Sparks

In the beginning:

Martin Gordon began his career in the Seventies as bass player with the American band Sparks, who found success in the UK with hits ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ and ‘Amateur Hour’ from their 1974 album ‘Kimono My House’. Following his dismissal for reading the newspaper while rehearsing, he moved swiftly on and formed Jet, described by All Music Guide as ‘the first supergroup of glam’. Jet were also described as ‘clambering aboard the glam-rock bandwagon just before the sparkly wheels fell off and deposited the occupants in the cosmic ditch’.

But:

Jet featured Gordon, singer Andy Ellison and drummer Chris Townson from legendary proto-punks John’s Children. They released a solitary, eponymous album (working with Queen- and Foreigner-producer Roy Thomas Baker) and dissolved in a welter of ill-feeling and lack of interest. In recent years, the re-released album has established Jet as the ‘missing link between glam and punk rock’. The release of a collection of material recorded for their projected second album (‘More Light Than Shade’) was stymied by idiots.

Radio Stars

And then:

After the demise of Jet, the band reconvened as Radio Stars and achieved a modicum of success with two well-received albums (‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’ and ‘Holiday Album’). Ousted in a savage dental coup, and not forgetting our old friends ill-feeling and poor judgement, Gordon moved to Paris to work as house producer for Barclay Records. During this period, he also played bass for the Rolling Stones, recording in Paris at the time.

He returned to the UK in the early 80s and, after forming the short-lived Blue Meanies, began working as keyboard player and studio hand with such sensitive artists/blithering idiots as George Michael, Boy George, Blur, Primal Scream, Kylie Minogue, S’Express, the Tiger Lillies and many other whose names are lost in time and space.

However:

At the beginning of the nineties, ‘world music’ beckoned – Gordon’s ensemble Mira recorded an album, created an extravagant dance theatre show, performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival and expired. He worked in Bombay with the legendary Hindi film singer Asha Bhosle, in Istanbul with epoch-defining Turkish diva Sezen Aksu and became a sought-after location recordist, working in such cosmically-well-starred locations as Bali, Egypt, the Gambia, Ghana, India, Morocco and Pakistan. Simultaneously, and also at the same time, he helped out some old acquaintances in a 20th century revisitation of John’s Children.

The Baboon in the Basement

So:

Following his return to pop territory in 2003 with the release of his first solo CD ‘The Baboon in the Basement’, he has never looked back, although he will not say why. Gordon, oddly but presciently described in 2009 by Classic Rock magazine as being “like Brian Eno fronting 10cc at a cleverness convention”, released the sixth and final part of the Mammal Trilogy ‘Include Me Out’ in 2013. A selection of Gilbert & Sullivan faves was released in 2016. In 2017, Gordon focused unsuccessfully on Dumping the Trump and continued the theme in 2018 with the album ‘Thanks For All the Fish‘. Continuing the theme still further was ‘OMG‘ in 2020. Following Gordon’s dalliance with the Ensemble Modern in west Africa in 2019, he presented his mini-opera ‘Another Words‘ in summer 2021, with an expanded version following in 2022. In 2023 ‘Greatest Sh!ts‘ was released.

Quick reference:

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66 thoughts on “Biography

  1. How in the world do you keep body and soul together?

    Royalties – unlikely; a job on the Metro – not your scene; sales staff in a hi-fi store – maybe; janitor in a sports stadium – possibly, because you thrn would be free to think of your music while not having to use any brain power or emotions.

    It’s a hard life.

    1. Ah, you have clearly been spying on me. I have for many years been channelling my inner Geoff Goddard as a cake restorer in a sports stadium, where I specialise in reconstructing semi-masticated cake products for resale to an unsuspecting, and obviously idiotic, sport-loving public. If you have any such formerly-nibbled products, you know where to turn.

      Thanks for your concern, if indeed concern it was.

      1. Yes, it was a bit of concern. However, a person would need a decent income to live in Berlin, or not live but survive if on a pittance.

        BTW The only Geoff Goddard I’ve personally heard of wrote haunting songs for Joe Meek but wound up working in a canteen in a British university. Have you dropped a clue there and what’s with the Black Forest, wasn’t that Horst Jankowski?

        1. Dear, dear Horst. But my reference was actually to the gateau of the same name, my chosen area of expertise. As for Geoff – he embodied a model of discretion that is a rare thing in these current times.

          Thanks for your enquiry, most touching, really… Although I am rather puzzled by your choice of relatively undemanding possible occupations. Perhaps you are confusing me with Andy Ellison? No matter – the late-lamented Neil Innes once noted “Freedom is the handle on the bucket of your soul”, and so say all of us.

          1. Do you not get distracted or should I say more correctly, disturbed, by the variety of people/nutters that contact you here? I mean you have little or no idea who they are. Perhaps some have worked with you or known your ex-partners (musical or otherwise). It’s a weird world out here, there, everywhere.

          2. You are right, of course. Personally I have my doubts about the authenticity of (to select a random few) Stu Pidastrump, Danny Ponce de Leon O’Weener, Pootinyahu, Pat Baboone and Ken Godden. I mean who ever heard of someone called Ken? The author must think I was born yesterday.

            Although to be fair, I must say that sometimes, after a hard day’s slaving at the restoration cakeface, a few good honest loonies are just the ticket.

          3. ‘Wotnotrousers’ Ellis has been bugging me for years, ever since he first claimed to have been an invisible keyboard player on the Jet album.

            He has even infiltrated recent solo recordings, where I just wasn’t quick enough on the uptake to unmask him as the forensic musicologist that he really is, albeit one scorned by his peers.

          4. I was looking for I Was KaiserBill’s Batman when I inadvertently arrived in this hard to understand web of complexities.. What is going on?

          5. I’m afraid he’s gone out. Is there someone else who can help you with your existential plea for sanity? I see the tea-lady is currently at a loose end, having finished with The Critique of Pure Reason, so she’s basically just hanging about the place…

          6. Not Lipton’s tea surely. A good brew of PGTips is the way to a songstress’s soul. What’s your brew Rabbit, I mean Michael ex-Rabbit man?

          7. She would under no circumstances serve anything other than PG Tips, of course. But are you sure you don’t mean Tee?

          8. Golf tea of course. I wasn’t aware of your predilection for fitness.

            You must have thought you were on your way with Radio Stars. The music biz can be a roundabout. Still there’s always the fairways in which to let off steam in an MGB GT, no?

          9. For greater insights into the vagaries of the music biz, I will have to refer you to the conceptual genius who decided to deliberately derail Radio Stars. Clue – it wasn’t Richard III.

            G&Ts? Always got time for one, if not two.

          10. Cakes are just the thing now in England what with this weekend being a holiday and next weekend too.

            We’re lucky people! Thankfully not in da music biz.

          11. Personally I’m looking forward to getting my own free picture of the latest king, hopefully some scarves, some banners, a poster, the words of the oath of allegiance printed on a piece of wafer-thin ivory (or else I can always substitute my own, I suppose), celebratory underwear and a bagful of regal turnips.

          12. Metallic toilet paper could be the coming thing. Gives some reflection while on the throne as well as sharpening you up!

          13. The regal aspect that you suggest is an interesting additional use. Charles III of Underpants could also monitor his appearance via the metallic reflection while simultaneously broadcasting the evacuation of his bowels for the benefit of his followers and the lumpen proletariat in general. What’s not to like?

          14. But you appear tough and resilient MG. So, how in the world could diminutive Kylie belittle you and how could Blur ignore you?

          15. Calling people idiots doesn’t exactly endear them to you. No wonder you’ve had issues, and you certainly know the best way to get rid of visitors.

            Most here are good natured, they mean no harm.

      2. Ayr Races? Was going to make my post GN second annual bet on 1535 Scottish Grand National when I spotted the 1350 race had Mr Gordon and Mr Ellison’s most dashing equestrian this side of Blackpool pleasure beach.

        1.50 CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase

        1 Sail Away 13/2
        2 Forward Plan 9/1
        3 City Chief 15/8 f

  2. Martin, I’ll get right to the point! The rumors are true, I’m running for Prez of the USA again! People say I’m ugly, overbearing, a sociopath, and have really bad hair! My family is wrong but I need to humor them until I am elected so I am looking for a handsome, intelligent, happy, running mate who has trendy hair! I would like to ask you…..if you know anyone who fits this description?

    1. Well, Stu, you can relax. I have the perfect tonsorial running mate for you. It is of course none other than the fragrant Michael Fabricant and his perfectly fabricated hair. I believe it even has its own Instagram account.

      To add value, his constructed hair is capable of employing a team of fourteen Albanian teenagers round the clock (but not literally), thus helping them to not grow up and become international people smugglers and move their operation to the Great British South Coast. Plus their wig-fabrication activities are perfectly sustainable; if they have any glue left over after sticking the virile and impressive orange tufts to the skullcap, do they just throw it down the Albanian sewers? Not a bit of it – they simply snort it, thus saving the world for future generations. This is popularly known as a win-wig scenario.

  3. Hello! How are you this wonderful day? I have a question, if you don’t mind. My poodle has leprosy and is in need of treatment but the cost has proven to be prohibitive. Would you care to donate? He once bit a hysterical mole after a recording session and was immediately fired from the band. Does this remind you of anyone? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hmm, tricky, and not only ethically. Of course, biting moles is usually contra-indicated. Did you know that although moles have a distinct look, they may not look alike? Did you know that? Apparently it’s true. Moles can differ in size, shape, or colour. Moles can have hair. Some moles will change slowly over time, possibly even disappearing. I understand that also applies to their hair as well, although the phrasing is a bit confusing.

      Well, that was a most pleasant exchange about moles, all things considered. Good luck with your poodle. I personally would tell him to pay a bit more attention to his surroundings, and Americans.

  4. Hello Martin! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! In the words of one of the Beatles, “O U T spells out”! When can the music loving public expect a new album from you dear sir? I have heard you are preparing to enter the studio as we speak! I have a semi-creative thought for your consideration. What is the one thing that could have improved the Beatles music? They needed, screamed for actually, the addition of bongos! Was it George Martin’s fault? Were they afraid of incurring the cost of a world class bongo player? Hell, they could have fired Ringo if that was the case! I understand Beethoven was considering a bongo extravaganza for his 9th symphony to replace the choral section. Damn it! It would have been a classic! Anyway, have a happy new year and don’t forget to “ring out the old, ring in the new”

    1. Hello Ponce! (You don’t mind if I call you Ponce, do you?) The last I heard was that bongos are going to be ‘in’ next year, as young people say. Well, I don’t know about that, I’m sure, but I am in something of a bongo fury myself, not to put too fine a point on it.

      I will be working off my existential angst with a bongo-only effort, you can be sure of this much. The current line-up is Rish! Bongo (bongos), Jacob Rees-Bongo (bongos), Liz Bongo (bonkers) and Bunter Bongo on lead vocals (and bongos). And me, of course.

  5. Hi Martin! Is there any chance you might record an ode to Vlad Putin? I think he could use a little positive yet humorous criticism to help improve his image.

    1. Yes, poor ol’ Vlad can hardly put a foot right these days, can he? Everybody’s banging on him, you’d think he’d done something terrible like killing someone or something. Here he is with a funny clown face, just to cheer you up: . Just remember – there are no Russians in Trussia.

  6. Hello Martin. I wanted to comment on the cover of “The Baboon In The Basement.” To my well trained eyes, the subject looks suspiciously like my daughter, Debbie, after her successful treatment for terminal acne.

  7. After due consideration and long time admiration, I have now come to the conclusion that the Radio Stars ‘Dirty Pictures’ poster is one of the greatest works of art from the 20th Century, mind you, my eyesight doesn’t appear to be as good as it once was.

  8. Hey Boss, hope you’re all good. Was listening to Jet today and it suddenly occurred to me that the Rolling Stones would certainly have been a different beast if you had joined them permanently. I know the songs are as rare as hens teeth but Jagger/Richards did collaborate so I’m sure you’d have had a go. Imagine Mick trying to get his copious lips around Whangdepootenawah? Imagine the Stones having a hit with it?? 😂. Actually how about composing a song in the style of the Stones but with some of the Gordon genius sprinkled over it?

      1. REALLY ANGRY MOST DISPLEASED. (Shirtless from Cleethorpes)

        Just looked at a video on YouTube showing ‘This town ain’t big enough’ and you and Adrian were swapped for two amateurs. Your ‘replacement’ wasn’t even playing a Rickenbacker!! Complete b*****d. I’m lobbying a select committee in parliament to get the video banned and to also get mole no. 2 some dental work done.

        Hope you’re ok ❤️

        1. But on the other hand, amateurs don’t get a very good press these days. I mean look at the UK government. If nobody had voted for them, where would they be? Nowhere, that’s where. Go amateurs!

      1. I am sorry to hear that, although I wasn’t there and it was a complete surprise to hear about your situation. In fact I am furious about your inability to get Whangdepootenawah and will be burbling on about it at great length for some considerable time at some point.

  9. Hi Martin
    As a long time Sparks fan (yeah, I know, it’s so 1970’s, but that’s where I satrted buying pop/rock music)
    I wanted to ask, are you playing bass in the video for Thank God It’s Not Christmas.
    I’m conviced it’s Ian Hampton, mainly because his bass looks like a Fender Jazz, and you usually use Rickenbacker’s, don’t you?

    1. Ah, the 70s. You are right, it’s not me but a miming Brexiteer. Rickenbackers were too good for just any old Tom, Dick or Harry, know what I mean? I’m sure the upcoming Sparks film will have much more on this topic (fnar fnar).

  10. “… sensitive artists/blithering idiots as George Michael, Boy George, Blur, Primal Scream, Kylie Minogue, S’Express, the Tiger Lillies …”

    So true, so true. I too have worked with similar big names in studios. If people only knew what some of these “artists” were/are really like.

      1. Some of the “artists” you mention may have actually been intelligent enough, or bemused, to see their “art” gaining recognition (as well as amassing shed loads of cash). Their enthusiastic fans, however, might not want to believe the truth if even if it jumped up and knocked them over.

          1. “ …. your point is rather opaque. Care to clarify?”

            Well, it’s unreal that people with no discernible talent can get a record deal (those days have gone I know) then get exposed/exploited to the extent that they believe the hype, and their own publicity. Unbelievably this dross can sell and some of these inadequates become elevated to star status.

            Conversely there are artists who have talent, skill and ability but go unrecognised.

            A music business lawyer in London once said to me: “There is no justice”, adding that he didn’t in the legal sense.

  11. Hello Mr.Martin,
    you might remember me: a Sparks fan from Italy who still thinks that the best sounding work from Sparks is Kimono My House. Perhaps because of Adrian Fisher and Martin Gordon in the line-up……. perhaps….. If you remember my name you might remember that we swapped messages long before the Daryl Easlea book because I wanted to know how the Mael bros. put together such a great line-up and in a few months they completely detroyed it.
    I would like to ask you another question so, if you feel like writing back to me, please do it. I’ll wait for your e-mail. All the best from

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