Anyone who has ever had any outlandish dream as a kid to be famous musician, sportstar, millionaire, Leader of the country etc, most people who have those fantasy will reach a situation where they realised that they will never fulfil their dream either due to various reasons and then give up and get a "real job".
Lil' Beethoven was the album that shows Sparks acceptance that they will never be superstars, never be the stars they originally dream but then conclude it doesn't matter because being musician is more important.
That's what makes Surburban Homeboy and interesting ending of the album, it brings the alternate reality where Sparks face with commercial failure and say I give up, i'm just going to live a comfortable middle class existence. The fact is 99% of musicians (i will also include myself in that basket) when face the reality that their dreams will ended up becoming the "surburban homeboy" (really a good movie that shows that is that School of rock film". However the album is about Sparks maintaining their passion in music despite knowing they will never reach the heights as demonstrated in "Ride Em Cowboy" where despite the lows from the high, Sparks will always "get back on again'
I interpret the opening and last track of the album was essentially Sparks saying, when face with commercial failure, we could have been "Surburban Homeboys" instead we became "The Rhythm Thief". To me that's what makes my imaginary concept of the album great
To me as someone who decided to "give up" being a musician, I look at Sparks "get back on again" to be absolutely admirable. So many bands break up when they no longer financially viable and out of popular consciousness and then some only reform when they become relevant again. I don't have a problem with that as it's perfectly understandable that people have to make a living
Nevertheless, this album symbolises Sparks longevity where they continue for over 40 years in relative obscurity. The longevity could only be due to commitment and passion to music where Sparks resisted the urge to become "Suburban Homeboy". I find that absolutely admirable and perhaps even almost inspirational. If only I had that same degree of single mindedness passion and commitment to music as they have.
Regarding the whole "emotionally devastating" of "Carnegie Hall" song. The genius of all fields of life are people with singled mindedness drive to succeed. "Practice Man Practice" can applies to the likes of Michael Jordan, Leo Messi, Steve Jobs, Beethoven etc, You can not reach the apex of any of any profession without this single mindedness committment. Excellence and progress is dependent on people with this ambitious and driven personality type and I generally respect people who do have it if they aren't being a dick about it.
However if someone who has that single minded drive who dedicated every thing in their life to become the best they can in the field in their goal and ended up failing (even if it's self inflicted, certainly Sparks music doesn't completely gel with what people want to buy), I'm sure that would be emotionally devastating for that person. as someone who admires people who reaches the apex I have to also fill sympathetic to other like minded personalities who failed to reach the apex, or in some cases reach the apex without any public recognition for reaching the apex (which is my assessment with Sparks).
So yes if someone dedicated their entire life from childhood preparing themself to reach a goal and then realised that goal isn't attainable. That is understandably devastating for that person.
It's the general principle is what makes it devastating and less to do with Sparks particular example.
However from Sparks case, you made the comparison to Pete Townshend but I have no reason to believe that the Mael brothers were any less passionate about music than the likes of Pete Townshend. Pete Townshend was more of a heart on his sleeve and has a singer songwriter mentality while the Mael brothers is more of a witty comedian but they were both equally passionate within their own philosophy.
Really the idea that they don't want to reach anyone is ridiculous, it's like saying a comedian who makes a living making jokes and witty observation doesn't want to reach people and have an audience finding them funny. A comedian who dedicates their life trying to make a living entertaining people by making wry observating and joking wants approval from the audience (and are just as dependent on it) as much as the heart in the sleave singer songwriter.
The singer songwriters wants the audience to share their emotions, a group like Sparks wants the audience to share their sense of humour. Obviously the public didn't share their humour
: I thought your essay on Lil' Beethoven was
: alright, and I think that, even if the album
: isn't intentionally structured to reflect
: the "story" you construct (which
: you yourself admit it probably isn't) you
: have identified many of the important themes
: underlying Sparks' music at this point in
: their career.
: My only problem with that is that
: understanding Sparks makes me like and
: respect them less.
: So they wanted to be famous pop stars and it
: didn't happen. Boo-ho. What's
: "emotionally devastating" about
: that? Leave aside the issue of whether they
: deserved bigger success or not (I'd say
: their unpleasant and snarky attitude didn't
: exactly help). I still don't see why I
: should really care. Two spoiled middle-aged
: former fashion models complaining that they
: only had 15 minutes in the spotlight. If
: they took it all in stride, and weren't so
: bitter about it, that'd be one thing, but
: acerbic solipsism is not my kind of thing at
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