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Brothers Russell, Ron, Ron, and Russell Mael of Sparks, in March 1975 and in 2020.

The Carpenters were a ’70s band, not Sparks.

Sometimes the news doesn’t always get things right—whether its today’s headlines, or something from the world of entertainment or sports. Of course, depending on which network one frequents will determine the quantity of inaccuracies and the degree of any particular one. (And, I’ll leave it at that.)

 

For the most part, I find NPR to be as dependable as any news network— hiring not just any journalist, but those with experience, specialization, and plenty of recognition from their professional peers. But, even with those kind of chops, they can fall short from time to time.

 

On July 6, I was listening to All Things Considered (ATC), and the Paris correspondent for NPR, Eleanor Beardsley, was reporting on the opening of the 74th Annual Cannes Film Festival. In her initial/overall report, she pointed out that the opening night film was Annette,a highly anticipated musical by filmmaker Leos Carax, or as some have described it—a modern-day opera. It stars the acclaimed French actress Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver as lovers, with music by the 1970s band, Sparks.”

 

Here’s a link to the story…

The part about Sparks caught my attention as I had just seen the Edgar Wright documentary, The Sparks Brothers.

 

“A ’70s band,” I thought to myself? Well, if they are a ’70s band, then the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are both ’60s bands, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to a band by a particular decade if their work covered multiple decades. And in the case of Sparks, their 25-album discography covers five decades.

 

Soon, I found myself on the NPR “report a correction” web page pointing out this poor generalization of a band that I’ve known since 1975. I briefly stated my argument (listed above) and concluded with, “The Carpenters were a ’70s band, not Sparks.”

 

I had no expectations on a reply except the type that says something like, “This is an automated response confirming that your message has been received by the NPR staff who research corrections,” which I did receive.

 

However the following day, I received an email from Eleanor Beardsley herself—I was almost afraid to open it thinking she was going to blast me and point out how Sparks was indeed a ’70s band.

 

Much to my delight, here is what she had to say:

 

Morgan Tyree,

I got your message about Sparks. Good to know. I’m sorry I didn’t know them. But I’m going to be doing a story about the movie so I will be able to speak more intelligently about the group in the second piece. How would you describe the band, what is the band’s pull, Who follows them? etc.

Thanks!

Eleanor

Eleanor Beardsley, Paris correspondent

 

I replied with a short response saying she would do well to simply watch the trailer for the Edgar Wright documentary. I also included the following:

 

For the most part, they have been on the periphery of the rock ’n’ roll radar, but steadily cranking out a very prolific (and influential) discography since the early ’70s. They don’t dislike commercial success and would certainly welcome it, but that is not what drives them in all of these years—definitely marching to the beat of their own drum (and their art). They did what Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) did before she did it—started in the States (Los Angeles in the case of Sparks), and moved to England where they had their initial success and notoriety with the album Kimono My House.

 

Beardsley responded almost immediately thanking me and asking if I had plans to see Annette.

 

Yet, another example of good journalism practiced at NPR—admitting they didn’t get it quite right and asking for advice in doing so.

 

Photos by: Michael Putland (1975 Sparks) and Anna Webber (2020 Sparks)

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