Edgar Wright has been a devoted fan of Sparks since he first spied Russell Mael gesticulating wildly on Top of the Pops back in 1979 and is demonstrating his immense love for the group in the best way possible, which is by directing an upcoming documentary on the pop duo from Los Angeles.
As IndieWire reports, the new documentary will be the latest film that Wright has directed after the huge success of Baby Driver, and he is already in the process of sifting through an enormous amount of archived material for the film.
As part of the new Sparks documentary, Edgar Wright had the ingenious idea of shooting the band at a recent performance at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, London, and explained that he will be using this footage as part of the film.
“I already shot their London concert in late May. The rest of is it to be determined and we’re currently scouring the archives. I have been a fan of them since I saw them on Top Of The Pops in 1979 — and when I had ‘Beat The Clock’ on vinyl.”
Sparks began under the guise of Halfnelson, with Ron and Russell Mael reaching out to Todd Rundgren for help with the production of their first record, assuming him to be more of a kindred spirit than others in the music industry.
Rundgren liked what he heard and was able to obtain a contract for the brothers through the Bearsville label while encouraging Russell and Ron musically in every way possible. With Todd Rundgren at the helm producing their new record, Halfnelson’s debut was released in 1971, but the collaboration was not fated to last as the brothers were not entirely pleased with the outcome, as Ron Mael elaborated after its release.
“Todd Rundgren is extremely nice, but if you had to work with him you wouldn’t have much space for your own ideas. We did not feel his way of producing was suitable for our music. However, he could not be convinced otherwise. We started to behave a bit nasty and aggressive towards him and finally he didn’t turn up anymore.”
Halfnelson swiftly became Sparks after the LP was released and reissued the record under their new identity. After deciding that perhaps England might be a more appropriate place for them, Ron and Russell relocated there in 1973 with John Hewlett as their manager.
Attempting to draw in other band members that might be sympathetic to their style of music, the brothers placed an ad in Melody Maker with the caveat that the musicians must be clean-shaven Englishmen: “Wanted bass player for Sparks. Must be beard free and exciting.” This method worked wonders and the Mael brothers picked up Martin Diamond as a result.
After Island Records signed Sparks, the group became a sensation in England, releasing hit tracks like “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us,” “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth,” and the heartfelt pleadings rendered in “Amateur Hour.”
Sparks had continued success in England for many years, but seeking a different sound, he eventually returned to the United States in 1976 to join forces with Giorgio Moroder in 1977 for their album No. 1 in Heaven.
Ron and Russell Mael continued to put out album after album of sublime music over the years with 2017 seeing the release of Hippopotamus and a worldwide tour which has continued into 2018, and which Edgar Wright managed to capture in London in May.
It should be noted that as a director Edgar Wright has already made the leap into the musical realm with the direction of videos for Pharrell Williams, the Bluetones, Beck, and Mint Royale. His collaboration with Sparks will be Wright’s latest venture musically, with MRC having already agreed to finance the production of the new documentary.
With Edgar Wright firmly behind the wheel of the upcoming Sparks documentary, fans of Ron and Russell Mael will want to sit back and hold on tightly in anticipation of what is sure to be a brilliantly directed musical film featuring Los Angeles’s most original pop duo yet.