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Jan 03

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” by Sparks

Marty's Song of the Day for 3 January, 2014“They can’t possibly be American, that can’t possibly be a man, this song can’t possibly be 40 years old.”

Marty's Song of the Day for 3 January, 2014

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” by Sparks

Once a group of friends and I walked through a 5-mile train tunnel in the middle of the night. About halfway through we felt, rather than heard or saw, the presence of an approaching train. It started as a rumble, but then we saw a faint light. Then, as the train got closer, it became tooth-looseningly loud and the light was blinding. Luckily there was enough room on either side of the track so as to avoid being squashed.

The reverberations through the stone tunnel (it had been blasted through a mountain) grew so loud that I thought I would die if the engineer chose to blow the whistle. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough…” always sounded like an approaching train to me.

Sparks, founded in Los Angeles by brothers Ron and Russell Mael in 1971, recorded this song in 1974, yet it sounds at least two decades ahead of its time. Ron is the stern keyboard player with the Hitler moustache and Russell’s vocals and stage presence are like a combination of Marc Bolan, Tiny Tim, and Diamanda Galas.

With its themes of zoos, cannibalism, and Hiroshima, the verses to this song are almost incomprehensible. But once you know them, they make it even better. And through 40 years of genre-bending iconoclasm, Ron Mael, pushing 70, still affects the angry schoolmaster onstage and his little brother still sounds like a capering Teutonic sprite.

Now imagine if Diamanda Galas covered this song. Would it sound better? Or did Russell nail it the first time?

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” by Sparks
Year: 1974
Composed by: Ronald Mael
Lyrics

Zoo time is ‘she and you’ time
The mammals are your favorite type, and you want her tonight
Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
You hear the thunder of stampeding rhinos, elephants, and tacky tigers

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us
And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave!

Flying, domestic flying
And when the stewardess is near, do not show any fear
Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
You are a khaki-colored bombardier, it’s Hiroshima that you’re nearing

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us
And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave!

Daily, except for Sunday
You dawdle in to the cafe where you meet her each day
Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
As twenty cannibals have hold of you, they need their protein
Just like you do

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us
And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave!

Shower, another shower
You’ve got to look your best for her and be clean everywhere
Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
The rain is pouring on the foreign town, the bullets cannot cut you down

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us
And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave!

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us
And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave!

Census, the latest census
There’ll be more girls who live in town though not enough to go around
Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
You know that

This town isn’t big enough, not big enough for the both of us
This town isn’t big enough, not big enough for the both of us
I ain’t gonna leave!

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