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A Flock Of Seagulls

If one was a nascent synth-pop act hailing from Liverpool around 1979, was breaking big in America a mug’s game or a legitimate musical aspiration? Perhaps the answer – or at least a bit of inspiration – could be found in an old STRANGLERS song (`Toiler On The Sea’) that hairdresser/spokesman Mike Score (vocals/keyboards) and his brother Ali (drums) procured in order to form A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, amidst contemporaries such as OMD and CHINA CRISIS.
Together with Frank Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar), their debut single `(It’s Not Me) Talking’ was issued on BILL NELSON’s Cocteau imprint. On the back of three relatively moderate-selling singles, `Telecommunication’, `Modern Love Is Automatic’ (released twice!) and the excellent Top 50 Brit breakthrough, `I Ran’, and thanks to a fledgling little network called MTV, the happy accident of Mike’s futuristic, cockatoo bouffant, and forward-thinking from the C.B.S.-backed label, Jive, the band’s full-length debut LP went Top 10 in America when `I Ran (So Far Away)’ simultaneously zoomed up the US charts.
Plaudits aside, the eponymous A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS (1982) {*8}, boasted a beautifully cohesive concept about alien abduction, truly capturing one’s musical imagination track by track. Prime example, `Space Age Love Song’, reached the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic, while `D.N.A.’ earned AFOS a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
As they rode their “new”-wave of success, the globe continued to LISTEN (1983) {*7}, to otherworldly, if not alienated melodies that could be heard in hit tracks like the dreamy `Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’, `Nightmares’, `Transfer Affection’, and a synth-driven re-working of `Talking’.
By the time of their next album release, THE STORY OF A YOUNG HEART (1984) {*6}, tensions within the ranks had crept in, and the band’s fortunes seemed to take a nose-dive, at least in terms of the charts overall (UK Top 30/US Top 75), despite `The More You Live, The More You Love’ giving out a strong showing on the continent; UK single `Never Again (The Dancer)’ failed to make an impact entirely.
The band duly took flight from London to the States, minus Reynolds, shortly before their fourth set, DREAM COME TRUE (1986) {*4}, which was indeed anything but; singles `Who’s That Girl (She’s Got It)’ and `Heartbeat Like A Drum’, dropped out of radar detection soon after their release. With a globe looking for something a bit meatier and less featherweight than A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, their days were numbered, with only an American-only single, `Magic’, emerging from the pack in ‘89; here, Mike surrounded himself with Philadelphian musos, namely Ed Berner, Mike Marquart, Dave Maerz, Mike Railton, Mike Radcliffe, Kaya Prior and Jonte Wilkins.
It’d been years since Mike Score became estranged from the original line up (including his brother Ali), and acting as sole beneficiary of the group (now consisting of guitarist Ed Berner, bassist Dean Pichette and drummer A.J. Mazzetti), A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS entered the studio for what was thought to be their final set, ironically titled LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD (1995) {*2}. Delivered in the States only, one should avoid even the album’s best cut, `Burnin’ Up’.
Though the original line up did reunite for several shows around 2003 and 2004, Mike virtually put the band to bed after a misleadingly-titled re-recorded set, I RAN: THE BEST OF (2004) {*4}. Then in 2013, with OMD and a raft of other 80s electro acts cashing in on their time as pop kings, Score popped up for a solo single, released on the indie imprint, Right Track; an album looking likely in the pipeline. These plans may have been scuppered somewhat as his backing band’s equipment, clothing and studio masters were reported stolen, the transit van recovered later completely stripped of its content. It was like being pooped on from above – at least by seagulls.
Poop or pop? That was indeed the question for many pundits still with a faint memory of how the A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS of olde sounded. Abandoning a line-up that had, in part, fluctuated by way of auxiliary alumni (drummer Kevin Rankin superseding Michael Brahm was one such transaction), and investing in a classical emblem way beyond the scope of their hit songs, 2018’s original-cast ASCENSION {*5} mustered up all the nuance of a re-fried chicken supper. The all-encompassing greatest hits of sorts – accompanied by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – kind of alienated all but the initiated – the opening entrails of `I Ran’ and indeed, `Nightmares’, just about said it all.
© MC Strong 1994/GRD // rev-up CG/MCS Nov2013-May2019

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