Sparks Leeds University Refectory 22nd June 1974 & Newcastle City Hall 3rd November 1974

sparksSparks Leeds University Refectory 22nd June 1974.
California brothers Ron and Russel; Mael relocated to the UK In 1973, having already appeared on the Old Grey Whistle test (Bob Harris declared Sparks “a cross between Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and The Monkees”). They recruited Martin Gordon on bass (later of Jet and Radio Stars), Adrian Fisher (guitar) and Norman “Dinky” Diamond (drums). This line-up of Sparks recorded the breakthrough album “Kimono My House” which featured their No. 2 hit single “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”. Sparks’ appearances on Top of the Pops were sensational. Front man Russell was the cutesy glam singer with strange jerky hyperactive dancing, flanked by his older brother Ron, seated motionless at the keyboard, flashing evil stares at the camera, and sporting a weird Charlie Chaplin mustache. “This Town” propelled Sparks to almost immediate teen stardom, and in June Sparks went out on their first UK tour. My friend Gillie and I had been blown away by “This Town” and really wanted to see this crazy new band, although we hadn’t heard anything else by them. sparksprogThe nearest date of the tour for us was a concert at Leeds University Students Union, so we drove down to see the band at that gig. It was a Saturday student event, and we weren’t quite sure whether we would get into the show, not being students ourselves. We managed to get a couple of students to sign us in at the door, and we made our way into the vast union refectory. This was our first visit, and we were very excited at the prospect attending a gig in the famous hall where The Who had recorded “Live at Leeds” not that many years before. I think the support act was Old Tennis Shoes, who were a rock and blues band from Preston. Sparks were magnificent. I don’t recall what they played that night other than “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”, which I think they may have played twice, once during the main set and then again as a final encore. Ron looked just as mysterious and mean as he did on Top of the Pops and Russel was a little ball of energy; he wore a white smock top and danced himself silly the entire evening, climbing up the PA stacks during “This Town” and singing it from the top of a speaker column. Gillie and I drove back up the A1 in my little MG talking about just how great Sparks were. Well worth the trip to Leeds.
sparkstixSparks Newcastle City Hall 3rd November 1974
1974 was a busy year for Sparks. They recorded the follow up to “Kimono My House”, which was their fourth album “Propaganda”, Martin Gordon and Adrian Fisher were replaced by Trevor White and Ian Hampton, and they had two further UK hit singles “Amateur Hour” (which reached No 7) and “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth” (which reached No 13). They toured the UK again, to promote “Propaganda” this time calling at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from Pilot, who had been in the charts with “Magic” and were to have a No 1 single with “January” the following year. Sparks delivered another great performance; by this point in their career they were big teen heroes and the City Hall was full of girls screaming at Russell.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks. I think Kimono was a classic record – fabulous songs that should be covered. Regards Thom.


  2. Posted by Susan Ewbank on September 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I met Sparks at The Leeds University, 22nd June 1974, and ended up going on the tour, with them…having made an instant attraction with Adrian. The memories of that tour and my beloved Adrian, the music, the excitement, everything, will never leave me.


    • Posted by Jerry Smith on August 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Susan – I have only just found and read this, Adrian Fisher was a great guitarist and I envy your memories. There are many of us still trying to find the penultimate tape of Adrian playing live with Sparks all those years ago. Sadly I am led to believe there isn’t one.


  3. Posted by Susan Ewbank on November 10, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Hello Jerry,
    I have just seen your reply.
    I wouldn’t have thought there was one, as technology wasn’t as it is today, or anything like it.
    It’s nice to find someone who recognised Adrian’s talent, he was underrated and in a way, wasted.
    He had problems within himself, which led him to alcohol and smoking excessively, which led to his untimely death aged 50.
    We kept in touch by phone, and I have one letter he wrote to me, but then lost touch when he went to Thailand. I have only had the internet for 3 years, and the first thing I did was look him up. Imagine the shock and disbelief when I read he had died in Thailand aged 50! Dinky also died, suicide from some noisy neighbours! It’s what you would read in a horror book, not Sparks.
    The memory of that tour and Sparks music will remain with me forever!


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