Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks

Published on May 30th, 2010 in: Book Reviews, Books, Current Faves, Music, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

After all the articles I’ve written, after all the mix tapes and CDs I’ve made, after all the years of continual and ridiculous fangirling over Sparks. . . do I really need to convince you that they are one of the most wonderful bands of the last 40 years?

If only there were some sort of written chronology of their illustrious career, perhaps one that covers the band’s history, album by album, with salient or illuminating quotes from those who have known, followed, and worked with the band from its inception to the present day. . . it would just make things so much easier.

Thankfully, writer Daryl Easlea has answered my cries for help and written Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks.

talent asset sparks cover

Talent Is An Asset is an unauthorized biography, but don’t worry; this is not some scandalous, shoddily researched exposé on the two central characters in this Sparksian tale, brothers Ron and Russell Mael. Easlea has done an impressive amount of research, and even includes a credits section, outlining the supporting cast and summarizing their significance in the Sparks universe.

Granted, the Island Records period—which covers Sparks’ most commercially successful material—receives the most detailed treatment, but each of their 22 albums is discussed in a fair amount of depth. Surprisingly, the three albums released in the early ’80s and the resulting period of small-but-significant commercial success in the US (which had previously eluded the band) are covered in one chapter; this could be attributed to the fact that Easlea is from the UK or because his personal bias is towards the Island period.

Any chronology of a band’s history would be boring if it merely focused on chart positions, statistics, and tour dates. In addition to the opinions of those who have worked with Sparks over the years, Easlea peppers his text with his own opinions, which do not overshadow the stories, but serve to illustrate that he is actually a Sparks fan, and not some hired hack. (I must be some sort of Sparks anomaly because as good as Kimono My House is, I still maintain that Propaganda and Indiscreet are the true masterpieces of the Island period.)

And since everyone has an opinion on Sparks, there is bound to be at least one person whose opinion is less than flattering. If I had one complaint about Talent Is An Asset, it’s the continuous stream of negative comments by former bassist Martin Gordon (who played only on Kimono). I certainly don’t expect everyone in the Sparks universe to be living in perfect harmony, but it seems somewhat unnecessary to include quite so much of Mr. Gordon’s bitching.

Clearly, after 30 plus years, he’s still bitter about his forced exit from the band; that’s his own burden to bear, and I don’t think we should be forced to share it with him. The mention of Gordon trolling the Sparks message boards and then becoming irate just made me cringe with embarrassment; thankfully he is listed in the credits as “spouting his own drivel and nonsense,” which made me laugh out loud.

Talent Is An Asset is an asset to the collection of any Sparks fan. I hope that those who have remained on the fence about Sparks until now will read it and hop over onto our side. Although no new interviews were conducted with Ron and Russell Mael for the book, there are enough quotes from current interviews with the Maels (including one with Easlea himself) to give us some insight. Without relying too heavily on the Mael’s own opinions about the band, we actually get a more objective viewpoint on the history of Sparks. The fascinating and sometimes maddeningly elusive brothers still retain enough mystery to keep us wanting more.

Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks was published on April 5 by Ominbus Press. It also features many great photos and an exhaustive discography of the band’s releases to date, including their latest, The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman, which was released in August 2009.

8 Responses to “Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks

  1. Rev. Syung Myung Me:
    May 30th, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    AWESOME — I had no idea this exists!

  2. Popshifter » Sparks: No. 1 Songs In Heaven:
    August 11th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    […] awesome things that have books about them. Two books, actually: Talent Is An Asset has already been reviewed in Popshifter, so now we bring you the other unauthorized Sparks bio, Dave Thompson’s Sparks: […]

  3. Derek Lawrence:
    September 30th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    i agree! gordon only played on the successful record anyway so what is he going on about that is all what i want to say.

  4. Dave:
    November 2nd, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I’m with the reviewer about Propaganda and Indiscreet in enjoying them more than Kimono — as good and as important as that album is. Indiscreet deserves much more respect than it typically gets.

  5. Popshifter:
    November 2nd, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone!


  6. Martin Gordon:
    February 14th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    LLM writes: “(Gordon) is listed in the credits as “spouting his own drivel and nonsense,” which made me laugh out loud.”

    How sweet, I am so glad to see that my own lines have the capacity to amuse even the most fanatic of fans.

    Martin Gordon

  7. The Sparks Project - Review: A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing - Kittysneezes:
    October 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    […] Talent Is An Asset: The Story Of Sparks […]

  8. Tommy Stewart:
    November 21st, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Actually, Martin Gordon’s commentary is the reason I’m buying the book. I guess I’m just bitter, but that’s my own burden to bear,

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