This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

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"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
Starks - TTABEFTBOU.jpg
Single by Sparks
from the album Kimono My House and Plagiarism (1997 re-recording with Faith No More)'
Format7-inch, 45 rpm
GenreGlam rock[1]
LabelIsland Records
Songwriter(s)Ron Mael
Producer(s)Muff Winwood
Sparks singles chronology
"Girl from Germany"
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
"Amateur Hour"
Faith No More singles chronology
"This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us"
"I Started a Joke"

"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.[2] This song has become the highest charting in United Kingdom, where it was two consecutive weeks, and it was held off the top spot by The Rubettes' bubblegum pop song "Sugar Baby Love".

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 for their album Plagiarism. The first was an orchestral reworking arranged and conducted by Tony Visconti which reinstated a verse producer Muff Winwood had cut from the original. The other was as a collaboration with Faith No More, which was released as a single and reached number 40 in the British singles chart.[3]

Winwood used distinctive Western movie-style gunshots on the recording after a suggestion from engineer Dave Hutchins. Hutchins added the sound effect after he felt the recorded track 'was missing something', sourcing the gunshots from a BBC sound effects LP 'borrowed' from his previous workplace at the corporation.

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 and that Elton John, saying it would not, lost the bet.[4] In his Sparks biography Talent is an Asset, however, Daryl Easlea reports that this was a "great tale" propagated by the Mael brothers that is contradicted by Winwood himself – in fact, Winwood said that, unsure of how commercial the track would be, he played it to Elton John, who told him, "Listen, I'll bet you a hundred quid that that makes the Top 3". Winwood's wife agreed, and his doubts were allayed.[5]

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[13]

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.[14]

When the track was first recorded, the crew all felt that there was 'something missing', but could not decide what it was. Then engineer Dave Hutchins had an idea, raided the BBC (for whom he had previously worked) and added the distinctive gunshot effect. Winwood loved and approved the change, and the gunshot is now the signature of the song.

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".
  • Arizona's The Format cover it in live concerts 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"[15] by Portuguese 1980's icon António Variações, which is available on their live DVD.[16]
  • In live concerts, the Los Angeles/San Francisco glam rock band [Celebrity Skin] performed the song regularly during live performances beginning in 1987.
  • Sparks' 1997 album Plagiarism included two collaborations with Faith No More – "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" and "Something for the Girl with Everything". Faith No More performed the song live during their 1997–1998 and reunion tours.

In popular culture[edit]

The song appears in a dream sequence in an episode of the British sitcom Green Wing. The original track is mimed 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.

The song is used in episode 2 of the episodic video game series 2017’s Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy.


  1. ^ Savage, Jon (1 February 2013). "The 20 best glam-rock songs of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Sparks". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  3. ^ "The Record Producers: Tony Visconti". Retrieved 4 April 2017. External link in |website= (help)
  4. ^ "Sparks - "This town ain't big enough for both of us" Single". Xavier Lorente-Darracq / Graphik Designs - France. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  5. ^ Daryl Easlea (7 April 2010). Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-237-7.
  6. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  7. ^ "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"
  8. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Sparks" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  9. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  10. ^ " – Sparks – This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us". Swiss Singles Chart.
  11. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  12. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 27 October 2012". Ultratop 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  13. ^ "British certificates: searchable database". Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  14. ^ The Word, No. 36, February 2006.
  15. ^ "Antonio variações - o corpo é que paga (semi-original)". YouTube. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  16. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]