Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Flock Of Seagulls Scores 100!

In mild celebration of a minor milestone I’d like to share with you the tale of a little band from Liverpool. No not that little band (The Beatles warrant more than just one post), but another little band from Merseyside called A Flock Of Seagulls. Like those Liverpool lads previous who were ‘Fab’, these ‘Seagulls’ too were four, two of who were Score. Lost? Yeah me too, but bear with me, I promise I’ll start to weave a coherent train of thought soon.

The Score brothers formed one half of the new wave pop outfit that was A Flock Of Seagulls. Mike Score (vocals/keyboards) was a hairdresser and decided to start a band with his workmate Frank Maudsley (bass) and older brother Score, Ali (drums). They adopted the band name A Flock Of Seagulls in reference to a line from The Stranglers song ‘Toiler On The Sea’. They soon after brought in 18 year old guitarist Paul Reynolds, and in 1981 recorded an EP on the independent Cocteau label. ‘Telecommunication’ was the track lifted from the EP and signalled the intent of A Flock Of Seagulls to infuse the current new wave pop sound with a high-tech synth edge. They took the best elements of Roxy Music with a dash of Gary Numan and spliced them with Duran Duran.

On the back of the song’s popularity in rock-disco clubs, they released their debut eponymous LP. It was a massive hit worldwide (US#10, UK#32, OZ#19) and launched these little birdies into the pop stratosphere. The song that really broke them bigtime was ‘I Ran (So Far Away)’. It became an instant MTV classic and found its way into the U.S. top 10 (#9), flying even higher on the Australian charts all the way to #1 during August 1982 (surprisingly the song only reached #43 in the U.K.). The promo video for 'I Ran (So Far Away)' was a low budget effort that proved you didn't have to break the bank to produce an effective visual accompaniment to a great song. It also introduced the world to the bizarre “waterfall” haircut that Mike had adopted, which would become somewhat of a visual trademark for the group, and take on a life in popular culture beyond the actual life of the band. The second single ‘Space Age Love Song’ was a strong follow up (US#30, UK#34, OZ#68) but deserved to chart better.

As so many artists do, A Flock Of Seagulls then faced the difficult task of matching their initial success (commercially and critically) with their follow up album ‘Listen’. Released in mid ’83 the album yielded just one major hit single, the sumptuous pop delicacy ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’, but the song gave the 'Gulls their first top 10 hit locally (UK#10, OZ#46, US#26). Two more singles ‘Nightmares’ (UK#53) and ‘Transfer Affection’ (UK#38) helped push sales of the album along in the UK (#16), but it seemed that some of the momentum for A Flock Of Seagulls had declined.

The quartet bounced back somewhat with 1984’s album ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’ which featured the much underrated song ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ - classic 80s pop in its purest form. It reached #56 in the U.S. and #26 in the U.K. and represented the last significant foray into either chart for A Flock Of Seagulls. This whole period coincided with internal problems for the group which resulted in the departure of guitarist Paul Reynolds. He was replaced by American session players Gary Steadnin (guitar) and Chris Chryssaphis (keyboards). A slightly expanded A Flock Of Seagulls tried one more shot at redemption with the 1986 album ’Dream Come True’, but sadly the dream, and flight, was basically over for A Flock Of Seagulls. After Frank Maudsley and Ali Score had both left, Mike Score tried to relaunch the band in 1989 with a single ‘Magic’ but new wave was old news and it didn’t leave the launch pad.

As part of the VH1 show ’Bands Reunited’, the original four members of A Flock Of Seagulls were brought together once more in November 2003 to rehearse and play a show together. Mike Score had been touring steadily (mostly around the U.S.) with a revamped line-up, but the other three had basically left the music scene altogether. Mike’s vocals weren’t the greatest in places, but overall the lads still sounded mighty fine, and Paul Reynolds signature guitar work hadn‘t lost any of its class. Though the reunion of the original quartet didn’t last past a few shows, Mike Score continues to tour with a new line-up.

‘I Ran (So Far Away)’ charts at #2 on my personal all time favourites list, second only to ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ by Grace Jones (see earlier post). IMHO it stands tall as the marque song of the new wave movement. It’s surreal to think of the song now being 26 years old, but it sounds as fresh and vibrant to me today as ever.

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