In both cases that it's a great song helps a lot, but the look was what made it memorable. For Sparks, that means Ron Mael (the one at the keyboard) - almost every other man on TOTP looked and performed like Russell Mael (the vocalist).** And in both cases, it lead to me buying the album: Queen's Night at the Opera (you couldn't find copies of the single the next day or weekend!) and Sparks' Kimono My House.
Although that line-up of the band didn't last as long as it should have done,*** the pair of brothers kept going. Over the decades, their style has evolved, going via electro pop to what WP calls 'chamber pop', but has never lost its wit. People have done better first and second albums, but I doubt anyone has done better 'late teen, early twenties' albums...
Back in 2008, to mark their 21st album, they played their complete back catalogue in a series of twenty concerts in London. Delightfully, they were also streamed over the web, so I got to see most of the ones I didn't see live (the streaming not always working...) The older albums were done as a traditional gig and the later ones are more performance art, with video projections hiding the rest of the musicians.
For the past couple of decades, normal Sparks concerts have a format of a mix of the two: a later / the latest album done in full as performance art, then a selection from their back catalogue as a gig for the second half. I missed one of the exceptions to this - in 2012, they toured as a duo, leading to their first live album - but did create the album's Wikipedia page...
It was just before BiCon last year when I heard they were doing another concert in London. This time, to mark the 40th anniversary of Kimono My House, they were going to do it with an orchestra at the Barbican. Argh, it's sold out! Fortunately, another night was arranged and by pressing refresh a lot as soon as the tickets for that were released, I had a seat on row two of the stalls. It was off to the stage left, but that'd be ok...
... actually, it was perfect. The pair dressed in kimonos in the centre got to see a grand piano close up. I didn't get to see much of Ron sitting at it for half the concert, but I was happy with my view - the photos are taken with a 50mm lens. The concert itself was great too.
* Punk? By the time it came on TOTP, it wasn't new and people like Anthony Wilson had covered it on their programmes. Similarly Kraftwerk had been showing what the future was like on Tomorrow's World first.
** Some of the women did too.
*** Ralf and Florian are not the only pair to have been a bit jealous of other people being in 'their' band.
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