UK - Island WIP 6193 (April 1974)
US - Island IS 001 (July 1974)
It's 1974. Glam rock has hit a peak and is starting a steady decline. The top 40 is getting a tad cheesy. The Bay City Rollers are on the rise. Then, suddenly, this record appears out of nowhere.
Like a twisted stream-of-consciousness opera compressed into three minutes, it's one of those records that, upon first hearing, makes you wonder exactly what it is you've just heard. Then you play it again. It starts to get under your skin. You play it once more. It's firmly embedded in your brain now, that keyboard motif at the start running through your mind, going "de-de-doo-de-doo-de-doo... de-de-doo-de-doo-de-doo..."
That's what happened to me, anyway. I first heard it on a K-Tel compilation called Music Explosion I picked up from a school jumble sale. This being a K-Tel LP, it had 22 tracks crammed onto it, meaning that some of the track would be edited out to fit it on the record. It still sounded pants anyway... It was bizarrely crammed between a fella called Paul DaVinci singing Your Baby Ain't Your Baby Anymore and The Bay City Rollers' then latest waxing Summer Love Sensation. To say these compilations were thrown together would be an understatement.
Image from Ktel.com
Anyway, a trawl around the second hand stores turned up a copy of the actual single, which I then proceeded to play to death. My friends and relatives failed to share my enthusiasm, my mother saying something along the lines of "It was bad enough when it came out, without you playing it". My friends, meanwhile already thought I had lost the plot after I discovered The Doors and had decided I was now beyond help.
Sparks have since continued to produce a body of work which has entertained, baffled and challenged its audience in equal measure. Back in 1974, This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us would have been number 1 in the UK, if it wasn't for those pesky Rubettes with Sugar Baby Love...
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Kimono My House (Island 1974, remastered CD 2006)
The Best Of Sparks (Repertoire CD 2011)
The following clip appears to be from a European TV show. The audience are somewhat subdued. Maybe they don't know what just hit them?