No. 1 in Heaven is the eighth album by the American rock band Sparks. Released in 1979 by Virgin Records (initial copies on colored vinyl) and later licensed to Elektra Records in the States, it renewed interest in the band after disappointing sales of albums like Big Beat and Introducing Sparks. The album is the first and only of the band's to be issued on Elektra Records, the 4th label the band was signed to in the US. The first US editions of the LP contained content identical to the original Virgin UK release, but later editions substituted the 12" extended mix of "Beat the Clock" for the album version.
In 1973, Sparks had decamped from the US to the UK, the move resulted in a change of line up and English musicians were hired to fill the roles of guitar, bass and drums. This decision had proved a good one, and Sparks enjoyed their first period of success wherein their singles and albums sold well and were received warmly by the critics. Indiscreet; the third of Sparks' UK-based albums was more ambitious than the former two but had sold less well. The Maels then chose to return to Los Angeles to rejuvenate the group.
Initially they had returned to work with the early Sparks member Earle Mankey and recorded the song "England" with him. Eventually the group turned to Rupert Holmes and recorded the heavier and slicker Big Beat with a number of session musicians. Although the album employed a more "American" sound, it did little business in the US or the UK. The next album Introducing Sparks was much lighter but was equally slick and was no more successful than Big Beat. This new "West Coast" sound was deemed a failure as they felt the results were "bereft of personality". The Mael Brothers found themselves at a 'what do we do now?' moment. By 1978 they had tired of the rock band format and determined to take their music in a more electronic direction.
In 1978 Sparks teamed up with pioneering Italian producer Giorgio Moroder to record No. 1 in Heaven at Musicland Studios, West Germany. They had expressed admiration for Giorgio Moroder, creator of the iconic disco anthem "I Feel Love" performed by Donna Summer, to a German journalist who turned out to be a friend of his.
No. 1 in Heaven had a dramatically different sound to that of Sparks' previous seven albums. The group dropped the standard guitar, bass and piano from its musical palette. The new sound was dominated by layered sequencers and synthesizers which built upon the drums and percussion of Keith Forsey. Russell Mael's voice which employed his distinctive falsetto was overlaid in a number of overdubs and complemented by backing vocalists. Musically, the sound of the album matched that of "I Feel Love" and that of Moroder's solo work. Aside from Ron Mael's lyrics and Russell's vocals, the sound of songs like "Tryouts for the Human Race" and "La Dolce Vita" continued in the vein of Donna Summer's music. A sound that began in 1977 with "I Feel Love", was continued on Once Upon a Time ("Now I Need You", "Working the Midnight Shift", "Queen for a Day") and appeared again on 1979s Bad Girls in songs like "Sunset People".
No. 1 in Heaven was promoted by the release of four singles over 1979. The first single, "La Dolce Vita" was released in early 1979 in European countries such as Germany and Italy but did not chart. "The Number One Song in Heaven", became the group's first hit since "Looks, Looks, Looks" in 1975. It reached #14 in the UK and made #5 on the Irish Singles Chart. "Beat the Clock," the follow-up, did even better in the UK and reached the top ten in July of that year. The final single (released after the album), "Tryouts for the Human Race," fared less well but still charted, hitting #45. All singles (except "La Dolce Vita") were released on picture disc/coloured vinyl with exclusive remixes/edits. The album itself, while reaching the charts in the UK and therefore faring better than Sparks' former two albums, managed only one week at #73 in September 1979.