Sparks 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. The 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.
Sparks 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.
Archive for the ‘Old Tennis Shoes’ Category
Sparks Leeds University Refectory 22nd June 1974.
The Runaways 1976 and 1977
The Runaways were an American all girl rock ‘n’ roll band who came along in the late ’70s. Although they were seen at the time as being part of the punk and new wave movement, and they certainly shared some of the same raw energy and directness, they were actually a pretty straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll band. The Runaways were Joan Jett (lead vocals and guitar), Lita Ford (guitar), Jackie Fox who was replaced by Vickie Blue (bass) and Sandy West (drums). Cherie Currie (vocals) was an early member of the band. I saw the Runaways twice, once at Leeds University Refectory on 9th October 1976 and again at Newcastle City Hall on 10th November 1977. Both great shows. A group of us drove down to Leeds for the first gig, which was one of the first new wave concerts that we all saw. Support came from Old Tennis Shoes. By the 1977 gig, Cherie Currie had departed, and the band became a four piece, but lost none of their raw rock ‘n’ roll power. Support at the City Hall gig was the excellent UK punk band 999, who had great powerpop songs like Emergency and Homicide (also check out their version of Little Red Riding Hood). From the programme: “Outdated rock n roll authorities would suggest the day of the all girl group wound up with the end of the sixties – but the raw fact is; its just begun. ..The Runaways are the new phenomenon and they not only spit out tough, raunchy vocals that would slice a man in half, but they write first class songs and handle their instruments with near phallic indecency…the idea of a cute chick sweating on stage beside the big boys is a little hard to swallow, so the idea of four such ladies is four times as hard to swallow…” Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie all went on to have successful solo careers.
Runaways setlist: Wasted, Take It Or Leave It, Blackmail, Queens Of Noise, You’re Too Possessive, Wild Thing, You Drive Me Wild, Rock And Roll, Wait For Me, I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are, I Love Playing With Fire, Schooldays, American Nights. Encores: C’mon, Little Sister.
999 setlist: Pick It Up, Hit Me, Quite Disappointing, My Street Stinks, No Pity, Chicane Destination, Titanic Reaction, Crazy, Nasty Nasty, Emergency, I’m Alive, Nobody Knows. Encores: Nasty Nasty, I’m Alive.
Thanks to Mitch for the setlist and his picture from the concert at Newcastle City Hall.