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Sparks: Tiny Desk Concert

It's hard for me to comprehend what a newcomer to Sparks would make of seeing brothers Ron and Russell Mael for the first time. Ron, the mustached one behind the keys, looks like he once was a silent film star and just fell off the silver screen (and is a bit grumpy about it). On the other hand, Russell, with his upbeat posture, sings about a girl crying in her latte.

Hopefully, by the time Russell introduces us to the second tune, about a 22-hour-old child seeing the world and wishing to go back to whence he came, the innocent viewer/listener will understand the twisted humor Sparks has been dispensing for over 50 years across a few dozen albums.

When the duo's first records came out in the early 1970s, I managed a record store and played the albums on our turntable. Sometimes it would drive away customers (Sparks are an acquired taste), and other times it would kindle new friendships. I'd have never dreamed that Sparks would be making music all these years later, let alone playing at my office desk. And I also could not have imagined that the band's latest album, The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, would be as good as ever.

After three new songs, Sparks takes one dip into the past, "a Sparks golden oldie," as Russell puts it. With a great band behind them, Ron and Russell played the song "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us," bringing unimaginable joy to me and hopefully to those just discovering Sparks.


  1. "The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte"
  2. "Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is"
  3. "It Doesn't Have To Be That Way"
  4. "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us"


  • Russell Mael: vocals
  • Ron Mael: keyboards
  • Evan Weiss: guitar, vocals
  • Max Whipple: bass
  • Eli Pearl: guitar, keyboards, vocals
  • Stevie Nistor: drums


  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Maia Stern, Sofia Seidel, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Assistant: Kwesi Lee 
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Keren Carrión
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Kara Frame, Hazel Cills
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

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Bob Boilen
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.