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New Sparks anthology & album reissue

Sparks / Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins yellow vinyl LP + 2CD reissue

New ‘best of’ on three physical formats • Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins expanded to three discs • Coloured vinyl options

BMG will issue two Sparks releases in November; a new compilation called Past Tense: The Best of Sparks and a reissue of the duo’s 1994 album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins.

The former is available on three physical formats; a three-CD set features 58 tracks, from 1967’s ‘Computer Girl’ (recorded under the name Urban Renewal Project) to ‘Check Out Time 11AM’ from 2017’s Hippopotamus; a two-CD edition of the same compilation distils the offering down to 39 tracks, while the 3LP vinyl set includes 27 songs from the Sparks back catalog. Ron and Russell Mael have ‘hand-picked’ the selections, by the way and sleeve notes come courtesy of Simon Price.

Sparks / Past Tense: The Best of Sparks 3CD set

The second release (November is big enough for the both of them) is a reissue of 1994 album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins. A the time, the album was their first in six years, having spent a few years on film-making projects that came to naught. This long-player features ‘When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’’ which saw some success in Germany and was a minor hit in the UK.

Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins has been remastered and expanded to three CDs. Disc two offers B-sides, remixes and live recordings while the third disc includes unreleased tracks with vocals by actress-musician Christi Haydon and 12 previously unreleased demos. To round off what sounds like a very good package, Ron, Russell and Christi contribute sleeve notes.

Sparks / Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins yellow vinyl LP + 2CD reissue
A yellow vinyl edition of the Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins remaster comes with two CDs of bonus material

There’s a single LP remaster available (with red vinyl available exclusively via the Sparks store), but also, interestingly, a vinyl edition that comes with the two CDs of bonus material in the three-CD set. The latter is pressed on yellow vinyl and the coloured vinyl is available everywhere.

Past Tense: The Best of Sparks will be issued on 8 November, while the Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins reissue comes a week later on 15 November 2019.

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Past Tense: The Best of Sparks 3CD set

CD 1

  1. Computer Girl
  2. Wonder Girl
  3. (No More) Mr. Nice Guys
  4. Girl from Germany
  5. Beaver O’Lindy
  6. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
  7. Amateur Hour
  8. Here In Heaven
  9. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
  10. Something for the Girl With Everything
  11. Achoo
  12. Get in the Swing
  13. In The Future
  14. Looks, Looks, Looks
  15. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  16. Big Boy
  17. I Bought The Mississippi River
  18. Occupation
  19. Those Mysteries
  20. Tryouts for the Human Race
  21. Beat the Clock

CD 2

  1. The Number One Song in Heaven
  2. When I’m With You
  3. Tips for Teens
  4. Funny Face
  5. Angst in My Pants
  6. I Predict
  7. Sherlock Holmes
  8. Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin)
  9. Popularity
  10. I Wish I Looked A Little Better
  11. With All My Might
  12. Change
  13. Music That You Can Dance To
  14. So Important
  15. Singing In The Shower (with Les Rita Mitsouko)
  16. National Crime Awareness Week (Psycho Cut)
  17. When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’
  18. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing – Radio Edit
  19. Let’s Go Surfing

CD 3

  1. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
  2. The Calm Before The Storm
  3. It’s A Knockoff
  4. The Rhythm Thief
  5. My Baby’s Taking Me Home
  6. Suburban Homeboy
  7. Dick Around
  8. Perfume
  9. Islington N1
  10. Good Morning
  11. Lighten Up, Morrissey
  12. Two Hands, One Mouth
  13. Piss Off (Sparks original demo)
  14. Johnny Delusional (FFS)
  15. Missionary Position
  16. Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  17. I Wish You Were Fun
  18. Check Out Time 11AM

Past Tense: The Best of Sparks 2CD edition

CD 1

  1. Wonder Girl
  2. Girl from Germany
  3. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
  4. Amateur Hour
  5. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
  6. Something for the Girl With Everything
  7. Get in the Swing
  8. Looks, Looks, Looks
  9. Big Boy
  10. Forever Young
  11. Tryouts for the Human Race
  12. The Number One Song in Heaven
  13. When I’m With You
  14. Tips for Teens
  15. Funny Face
  16. Angst in My Pants
  17. I Predict
  18. Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin)
  19. I Wish I Looked A Little Better
  20. With All My Might
  21. Change

CD 2

  1. Music That You Can Dance To
  2. So Important
  3. Singing In The Shower (with Les Rita Mitsouko)
  4. National Crime Awareness Week (Psycho Cut)
  5. When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’
  6. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing – Radio Edit
  7. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
  8. The Calm Before The Storm
  9. The Rhythm Thief
  10. Suburban Homeboy
  11. Dick Around
  12. Perfume
  13. Good Morning
  14. Lighten Up, Morrissey
  15. Johnny Delusional (FFS)
  16. Missionary Position
  17. Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  18. Check Out Time 11AM


Past Tense: The Best of Sparks
 3LP vinyl

LP 1

Side A

Wonder Girl
Girl from Germany
This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
Amateur Hour
Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
Something for the Girl With Everything

Side B

Get in the Swing
Big Boy
Forever Young
The Number One Song in Heaven

LP 2

Side A

Tryouts for the Human Race – Single Version
When I’m With You
Funny Face
I Predict
Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin)

Side B

With All My Might
Change
Music That You Can Dance To
So Important

LP 3

Side A

When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’
Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
The Calm Before The Storm
The Rhythm Thief

Side B

Dick Around
Good Morning
Johnny Delusional (FFS)
Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)

Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins 3CD edition

CD 1

original album remastered

1.        Gratuitous Sax
2.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way”
3.        (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing
4.        Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give A Damn
5.        I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car
6.        Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil
7.        Now That I Own The BBC
8.        Tsui Hark
9.        The Ghost Of Liberace
10.     Let’s Go Surfing
11.     Senseless Violins

CD 2

Mixes and versions

1.        National Crime Awareness Week (Complete Psycho) produced by Finiflex
2.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (The Grid Radio Edit) Remixed by The Grid
3.        (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [Bernard Butler’s Fashionable World Of Fashion Mix] remixed by Bernard Butler
4.        Now That I Own The BBC (Live BBC Acoustic Version)
5.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Vince Clarke Remix)
6.        She’s An Anchorman
7.        Little Drummer Boy Unreleased studio version
8.        Beat The Clock (Live in Concert) Live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London. 17 November 1994
9.        National Crime Awareness Week (13 Minutes In Heaven) produced by Finiflex
10.     When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Sticks & Stones Remix) remixed by Keith Marantz & David Longoria at The Steamroom
11.     (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [The Beatmasters’ Full-Blown Dub] Remixed by The Beatmasters
12.     Now That I Own The BBC (Motiv 8 Extended Vocal Mix) remixed by Motiv 8
13.     When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Pro-Gress Mix) Remix & additional production by Pro-Gress for D.E.F.
14.     National Crime Awareness Week (The Janet Leigh Mix) remixed by Steve Bates

CD 3

Unreleased demos     

1.        Where Did I Leave My Halo?
2.        She’s Beautiful (So What)
3.        Mid-Atlantic
4.        The Farmer’s Daughter
5.        This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More
6.        Bob Hope
7.        She’s An Anchorman (Demo)
8.        Love Can Conquer All
9.        That’s What I Call Paradise
10.     This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More (Ron Vocal Version)
11.     Mid-Atlantic (Ron Vocal Version)
12.     That’s Entertainment (feat. Les Bohem)

Unreleased tracks from Christi Haydon EP
(with vocals by Christi Haydon)

13.     Katharine Hepburn
14.     Titanic
15.     Othello
16.     Holiday
17.     Boris The Spider

Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins Vinyl LP + 2CD edition

Vinyl LP

original album remastered

Side A

1.        Gratuitous Sax
2.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way”
3.        (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing
4.        Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give A Damn
5.        I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car
6.        Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

Side B

1.        Now That I Own The BBC
2.        Tsui Hark
3.        The Ghost Of Liberace
4.        Let’s Go Surfing
5.        Senseless Violins

CD 2

Mixes and versions

1.        National Crime Awareness Week (Complete Psycho) produced by Finiflex
2.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (The Grid Radio Edit) Remixed by The Grid
3.        (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [Bernard Butler’s Fashionable World Of Fashion Mix] remixed by Bernard Butler
4.        Now That I Own The BBC (Live BBC Acoustic Version)
5.        When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Vince Clarke Remix)
6.        She’s An Anchorman
7.        Little Drummer Boy Unreleased studio version
8.        Beat The Clock (Live in Concert) Live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London. 17 November 1994
9.        National Crime Awareness Week (13 Minutes In Heaven) produced by Finiflex
10.     When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Sticks & Stones Remix) remixed by Keith Marantz & David Longoria at The Steamroom
11.     (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [The Beatmasters’ Full-Blown Dub] Remixed by The Beatmasters
12.     Now That I Own The BBC (Motiv 8 Extended Vocal Mix) remixed by Motiv 8
13.     When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Pro-Gress Mix) Remix & additional production by Pro-Gress for D.E.F.
14.     National Crime Awareness Week (The Janet Leigh Mix) remixed by Steve Bates

CD 3

Unreleased demos     

1.        Where Did I Leave My Halo?
2.        She’s Beautiful (So What)
3.        Mid-Atlantic
4.        The Farmer’s Daughter
5.        This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More
6.        Bob Hope
7.        She’s An Anchorman (Demo)
8.        Love Can Conquer All
9.        That’s What I Call Paradise
10.     This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More (Ron Vocal Version)
11.     Mid-Atlantic (Ron Vocal Version)
12.     That’s Entertainment (feat. Les Bohem)

Unreleased tracks from Christi Haydon EP
(with vocals by Christi Haydon)

13.     Katharine Hepburn
14.     Titanic
15.     Othello
16.     Holiday
17.     Boris The Spider

59 responses to New Sparks anthology & album reissue

  1. Robert Wilson says:

    My CD just arrived and, despite ordering the 3 disc edition, I’ve received a 2-disc one :-(

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Ordered from where? I got the 3CD from amazon at the £9.99 price.

      • Robert Wilson says:

        Sorry, should’ve said. Amazon. I’m returning it and have re-purchased the 3-disc version, which is still available at £9.99…let’s see if they get it right this time!

  2. Electric Sydney says:

    I wonder why Past Tense is still showing as “unavailable” at Amazon US considering it’s coming out this week.

  3. xrey says:

    Nice comprehensive 3-CD comp!
    Baffled by the exclusion of “All You Ever Think About Is Sex” which was a big hit in L.A. on KROQ. “Modesty Plays” (aka “Modesty Blaise”, title song from the movie) was another one, but licensing or label complexities probably nixed its inclusion.

  4. elcid says:

    I wish they included “Fingertips”

  5. Michael Chapman says:

    I’m hoping the brothers Mael are going to release a 40th anniversary edition of Terminal Jive. Is anything around hinting at this?

  6. David Rose says:

    Also out is a box set of Les Rita Mitsouko Cd’s or LP’s and a greatest hits set this week.
    Well worth a listen if you like Sparks

  7. Ant says:

    There is no ‘Get Crazy!’

  8. Cory says:

    I have a slight concern. Years ago, I had the US CD Maxi of “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way?'” and the Grid “Radio Edit,” although fantastic musically, was unfortunately instrumental.

    I wish with all my might that this set includes the clever vocal.

    • Gareth Pugh says:

      Cory, same thing happened with in the UK. ‘…My Way?’ first came out in October 1994 on (as was the custom for many singles then) 2 separate CD formats, each with tons of mixes on and the ‘Grid Radio Edit’ was indeed instrumental. After ‘Charlie Parker’, BMG reissued ‘… My Way?’ as the third UK single, again on 2 CD formats, with different cover art and, to their credit, a new line-up of bonus tracks and remixes. This time, a fully vocal version of the Grid radio edit did feature, and very good it is too. Both had exactly the same title, confusingly! Be interesting to see which one they use here.

      • Cory says:

        Gareth, thank you for this information regarding the BMG reissue of the single. I’m in hopes of the current release to include the vocal by way of (and I’m guessing here as well as you) fixing what confused us so long ago.

  9. Duncan Day says:

    God dammit! Huge Sparks fan with a terminal illness. I won’t be here to enjoy these .

    Oh well. Enjoy guys x

  10. garax says:

    I keenly looked at this but it’s not for me. What I’d really like is a vinyl release for Meal Intuition the CD best of from I think the 90’s which was such a great best of of the purple streak in the early 70’s.

  11. Ray says:

    These look really good… shame there was no extra like a DVD of promo videos, i’m not aware there is any such video compilation of DVD, but hope one day there is something.

  12. Glen Buchanan says:

    I love Sparks and have followed them for decades. My problem is with the artwork for Past Tense. All of the Sparks albums have had clever and witty art on their covers. This one is meh…

  13. Larry Davis says:

    Excited about these as I bought Hippopotamus and want to work my way backwards…they have a large catalogue so a proper new anthology does the trick, and this is it…my first exposure to Sparks was I Predict in 1982 then This Town on a Brit comp…great price on the triple & it has I Predict & enough other highlights I want to start with…nice with Gratuitous Sax…always loved how punny the Mael Bros are…

  14. Raoul says:

    I don‘t know „Boris The Spider“, but it‘s definetly my song of the day today. Maybe Lady Hale wanted to celebrate this release.

  15. Craig Hedges says:

    Where is ‘all you ever think about is sex’? That was released as a single off ‘in outer space’ it’s also one of their best song titles.

  16. Peter Muscutt says:

    What did people think of the FFS/Franz Ferdinand hook up a few years back? I was quite new to Sparks then, but thought it was a really good album. Loved ‘Johnny Delusional’ and was surprised it wasn’t more successful than it was…

    • Trash says:

      I’m a fan of the album – it was a no-brainer for me as I like both bands.
      I was intrigued when I first heard that they were working together as it is not a combination I would naturally put together but the results are excellent.
      I also saw the live at the time and that was a great gig too!

    • noyoucmon says:

      I thought FFS was dismal and, frankly, it all but ended my interest in Sparks.

    • Gareth Jones says:

      You’re surprised it wasn’t more successful? What level of success were you hoping for? FFS was a top 20 album, reaching no.17. I’d call that pretty successful, considering Sparks hadn’t had a top 20 album prior to that since 1975!! ….Since FFS though, Hippopotamus reached no.7!

  17. richard says:

    Got a red vinyl version from Townsend last week.

    The wait for this will be maddening !r

  18. Jarmo Keranen says:

    Oh my how time flies! I bought Kimono My House vinyl in autumn 1975. I was 16 years old. To me holy trinity of Sparks are Kimono My House, Propaganda and Indiscreet. What i have heard after that doesn’t impress me that much!

    • Trash says:

      I love those albums too but honestly they have had some really great albums since:
      – No1 in Heaven
      – Gratuitous Sax
      – Music You can Dance to
      – Li’l Bethoven

      To name but four…

    • Normand says:

      Indeed! These are three 5 LPs! The Father (Kimono My House), The Son (Propaganda), The Holy Spirit (Indiscreet) and all of us in Big Beat as the fourth of the Trinity

  19. MARK says:

    Funny Beat The Clock is left off the 2xCD (and vinyl). I thought that would’ve been the ‘seller’.

  20. Jamie Crampton says:

    Yay been after this album for years, had it originally on first issue. Pretty sure there’s some more “mixes” of the Gratuitous Sax… stuff tho, I have one which isn’t on this issue. Definitely get one or other of the vinyls! :)

    • Gareth Pugh says:

      Jamie, you’re quite right – there were about 14 or 15 different official remixes of ‘…My Way’ across its two outings as a single. There where also quite a few others of. ‘… Charlie Parker Playing’ and ‘Now that I own the BBC’. I think there was also an official 7 minute 12” extended version of ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ called the ‘Catch a Wave Mix’ that was on a BMG promo CD at the time. That’s my fave track on this (superb) album (which was my intro to Sparks) and I’m sorry not to see it on here, but there’s loads of goodies I don’t yet have on Disc 3 so am really looking forward to this.

  21. Scott says:

    They must have the record for the amount of Best of albums. I love Sparks and will get the reasonably priced 3 CD set for the few rarities. I would like to see a full rarities compilation, there’s no shortage of unreleased Sparks songs and demos. Gratuitous Sax is one of the very few Sparks albums I don’t need to own. I didn’t care for the very 90’s dance sound but I’m pleased it was somewhat successful in its day. I likely would have bought the vinyl collection as well had it been on colored vinyl. I’m a sucker for the gimmick.

  22. fredpostman says:

    Bizarre that ‘Beat The Clock’ one of their biggest hits isn’t on the 2 cd version….

  23. madman says:

    “The second release (November is big enough for the both of them)”…, love that line! Nice one Paul!

  24. Toni Nestor says:

    “Check Out Time 11am” wasn’t actually on the “Hippopotamus” album, it was only ever released as a limited edition 7″ single for Black Friday in the USA.

  25. Tim Barton says:

    Got my 3 disc set pre-ordered. Still no sign of Gratuitous Sax…through any outlets here in Japan, but hopefully soon. Great album, most deserving of a reissue!

  26. Chris Squires says:

    Love Sparks, but as with all compilations I would like to see the vinyl set mirror at least the smallest CD set, rather like the Phil Collins edition with 33 singles. They should have gone to 4 LPs with all 39 tracks. It’s a minor niggle on an otherwise superb piece of news. Now to read about Nick Cave.

    Two groups I hadn’t taken seriously until recommendations from SDE readers and now I can’t do without either. Serious Peaky Blinders withdrawal for 11 months…..

  27. Ken Moore says:

    Can’t wait to get these! Sparks are criminally underappreciated, here in the States. Great songwriters!

  28. Charles Christopher says:

    Now this looks exciting!

    “Gratuitous Sax…” was my first Sparks album, when I worked at a music store around the time it came out, and the manager handed me a promo copy that he was sure I would love. He was right too. I got ahold of Rhino Records’ superb double-disc comp Profile: The Ultimate Sparks, and became a total convert. The track listing on this new 3-disc set looks great, and includes enough that the Rhino set doesn’t that I’ll definitely be getting this. I’m already sold on a deluxe version of “Gratuitous Sax…” and I’m glad to see they’ve done a good job on it.

    I note that one of the original pop-punk bands, Redd Kross (who were teenagers when they started out c.1980, and must have interacted with Sparks when they had a second-wind career in LA) have covered “When Do I Get To Sing My Way” on their most recent album. It wasn’t as good a version as I was hoping…..

  29. Attila Nemeti says:

    These look fantastic and very well priced. Have to squeeze them in for Christmas next to the Bowie and Prince sets.
    The “Best of” has some rarities as well, but the real highlight is the demo disc of Gratuitous – includes some of the best tunes from Sparks that should have deserved chart placement: Where Did I Leave My Halo, She’s Beautiful and the She’s An Anchorman demo with its slight britpop feeling. Thx!

  30. Gareth Jones says:

    There have been a few “best of” Sparks compilations over the years, but this one really is big enough! Shame there’s no videos though. Not sure how many music promo vids they ever made though?!

    I’m also intrigued to hear the cover of ‘Boris The Spider’ on the Gratuitous Sax 3rd disc. And what a wonderful array of demos/unreleased material. This is how reissues should really be done!

    Also worth noting you can order these slightly cheaper from the Sparks website (although probably doesn’t work out cheaper than Amazon due to postage!) with the option of a t-shirt too.

  31. Tyler says:

    These look fantastic!

  32. adam shaw says:

    Hi Paul .
    I noticed that Forever Young is missing on the 3 cd of the Best Of ?

  33. Fred says:

    The best group ever…

  34. Gary Hunter says:

    Hopefully this best of is mastered a bit better than the 7″ & 12″ compilations, both look excellent releases.

  35. Marcel says:

    What a great idea to put the bonus cd’s with the vinyl album.

  36. Shane says:

    Very happy to see these releases! “When Do I Get To Sing My Way” is one of my favorite songs ever and ill buy a cd and vinyl version. Maybe one that comes with the bonus purple 7″ on their store even though….do I really need that? Ill also get the collection 3-disco version as I only know their Isalnd years singles. Hopefully different versions from Shortcuts.
    I was almost hoping Paul was holding out of the post because he might get signed copies, that would have made this even better.

    • bob says:

      When Do I Get To Sing My Way really should have been a big hit. Sparks have made some fantastic records and that one is maybe my favourite of theirs.
      I will buy the 3CD version.

  37. Michael McA says:

    I’ve said it before – the best band in the world – problem is you need to be smart to appreciate Sparks.

  38. motte says:

    They have interesting bundles on their web shop, including an exclusive 7″. But unfortunately the postage to Germany is ridicules, so I ordered at jpc.

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