Kimono My House
|Kimono My House|
|Studio album by|
|Recorded||December 1973 – February 1974|
|Singles from Kimono My House|
Kimono My House is the third album by American rock band Sparks. The record was released in May 1974 and is considered to be their commercial breakthrough.
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 was replaced with British musicians: Martin Gordon, Adrian Fisher and Norman "Dinky" Diamond joined the band 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 instead. Winwood remained with the group to produce the follow-up album Propaganda later in 1974.
The album's title is a pun on the title of the song "Come On-a My House", made famous by Rosemary Clooney. The pun has a precedent, however, in the title of the track "Kimona My House" on jazz guitarist Dick Garcia's 1956 album A Message from Garcia.
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 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 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 Records 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.
Reception and influence
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 the age of 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 in a list of his 13 favorite albums of all-time for The Quietus. Björk has also named the album as one of her all-time favourites. Steve Jones, guitarist and composer of the Sex Pistols, also hailed the album saying: In 1974, "The first Be-Bop Deluxe album, Axe Victim and Sparks' Kimono My House were both big albums for me and Cookie [Paul Cook]. We'd sit in his bedroom for hours listening to them". John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers named Adrian Fisher's guitar playing on Kimono My House and its follow-up Propaganda as one of his influences for the album By The Way.
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.
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 the entire album was performed, along with the 35-piece Heritage Orchestra, at the Barbican Centre on 19 and 20 December, where the band also performed brand new orchestral arrangements by Nathan Kelly. The programme also featured songs from their other 22 albums. The second date was added after the first night sold out.
As part of the live performance with the Heritage Orchestra, the band released the song "Thank God It’s Not Christmas" as a single. Stewart Mason of AllMusicsaid:
“One of the many highlights on the phenomenal Kimono My House, "Thank God It’s Not Christmas" is the archetypal song from Sparks’ Island Records era. Adrian Fisher’s lead guitar and Ron Mael’s piano duel insistently with a prominent string section, as Russell Mael sings an alternately wry and depressing lyric about the desire to find activities that distract oneself from a slowly disintegrating relationship. The lyrics are truly magnificent, both in their literal meaning and the way they work with the music, creating a rhythmic counter-melody that echoes Fisher’s guitar line, and Muff Winwood’s crystal-clear production emphasizes the song’s soaring, anthemic elements; although "Amateur Hour" and "This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us" were the hits and "Here In Heaven" is more beloved by fans, "Thank God It’s Not Christmas" is possibly the album’s highest point."
All tracks written by Ron Mael, except where noted.
|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, Ron Mael||3:52|
|7.||"Talent Is an Asset"||3:21|
|9.||"In My Family"||Russell Mael, Ron Mael||3:48|
|Island Masters bonus tracks (1994)|
|12.||"Lost and Found"||3:19|
|21st Century Edition bonus tracks (2006)|
|12.||"Lost and Found"||3:19|
|13.||"Amateur Hour (Live at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, London, 9 November 1975)" (Features the Indiscreet line-up of Sparks)||4:44|
|Side three – 40th Anniversary Edition (2014)|
|11.||"When I Take the Field on Friday" (1973 Demo)||2:45|
|12.||"Barbecutie" (1973 Demo)||2:56|
|13.||"Windy Day" (1973 Demo)||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||3:46|
|14.||"Marry Me" (1973 Demo)||3:07|
|Side four – 40th Anniversary Edition (2014)|
|15.||"A More Constructive Use of Leisure Time" (1973 Demo)||3:37|
|16.||"Alabamy Right" (1973 Demo)||2:27|
|17.||"My Brains and Her Looks" (1973 Demo)||3:13|
- Russell Mael – vocals
- Ron Mael – keyboards
- Martin Gordon – bass
- Adrian Fisher – guitar
- Norman "Dinky" Diamond – drums, percussion, castanets
- Muff Winwood – producer
- Richard Digby-Smith – recording engineer
- Tony Platt – recording engineer
- Bill Price – mixdown engineer
- Nicholas de Ville – art direction, cover concept
- Ron Mael – cover concept
- Karl Stoeker – photography
- Bob Bowkett, CCS – artwork
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