HAVE A TERRIBLE PROBLEM'
- Sparks vs The Rubettes on Top of the Pops
We were with Island and there was this real big push to try to
make 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us' work. There was
resistance initially because it's a pretty unique song, but they
were making a bit of headway and by a few lucky breaks the song
got into the charts and we were offered Top of the Pops. And all
of a sudden Island Records were rejoicing that they'd done it
finally and this was going to be the massive break for Sparks
in the UK.
So we went to re-record the song and the producer of the show,
a guy named Robin Nash, came down to meet us. A very British gentleman,
and he says, [perfect BBC accent] 'Hullo, Robin Nash, Top
of the Pops,' and I went, 'Hi, I'm Russell from Sparks,' with
my best American twang. And he said, 'Oh. Oh excuse me, I must
make a telephone call.' And they pulled us off of the show, because
they'd assumed we were British and we weren't part of the Musicians'
Union here. So we were removed from Top of the Pops that
week and replaced by The Rubettes.
So Island went through all the proper things that apparently they
were supposed to have done before. They later applied and we were
allowed into the British Musicians' Union. We applied a number
of times and were constantly rejected; each time, the reason for
being rejected was that we had been rejected the time before.
And then finally, for some reason, we were graciously allowed
to be members.
When 'Sugar Baby Love' was released, it was out for four months,
five months, whatever it was, and it was just ticking over, and
in fact it was about to be taken off the playlist, so it would
have died maybe. And then we got Top of the Pops by default:
Sparks were over to do 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of
Us', and they didn't have a work permit so they got pulled off
Top of the Pops. They needed a band very quickly, and hence
we had two days to prepare. I was in Marquee studios working on
someone else's record and I got the phone call. We all met up,
we re-recorded the track, we spent the whole of that night working
on a routine and next day we went and bought clothes for an image.
We did Top of the Pops and two or three weeks later it
was #1. We ended up doing Top of the Pops seven times on
the trot, I think - they called us the resident band at one time.
And I like to think that us appearing and our image and portrayal
of that song just helped a little bit in making it a hit.
We got a phone call around four o'clock
in the afternoon from Robin Nash's assistant; there had been a
work permit problem with the American band, Sparks, and would
you like to do Top of the Pops? Of course. Total panic:
white hat-buying time, get the band, blah-di-blah-di-blah. We
had done the backing track at Polydor studios in the hope that
we were going to get Top of the Pops, all kosher, all done,
When I got down to Top of the Pops, I had missed Don Smith
[Musicians' Union representative] by twenty minutes and
Robin said, 'I'm sorry, you have a terrible problem; Don Smith
says that as far as he's concerned nobody ever did the backing
track.' We were under threat for about an hour of being removed.
Eventually it was sorted out, but I was soaked with sweat because
one minute we were on, the next minute we were off.
Don's wife - who's no longer with us - was a friend of my wife,
and when I went home that evening about quarter to ten my wife
said, 'Ah, you've just missed Don and Alice.' Don and Alice had
been and had a few glasses of wine and a bite to eat, while Wayne
was having triple by-pass surgery at the BBC.
A week or two weeks later they allowed
us back on Top of the Pops and then the song was amazingly
well received. But because 'Sugar Baby Love' was so popular also,
we got to #2 instead of #1. Because of that snafu, that's why
we didn't have a #1 at that time.
these words were brought to you by
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