Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

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Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins - Sparks.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 15, 1994
StudioSparks Studios, Los Angeles, California
ProducerRon Mael, Russell Mael
Sparks chronology
Interior Design
Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
Singles from Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  1. "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'"
    Released: October 1994
  2. "When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)"
    Released: March 1995
  3. "Now That I Own The BBC" b/w "She's An Anchorman"
    Released: 1995
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 stars[2]

Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins is the 16th album by American rock band Sparks. It was released in 1994, after an absence from the music industry of 6 years.


Sparks' last album was released in 1988, and while it scored a couple of club hits in the US, had not been commercially successful. Critically the group had been receiving mixed reviews since their 1984 album Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat. While promoting Interior Design, Sparks banded together with the French duo Les Rita Mitsouko and released the single "Singing in the Shower" which was a moderate hit in France. Sparks then went on a temporary hiatus while the brothers spent the late 1980s and early 1990s concentrating on film-making, particularly an attempt to make a Japanese comic strip, Mai, The Psychic Girl, into a movie. They had hoped to have Tsui Hark direct with the actress-musician Christi Haydon voicing the lead character. Russell Mael had initially met Haydon when he admired her look while she was working on the cosmetics counter of a department store [3]. Haydon's only experience at the time had been as a long running extra of the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite interest from Tim Burton and six years' work on the project, it came to nothing.[4][5]

In 1993 Sparks returned to the studio and released the stand-alone single "National Crime Awareness Week", and wrote and produced the single "Katharine Hepburn" for Christi Haydon. Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins followed in November the next year. It was produced by the duo without an additional backing band[2]. The album had a sound that returned towards the European-synthesizer orientated sound of No. 1 In Heaven. However the songs retained an emphasis on pop song structure and a sound that was only slightly removed from that of Pet Shop Boys. The album was toured with Christi Haydon complementing the brothers on drums, as well as appearing in videos for the group. The a cappella title track "Gratuitous Sax" looked back to the equally brief opener of the band's 1974 album; Propaganda. "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" makes reference to the Frank Sinatra signature-tune "My Way".


Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins became Sparks most successful album in Germany reaching #29[6] and scored three hits on the German Singles chart. While the album only reached #150[7] on the UK Albums Chart, the singles did well enough to return the group to the Top 40, the first time since "Beat the Clock" in 1979. The lead single "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'"; made #7[6] in Germany, #38[8] in the UK (it was re-released in May 1995 and peaked at #32[8]). The second single "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing"; retitled "When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)" #61[6] in Germany and #36[8] in the UK. The final single "Now That I Own The BBC" did less well making #81[6] in Germany and #60[8] in the UK.

"When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" and "When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)" managed to chart across Europe, and recommenced Sparks' popularity on the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart where they reached No. 9 and #24.[9]


Japanese editions of the album included "When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing) (Bernard Butler's Mix)" as a bonus track. The album was re-released as first in the series Sparks – The Collection in 2006 on the groups' own record label Lil' Beethoven Records. This re-release featured new artwork, additional sleeve-notes and was packaged in a digipak-sleeve.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Ron Mael and Russell Mael.

1."Gratuitous Sax"0:31
2."When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'"4:37
3."(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing"5:13
4."Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give a Damn"5:03
5."I Thought I Told You to Wait in the Car"4:20
6."Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil"5:37
7."Now That I Own the BBC"4:58
8."Tsui Hark" (Featuring Tsui Hark and Bill Kong)4:31
9."The Ghost of Liberace"4:15
10."Let's Go Surfing"5:02
11."Senseless Violins"0:50
12."(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing" (Bernard Butler's Fashionable World of Fashion Mix - Japan bonus track)7:17


  • Russell Mael – Vocals, production
  • Ron Mael – Keyboards, production
  • Tsui Hark and Bill Kong – Guest vocals on "Tsui Hark"
  • John Thomas – Additional engineering and mixing
  • Steve Bates – Additional engineering and mixing
  • Mark Stagg (for Pro-Gress and D.E.F.) – Additional production on "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing", "I Thought I Told You To Wait in the Car", and "Let's Go Surfing"
  • Alan Fisch – Engineering on "(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing" and "I Thought I Told You To Wait in the Car"
  • Linus Burdick – Additional production on "Now That I Own The BBC", "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil", and "Let's Go Surfing"

Chart placings[edit]


Country/Region Peak
German Media Control Charts[6] 29
UK Album Chart[7] 150



  1. ^ "Sparks - Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins". Allmusic. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. Review: Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins. Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  3. ^ Haydon talks to Linda Lusardi on the LWT TV programme It's Bizarre 93
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Popular Music. "Sparks". Retrieved April 13, 2006.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Thirty chord wonders". Living Section. Scotsman Newspaper. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Charts Surfer – UK, German and French charts". Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Chart Log UK: DJ S – The System Of Life". Dipl.-Bibl.(FH) Tobias Zywietz, 1994–2009. Archived from the original on March 22, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Official Charts Company – Sparks". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c "Allmusic – Billboard Singles – Sparks". Billboard. Retrieved September 22, 2009.