Sparks’ “No. 1 in Heaven” is getting a 40th anniversary reissue

sparks-no1-song

People tend to forget how huge disco was in the late ’70s. Pretty much everyone took a stab at making a disco record — Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, KISS. Even that most hapless of rock gods, Ringo Starr, tried to get in on the action, with predictably disastrous results. (We still love you, Ringo! But we’re glad you got that solo artist stuff out of your system and have settled happily into Rock Elder Statesman status.)

In the midst of all that high-profile Studio 54 carpetbaggery, a successful but significantly less famous art-rock duo called Sparks somehow managed to hire one of disco’s architects, the great Giorgio Moroder, to produce their eighth studio album. The resulting product, No. 1 in Heaven, spawned a pair of U.K. hits, “Beat the Clock” and “The Number One Song in Heaven.” But more importantly, it proved that electronic dance music could be weird. It’s the missing link between Kraftwerk and much of the herkiest, jerkiest synth-pop and New Wave that would follow. It also gave Sparks a much-needed reset, paving the way for what has become a career built on continuous, Bowie-like reinvention, as brothers Ron and Russell Mael have transformed their sound with virtually every new release in all the decades since.

This March, No. 1 in Heaven turns 40, even though I bet it still gets carded at the nightclub. To celebrate how gracefully their disco opus has aged, Sparks are reissuing No. 1 in Heaven on CD and vinyl with four bonus tracks and two promos recorded by the great Peter Cook (if his name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: “Mawwiage!”). Both are available for pre-order now from the Sparks online store.

I’ll leave you with the video for “The Number One Song in Heaven,” in which one Russell and three Rons serve up their heavenly synths and falsetto vocals in what I assume is a cloud of hairspray and cocaine dust. God, the ’70s look fun.

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Weird of the Day: Dschinghis Khan

Dschinghis Khan

We haven’t featured anywhere near enough German disco on this site. Let’s fix that right now with Dschinghis Khan’s immortal 1979 classic, “Dschinghis Khan.” This song represented West Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest and placed fourth, further proving that Eurovision is bunch of baloney. Right, Winny Puhh?

Buy this track on Amazon.com. The guests at your next disco party will thank you. And a tip of our gold lamé warrior crowns to reader bob for suggesting it!

Dirty Sanchez

(Photo by Austin Young)

Today’s band was suggested by a reader called Hola-Ebola…and no, they have nothing to do with the Jackass-like British TV series Dirty Sanchez, although those guys are pretty great. This Dirty Sanchez is an electroclash band from Los Angeles. What is electroclash, you ask? Well, I’m no expert, but as far as I can tell, it seems to be an intentionally cheesy/campy style of dance music with lots of songs about cocaine and gay sex and Hollywood. I think Lady Gaga probably ripped off half her act from the electroclash scene.

Anyways, there are loads of weird electroclash acts out there, like Fischerspooner, Peaches, Chicks on Speed and Princess Superstar. But Dirty Sanchez stand out for a couple reasons. First, many of their songs are just flat-out, hilariously bizarre, as you can tell from just the song titles alone: “Fucking on the Dancefloor,” “Really Rich Italian Satanists,” “Tranny Sex,” “We Hate Youth and Beauty.” Second, they seem to be one of the few (only?) electroclash bands to feature a full-on tranvestite as one of their lead singers. His/her name is Jackie Beat and even though I feel kinda gay for saying this, she rules. In their early videos, she’s like a cross between Dee Snider and Cher. Now she looks more like a cross between Eddie Izzard and that fat chick from The Gossip, but she’s still pretty fabulous. (Did I just use the word “fabulous” to describe a drag queen? Wow, now I really feel gay.)

Dirty Sanchez seem to have been inactive since 2008–that’s the last time their website news was updated (back then, they said they were working on a new album, their second one, but it doesn’t seem like it’s ever come out) and also the year they released a new single, “Give Head and Be Beautiful.” Here’s the video for it, which for our money is the most awesomely weird thing they’ve ever done. Next time I go out dancing, I’m totally gonna picture everyone with their heads off.

(Update: It seems like Jackie Beat is now based in New York and might be more focused on her cabaret act and her solo career–although it also seems like she forgot to pay her domain name bill, so it’s hard for us to confirm this. Still, this parody video posted in late 2009 does feature fellow Dirty Sanchezian Mario Diaz, so there’s still hope we may hear more from Dirty Sanchez yet.)

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Tragedy

We’ve blogged about cover bands before on TWBITW, so we won’t repeat our general observations about the general suckage of cover bands. We’ll just say that, when your whole career is based on somebody else’s songs, it’s a fine line between having a clever gimmick and being truly weird–and it’s one Tragedy manages to strut along with more attitude than John Travolta wolfing down two stacked slices of Lenny’s thin crust during the opening credits of Saturday Night Fever.

In Tragedy’s case, the clever gimmick is pretty simple: they’re a metal band that does Bee Gees songs (or, as they like to say, they’re the tri-state NYC area’s greatest all-metal Bee Gees tribute band…got that?). But as with most truly weird bands, it’s all in the execution, people. Instead of a one-note gimmick, they actually manage to be a pretty solid metal band, with a knack for finding all the right headbanging analoges to the Gibb bros’ disco touches. And they do it without, as far as I can tell, ever resorting to “I Was Made for Lovin You”-style disco/rock cheese. So… “How Deep Is Your Love?” becomes the lighter flicking monster ballad, “You Should Be Dancing” turns into a Spinal Tap/Iron Maiden-style epic…and so on. It’s all sort of brilliantly stupid (right down to the band member names, like Garry Bibb and Andy Gibbous Waning), in the way most good metal is.

Tragedy’s signature song, of course, is “Stayin’ Alive.” Here’s the video. Enjoy.

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