Beat The Clock

Album: No. 1 in Heaven (1979)
Charted: 10

Songfacts®:

  • Brothers Ron and Russell Mael formed Sparks in Los Angeles in 1967. After two unsuccessful albums they relocated to England where their parents were living. There, they became overnight sensations and notched three Top 20 albums, but their next two records flopped so they hooked up with Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, who was white hot at the time with his disco productions for Donna Summer. The result was No. 1 in Heaven, the album that would redefine Sparks' sound.
  • Asked by Uncut magazine where the idea came from to work with Giorgio Moroder on No. 1 in Heaven, Russell Mael replied:

    "After [1976 album] Big Beat, we were searching around for a new format as we get bored easily. We wanted to branch out, to take my singing and Ron's lyrical sensibility and see what other context we could put them in. We heard Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love,' which intrigued us to the extent we decided we had to get Giorgio to produce us. No one knew what the outcome would be, but fortunately that album turned out to be something special and quite influential on people starting bands at the time."
  • When Ron Mael presented Moroder with the songs he had written, the producer rejected most of them, but he saw potential in "Beat the Clock" and refashioned it into a slice of disco-pop with trippy synths filling in for Mael's original piano.
  • Ron Mael's lyrics tell a story of fast-paced modern life. He recounts entering university at the tender age of two and leaving with a Ph.D. that same afternoon. A still-young Mael then gets intimate with the actress Liz Taylor, who was a dream girl in the mid-20th century for most hot-blooded males.
  • Sparks named the song after the 1950s game show Beat the Clock, where contestants faced challenges to win prizes while faced with a time limit.
  • "Beat the Clock" peaked at #10 in August 1979 in the UK propelled by an effective marketing campaign by Virgin. It was Sparks' third and final Top 10 single in the UK.
  • Giorgio Moroder's cohort Keith Forsey performed the live drums on the track. Forsey, who also played on Donna Summer's club records, including "Bad Girls," later became a successful producer himself, working with the likes of Billy Idol, Irene Cara and The Psychedelic Furs.

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