Thursday, 21 August 2008
Sparky's Magic Piano
Sparky's Magic Piano is a record, based on the exploits of a little boy with an over active imagination. This is the second in a series of children’s audio stories featuring Sparky, an original character created for Capitol Records in 1947. The album shown is a double header with ‘Sparky and the Talking Train’ on the flip side, my copy was pressed in 1961. Henry Blair portrayed Sparky, throughout most of the series, Ray Turner carried out piano duties, the music was credited to Billy May and narration of the story on is by Verne Smith.
The story concerns a little boy who has got an over active imagination, that takes him off into a dream world, where he can talk to his piano. Sparky initially, doesn’t like taking his piano lessons, but when he starts to communicate with his special piano, he is suddenly able to play brilliantly, to the amazement of his mother and piano teacher. A concert tour follows and Sparky turns into a star, but the adulation goes to his head. The piano has had enough of this behaviour and decides to take him down a peg or two. It refuses to co-operate during a big performance, at Carnegie Hall, leading to onstage disaster and humiliation for the young lad. Sparky is brought back down to earth and also back to reality with a bump, but not before he vows to practice properly and gain achievement on merit this time.
On the flip side, is 'Sparky and the Magic Train' In this story, Sparky hears the voice of a steam train that he’s on, who warns him of impending disaster further up the track. No one believes him at first of course, and why should they, he’s a serial fibber, however he eventually persuades the driver to stop the train in the nick of time and all ends well.
The kid's obviously prone to telling a few whoppers and needs something to calm him down. To be frank, Sparky's a bit of a pain, with his wholesome as apple pie demeanour, but you can’t deny the timeless quality of the tales, which have a lasting appeal for children. Luckily, I grew up on stuff like ‘The Faraway Tree’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ they were proper left field fables to engage and freak out an overly imaginative youngster and reading them never did me any harm, let me tell you.
Sparky has also appeared in comic books as a side kick to Capitol’s other famous creation, Bozo The Clown.
If you feel the need to listen to it, Sparky can be downloaded here or there
One of the many pleasures of trawling for new music, is having a happy little accident and stumbling across an interesting band, that’s previously been off my radar. This is the case with Sparky’s Magic Piano, a duo from London, whose website popped up, whilst doing some perfunctory research for the above item.
Marion Turnbull and Oliver Bartlett create a D.I.Y indie-electro groove thang with glockenspiels, recorders and synthesisers thrown into the mix. The results are simple and charming pop tunes that give a warm glow, like toasting marshmallows by the open fire on a Sunday, waiting for ‘The Muppet Show’ to come on. Marion’s very English clipped vocals remind me of Sarah Nixey's on Luke Haines’ Black Box Recorder project, with a sprinkling of Saint Etienne's approach to music making, cast into the mix. They self released a debut album in 2007, called ‘Feel The Beat And Do It Anyway!’ on Melody Factory label. The single ‘Like Falling In Love’ is particularly perky and as they develop, I'm sure extra sparks will create some more spell binding magical songs, in the near future.