Those Special Sparks


I got to go to a concert last week by Sparks. They’re a great pair, with wonderfully playful music and intricate lyrics and an odd sense of humor. Even better, they played one of the songs that they performed in their big-screen debut, the 70s thriller/disaster movie Rollercoaster, which is one of the nearly more than one big-screen movies about amusement park safety inspectors.

The thing with that movie is, really, what the heck was Sparks doing there? Why were they brought in as a band to play the opening day of a new amusement park instead of, say, a band that doesn’t have catchy tunes with accurate titles like “So I Bought The Mississippi River” or “Everybody’s Stupid (That’s For Sure)” or one about the guy who’s the stunt performer for Gone With The Wind and had to do that tumbling-down-the-long-staircase scene all day long but doesn’t really know what the movie is about? A band that would go on to record a musical titled The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman and write “Lighten Up, Morrissey”? Why did they want Sparks’s “Big Boy”, about David and Goliath, in their film?

Wikipedia as ever can explain without explaining, in that the movie makers had wanted to get Kiss, but couldn’t, and so went to Sparks. This implies one of two things, though: either they had a list of potential bands for the film in which Kiss and Sparks were grouped together — and then either the list was “1. Kiss. 2. Sparks” or else there was another band that fit on the list between those two — or else, when the Kiss deal fell through the movie producers wandered, forlorn, through the streets of Los Angeles, thinking of their imminent professional doom, until someone ran out from the record store, clutching a copy of Kimono My House, and shouting, “Mister Levinson! Mister Link! I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” And they went to the record store’s listening booth and looked at one another and said, “Yes, this is the band we need in Sensurround”? Neither way seems plausible, but something like that has to have happened.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

3 thoughts on “Those Special Sparks”

  1. I remember the first time I saw that movie, I was a roller coaster fan though not yet a Sparks fan, but I had some acquaintance with the band nonetheless. My reaction at that scene was, “Sparks?!” I had just sat through an hour plus of a movie about a crazed bomber extorting amusement parks by booby trapping roller coasters, with only a heroic yet sardonic LA county building inspector standing in his way… but that was the craziest thing I had been asked to accept. “Sparks? Really? What??”

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    1. I wasn’t aware enough of Sparks at the time I saw the movie to realize how odd a choice it was, but, yes, it’s a weird choice. I suppose Kiss would have made a more obviously naturally-fitting choice but then, as we’ve learned, they apparently had their own plans for what to do in an amusement park movie.

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