Sparks Documentary

The thought stuck me that there really needs to be a documentary about the band Sparks. The chameleon like pop-glam-rock group comprised of brothers Ron and Russell Mael really need a documentary to help people understand and chart their four decade long career, with all its twists and turns. A quick Google search for “Sparks documentary” returned a blog post from Dangerous Minds about a fan-produced Sparks documentary documentary comprised almost entirely of archival material. There you have it – the good and bad of the Internet. We suddenly have ability to come up with an idea and instantaneously realize you’ve been beaten to the punch.

At the same time we have the ability to find amazing new things and while this 30 minute tribute to the band is  not the Number One Song in Heaven, but this Suburban Homeboy is impressed. Packed with amazing visuals from a slew of music videos, all more interesting than most music videos you’ll see today, and peppered with some hilarious live performances, this documentary’s greatest asset is the variety of footage it brings to both fan and first timer. A homemade voice over gives very dry expositional information and while it would be better served by a more dramatic voice or a more in-depth script it certainly avoid the bias praise of an obsessive fan.  More interviews would be nice, but that is always a dangerous wish. The clips of the band being interviewed by Dick Clark are amazing, but some of the more journalistic interviews are meandering and dry, lacking greatly in the eccentric stage personas that the brothers have refined and expanded over the years. If anything this lovingly made short simply shows that Sparks blazed a unique and cutting edge trail and in their wake they have left behind a wealth of material that needs to be revisited. This band deserves far greater recognition in the annals of music. Hopefully, this documentary will open eyes and ears to the band and the potential of some larger documentary project.

 

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Taj Mahal Travelers on Tour (1972)

Over the holidays I received a copy of  JaprocksamplerJulian Cope’s encyclopedic account of how Rock’n’Roll collided with Japanese culture to create a freaked out fusion of pop, folk, and experimental music.  Cope writes with authority and unabashed passion, but he lists more musicians, bands, and records then one feels they have time left to track down. One of the first bands I wanted to check out was Taj Mahal Travelers, a sextet of long haired musicians straddling the worlds of rock and art. When Cope mentioned that someone produced a tour documentary about Taj Mahal Travelers, I immediately set out to find it. Knowing that only one of their albums shows up on Spotify, I thought I’d have to do some real Internet mining to find this documentary, but low-and-behold someone has posted it to You Tube. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles. That’s okay, the music transcends the language barrier.

 

Another State of Mind

Another State of Mind is a 1982 punk rock tour film. The movie follows the ups and downs of life on the road with Social Distortion and Youth Brigade. When their van breaks down near Washington D.C. the band hangs out with Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat at the Dischord House and at his job  dishing out ice cream at a Häagen-Dazs.

Whenever I think of Another State of Mind I simultaneously think of Night Flight. Explaining the cultural significance of this television program to anyone raised after the 90’s would be a losing battle. Kids today are awash in opportunities to expand their knowledge past what mainstream media has to offer and to the history of various subcultures. However, back in the late 80’s and 90’s it took rare shows like Night Flight to program lesser-known and cult movies to open young minds to larger worlds. Staying up late to watch NIght Flight was like tuning into a secret transmission. It wasn’t for everyone. It wasn’t available 24/7. It was something you had to wait for; to crave.