I've always been moved by the musical interlude on The Song That Sings Itself. I don't know why exactly. Introducing is an endlessly debated album. I don't think it's very good, but Goofing Off is a standout! Rocking Violin solo? Check!


Perfume (Hello Young Lovers)
Mr. Bergman How Are You (Seduction of Ingmar Bergman)
Dance Goddamit (In Outer Space)
Arts and Crafts Spectacular (non-album)
Ladies (Introducing)
Under the Table With Her (Indiscreet)
Complaints (Kimono My House)
Confusion (Big Beat)
Your Call Is Very Important To Us (Lil' Beethoven)
Fa La Fa Lee (Sparks)

Commentary: An interesting set. Finally a couple tunes from Big Beat, which won't make my argument that it's an underrated album very compelling. Arts and Crafts Spectacular is from Sparks' original demo (they were called "Halfnelson") way back then. Morrisey loves it, for what that's worth, and a few years ago included it in a compilation he put together. Note the addition here of "Mr. Bergman How Are You?" from Sparks's recent radio opera ("The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman," a truly great and ambitious project that apparently will soon be turned into a movie). Worth checking out!


Strange Animal (Exotic Creatures From the Deep)
Nothing Is Sacred (Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)
Roger (Sparks)
Wonder Girl (Sparks)
Let the Monkey Drive (Exotic Creatures)
Wacky Women (Whomp That Sucker)
I Like Girls (Big Beat)
Walk Down Memory Lane (Interior Design)
The Louvre (Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)
I Married Myself (Lil' Beethoven)

Commentary: It's funny to look at this list at this point - it's such a mishmash of really good songs! If you asked me to rate Pulling Rabbits, it'd be pretty low. Yet, about half its songs made it to the top 100. How do you explain that?


Suzie Safety (Whomp That Sucker)
Lucky Me, Lucky You (In Outer Space)
All You Ever Think About is Sex (In Outer Space)
Nicotina (Angst In My Pants)
Ride 'em Cowboy (Lil' Beethoven)
I Want to be Like Everybody Else (Big Beat)
More Than A Sex Machine (Balls)
No More Mr. Nice Guy (Sparks)
The Scene (Music That You Can Dance To)
When I'm With You (Terminal Jive)

Commentary: Well, that rounds out the list. Nice to see Terminal Jive, an overall sub-par effort, finally represented. I have to say, though, that the quality of music on THIS set of songs isn't all that different from say, group 61-70, or most any of the others. A real tribute to the quality of Sparks' music.


In My Family (Kimono My House)
Screwed Up (Big Beat)
Angst In My Pants (Plagiarism version)
This Town Ain't Big Enough (Plagiarism version with Faith No More)
England (B-Side)
Greatest Show On Earth (Terminal Jive)
So Important (Interior Design)
Modesty Plays (Music That You Can Dance To)
Who Don't Like Kids (Propaganda)
I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car (Gratuitous Sax)
That's Not Nastassia (Whomp That Sucker)
Ghost of Liberace (Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins)
Achoo (Propaganda)
Don't Shoot Me (Whomp That Sucker)
Pretending to Be Drunk (Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat)
Likeable (Exotic Creatures of the Deep)
Music That You Can Dance To (Music That You Can Dance To)
Madonna (Interior Design)
Singing In the Shower (non-album)
Moustache (Angst In My Pants)
Nothing Is Sacred (Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing)
Balls (Balls)
What Are All Those Bands So Angry About (Lil' Beethoven)
I've Never Been High (Exotic Creatures of the Deep)
You've Got a Hold of my Heart (Interior Design)
She Got Me Pregnant (Exotic Creatures of the Deep)
Tearing the Place Apart (non-album)
See No Evil (Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins)
No Such Thing as Aliens (Hello Young Lovers)
Madonna (Interior Design)

Commentary: If you were to make a "mixtape" - haha, sorry, "Playlist" - of just these 25 songs, it would be very enjoyable indeed. Again, a tribute to the consistency and commitment to excellence of Ron and Russell Mael. And amazingly, they are STILL producing new, innovative, and definitely worthwhile material!

Hope you enjoyed perusing this list as much as I did in making it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment