This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

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"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
Single by Sparks
from the album Kimono My House and Plagiarism (1997 re-recording with Faith No More)'
B-side "Barbecutie"
Released 1974
Format 7-inch, 45 rpm
Recorded 1974
Genre glam rock, pop-rock, art rock
Length 3:06
Label Island Records
Writer(s) Ron Mael
Producer(s) Muff Winwood
Sparks chronology
"Girl from Germany"
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
"Amateur Hour"
Faith No More chronology
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
"I Started a Joke"
Music sample

"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" is a song written by Ron Mael of the American pop group Sparks. It is the opening track on their 1974 album Kimono My House, and was the lead single from the album, reaching number 2 in the UK singles chart.[1]

The original idea for the song was that after each verse Russell Mael would sing a movie dialogue cliché, one of which was "This town ain't big enough for the both of us". They dropped the idea of having different phrases and instead used only the one in the title. The original working title of the song was "Too Hot To Handle".

An acoustic version of the song was recorded in 1985 for the B-side of the "Change" single.

In 1997, Sparks recorded two new versions of the song. The first was an orchestral reworking produced by Tony Visconti which reinstated a verse producer Muff Winwood had cut from the original. The other was for their album Plagiarism as a collaboration with Faith No More, which was released as a single and reached number 40 in the British singles chart.

Winwood added the distinctive Western movie-style gunshots in the studio. It has been claimed that Winwood bet with his friend Elton John that the song would become a top-five hit in the UK charts. Elton John bet that it would not; he lost.[2]

Track listing[edit]

  • 1974 original release.
  1. "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us – 3:06
  2. "Barbecutie – 3:10


Chart positions[edit]


Chart Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK (Official Charts Company) BPI: Silver[11]

Musical style[edit]

The vocal sound on the single has been criticised as being "stylised". This may be because the song was written without any regard for the vocal style of Russell Mael. Songwriter Ron Mael has explained:

"This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us" was written in A, and by God it'll be sung in A. I just feel that if you're coming up with most of the music, then you have an idea where it's going to go. And no singer is gonna get in my way.

Russell Mael has claimed in reply:

When he wrote "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us", Ron could only play it in that key. It was so much work to transpose the song and one of us had to budge, so I made the adjustment to fit in. My voice ain't a "rock" voice. It's not soulful, in the traditional rock way; It's not about "guts". It's untrained, unschooled, I never questioned why I was singing high. It just happened, dictated by the songs. Ron has always written Sparks' lyrics and never transposed them into a rock key for me to sing. He always packed each line with words and I had to sing them as they were.[12]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees on their 1987 album Through the Looking Glass, by Heavens Gate on their 1996 album Planet E, and by Theory in Practice on their 2002 album Colonizing the Sun. British Whale (recording alias of The Darkness singer/songwriter Justin Hawkins) released a version as his debut single in August 2005, which reached number 6 in the UK charts.

The track "Arabian Shamuru" on the 1991 Bon Voyage album by Japanese band Mahalik Halili uses almost exactly the same melody as "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us".

In live concerts, the electro/dance group Justice have performed the track, and Arizona's The Format also cover it frequently, including it on their 2006 EP And Now I Hope You're Alright - Live in California. Portuguese band Humanos in their concerts performed a live version, mashing it with O Corpo É Que Paga.[13] by Portuguese 1980's icon António Variações, which is available on their live DVD[14]

Sparks' 1997 album Plagiarism included two collaborations with Faith No More – "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us" and "Something for the Girl with Everything". Faith No More performed the song live during their 1997–1998 and reunion tours.

Cultural references[edit]

The song appears in a dream sequence in an episode of the British sitcom Green Wing. It is performed by two of the characters, Dr. "Mac" Macartney and Dr. Alan Statham, pretending to be Russell Mael and Ron Mael respectively.

The original Sparks version of the song is heard in the 2010 movie Kick-Ass.


  1. ^ a b c "Sparks". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Sparks - "This town ain't big enough for both of us" Single". Xavier Lorente-Darracq / Graphik Designs - France. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  3. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  4. ^ "This town ain't big enough for both of us in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. Retrieved 6 June 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Sparks"
  5. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us". GfK Entertainment.
  6. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Sparks search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  7. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  8. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us". Swiss Singles Chart.
  9. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. 
  10. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 27 October 2012". Ultratop 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "British certificates: searchable database". Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  12. ^ The Word, No. 36, February 2006.
  13. ^ "Antonio variações - o corpo é que paga (semi-original)". YouTube. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]