Kimono My House
|Kimono My House|
|Studio album by Sparks|
|Recorded||December 1973 – February 1974|
|Singles from Kimono My House|
The album's title is a pun on the song "Come On-a My House", made famous by Rosemary Clooney. The pun has a precedent, however, in the title of a track on jazz guitarist Dick Garcia's 1956 album A Message from Garcia.
In 1973, prior to the recording of the album, the brothers Ron and Russell Mael had accepted an offer to relocate to the United Kingdom in order to participate in the glam rock scene. The previous lineup consisting of Earle Mankey, Jim Mankey and Harley Feinstein were replaced with British musicians: Martin Gordon, Adrian Fisher and Norman "Dinky" Diamond were hired to play bass, guitar and drums respectively. The group signed a record contract with Island Records and recorded Kimono My House in 1974. Although the Mael brothers had wanted Roy Wood to produce the album, he was unavailable, so Muff Winwood was hired as producer. Winwood remained with the group to produce the follow-up album Propaganda later in 1974.
Musically, Kimono My House represented a shift in sound and a focusing of Ron Mael's songwriting (now the indisputable lead songwriter). Sparks' two albums with the Mankey brothers had been diverse albums that featured a number of different styles, such as a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Do-Re-Mi", "Here Comes Bob", which was performed by a small string section, and "The Louvre", which mixed both English and French lyrics.
The new album embraced the more pop-oriented side of the Mael brothers' song-writing, which had previously been evident in songs such as "Wonder Girl" and "High C". Now, backed by the new British line-up and boosted by Winwood's simpler production, the songs were more focused. The album slotted in with the current popularity of glam rock—which was dominating the charts—in particular, the more experimental and electronic sound of Roxy Music and David Bowie. Lyrically, the songs remained unusual and humorous. The great number of words filled with pop-culture references, puns and peculiar sexual content sung often in falsetto by Russell Mael set Sparks apart from other groups.
The particularity of their sound, which matched pop songwriting with complex lyrics, defined the group to their UK audience. Integral to the sound was Adrian Fisher's bluesy guitar playing and Martin Gordon's sonorous Rickenbacker bass. This was aided and abetted by the physical presence of the group. Ron and Russell milked their peculiar image: Ron's toothbrush moustache, reserved wardrobe and usually silent demeanour sat in diametrical opposition to his younger brother's long curly hair and energetic and flamboyant stage persona. Taken together, the sound and look of the group caused a sensation, producing what seemed to the mass audience to be an "overnight success."
The cover is notable for having neither the name of the band nor the album title on the front cover. The two girls pictured, in kimonos, were members of a Japanese dance company touring England in 1974.
The inner sleeve for the original vinyl record was printed with a full set of song lyrics on one side and a black and white photograph of the Mael brothers, framed in a spotlight, on the reverse.
Kimono My House became a popular release, reaching #4 on the UK Albums Chart, and was awarded gold status by the BPI in September 1974. The single "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" was a surprise hit and reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart, being certified as silver in June 1974. It was held off the top spot by The Rubettes' bubblegum pop song "Sugar Baby Love", which remained at #1 for four weeks. Sparks' second Island era single, "Amateur Hour", reached the top ten in the UK later that summer.
Outside the UK, Kimono My House and its singles made a significant impact across Europe, notably in Germany, where both singles reached #12. In the US, the album reached #101 on the Billboard 200. The group's two Bearsville albums had garnered critical praise but few sales. The only significant chart performance had been for "Wonder Girl", which had been a minor regional hit and had crept into the lower reaches of the Cashbox chart at #92. In place of "Amateur Hour", "Talent is an Asset" was selected as the album's second single in the US, and the album's third in New Zealand.
UK singer and Smiths frontman Morrissey has frequently cited Kimono My House as one of his favorite albums and famously wrote a letter to the NME at age 15 extolling its virtues. He later told the Mael brothers that it had been a key influence on him deciding to embark upon a music career. In 2010, Morrissey included it on a formal list of his 13 favorite albums of all-time for The Quietus. Kurt Cobain has also named the album as one of his all-time favourites.
Kimono My House was re-issued and remastered by Island in 1994 and 2006. The first issue by the Island Masters subsidiary added the non-album B-sides "Barbecutie" and "Lost and Found". The '21st Century Edition' added a live recording of "Amateur Hour" recorded by a subsequent (1975) line-up of the group and sleeve notes by Paul Lester, the deputy editor of Uncut magazine.
A remastered 40th Anniversary Edition was released on 15 December 2014 on vinyl only, including previously unreleased demo material from the band's archives. Coinciding with the release, a performance of the entire album is scheduled, with the 35-piece Heritage Orchestra, at the Barbican Centre on 19 and 20 December. The band will perform brand new orchestral arrangements by Nathan Kelly. The programme also features songs from their other 22 albums. The second date was added after the first night sold out.
All songs written and composed by Ron Mael; except where indicated.
|1.||"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"||3:05|
|3.||"Falling In Love With Myself Again"||3:03|
|4.||"Here In Heaven"||2:48|
|5.||"Thank God It's Not Christmas"||5:07|
|6.||"Hasta Mañana, Monsieur"||Russell Mael and Ron Mael||3:52|
|7.||"Talent Is An Asset"||3:21|
|9.||"In My Family"||Russell Mael and Ron Mael||3:48|
|21st Century Edition bonus tracks|
|12.||"Lost and Found"||3:19|
|13.||"Amateur Hour (live at Fairfield Halls, 9 November 1975)" (Features the Indiscreet line-up of Sparks)||4:44|
- Russell Mael - vocals
- Ron Mael - keyboards
- Martin Gordon - bass
- Adrian Fisher - guitar
- Norman "Dinky" Diamond - drums, percussion, castanets
- Producer - Muff Winwood
- Recording engineers - Richard Digby-Smith, Tony Platt
- Mixdown engineer - Bill Price
- Art Direction - Nicholas de Ville
- Cover concept - Ron Mael, Nicholas de Ville
- Photography - Karl Stoeker
- Artwork - Bob Bowkett, CCS
- "45cat - Sparks - Talent Is An Asset / Lost And Found - Island - USA - IS 009". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "GUEST WRITER MADELINE BOCARO revisits Sparks' classic album Kimono My House on its 40th anniversary". elsewhere.co.nz. 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
- "Sparks - Kimono My House: The Island Years". .sparksmael.co.uk. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- "Michi Hirota". discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
- "It's No Game by David Bowie". songfacts.com. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
- "Chart Stats - Sparks". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Allmusic - Billboard Albums - Sparks". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Thompson, Dave. "Wonder Girl". Allmusic. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- AllMusic review
- Makowski, Peter (December 2006). "Still able to start a fire: Sparks Reissues". Classic Rock. p. 101.
- Rolling Stone review
- "Kimono My House - Sparks' Third Album".
- "Morrissey Reveals His Favourite LPs of All Time". Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "A List Obligatory. The Top Glam Rock Albums". earbuddy.net. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
- "Sparks to release 40th anniversary edition of Kimono my House". louderthanwar.com. Retrieved 11 November 2014.