Big Stir Records is thrilled to announce the addition of Orange County, CA pop legends SPARKLE*JETS U.K. to our roster with their first new release in 18 years: a limited edition colored 7” vinyl single that's of unique significance to both the band and the label. It's a pair of covers related to BSR's namesake Big Star – the band's classic “The Ballad of El Goodo” and the beloved Chris Bell solo cut “You and Your Sister” – recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis with Jody Stephens on drums. Both the A and B sides will be available digitally ONLY with the physical 45 (until they're collected on the fourth Big Stir Singles CD in late 2019). The single is officially out Friday, July 26 and can be pre-ordered here:
It's a welcome return for sparkle*jets u.k., remembered as one of the most adored bands in the power pop movement of the late '90s and early 2000s and mainstays of the early International Pop Overthrow Festival years. Their adorably geekly sensibility and their sound – a distinctive marriage of '60s and '70s rock and whimsical guitar pop -- set then apart. Founding members Michael Simmons, Susan West, and Jamie Knight first met in 1995 at a gig for Simmons' band at the time, Virgin 7. Within a year the trio's separate acts had merged into a single entity, which included the first writing contributions from Simmons as well as material from West and Knight.
The group, which was initially dubbed Happy Birthday!, was renamed sparklekets u.k., including the "U.K." tag because the name wasn't nearly wacky enough. The three bandmembers also shared a lot of musical common ground, starting at The Beatles and running through Electric Light Orchestra, Brian Wilson, Teenage Fanclub, Pixies, The Jackson 5. SJUK recorded their 1998 debut In, Through and Beyond and pressed just 1,000 copies. Copies of the disc made it into a single store, where rock journalist John Borack (Goldmine Magazine and the Shake Some Action power pop guidebooks) bought a copy, his decision based only on the cover art and 3.99 dollar price. After passing word onto pop fanatic and International Pop Overthrow organizer David Bash, sparkle*jets u.k. were soon inducted into the close-knit family of Los Angeles-based power pop acts and their fans, then in its fondly remembered heyday.
The delightfully absurd I Love SparkleJets U.K. multi-artist tribute album and the excellent 2001 sophomore album Bamboo Lounge would follow before the group went dormant on the recording front. Simmons would go on play a major role in Popdudes (with Borack, Knight, Robbie Rist, BSR's own Addison Love and many more) and form another multigenerational in the form of Yorktown Lads (also with Love and Cameron Lew). His own solo album First Days of Summer, recently reissued in expanded form on Big Stir, adorned many a Best of 2018 lists. The album, along with occasional and warmly received SJUK reunion gigs, paved the way for the Memphis sessions which yielded the new single.
Along with “El Goodo”, Big Stir Records is making expanded versions of the two proper sparkle*jets u.k. albums available for download, and also offering the 2017 vinyl reissue of Bamboo Lounge in our store. There are rumblings that the much-rumored third LP may see completion and release in the year ahead... stay tuned for further developments, and grab your 45 while they last!