Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Flock Of Seagulls

I Ran

A Flock of Seagulls was a synthpop band formed by brothers Mike (keyboards, vocals) and Ali Score (drums), with Frank Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar). They gained popularity and subsequent infamy in the early days of MTV with the above video for their song "I Ran (So Far Away)" which showcased the lead singer Mike Score's distinctive haircut. To this day they remain firmly identified with the song, and the early '80s.

The band took their name from a line in the song 'Toiler on the Sea' by the Stranglers. It appears on their album Black and White.

Band history
A Flock Of Seagulls was centered around two brothers, Mike Score (previously a hairdresser) and his brother Ali. The band started off in 1979 in Liverpool as a trio with Mike on the keyboards and vocals (and the occasional guitar) along with Ali on the drums and Mike’s friend Frank Maudsley on bass. Realizing quickly that their sound needed to be "filled out" a bit, the band brought aboard a young but talented guitarist Paul Reynolds after a few months of looking around for a suitable addition and then went about the usual business of writing songs, playing clubs and trying to land themselves a record contract.

Early sound
A striking aspect of the early A Flock Of Seagulls is that their music is quite simple in construction, and executed with little flash on behalf of the band. While the resulting clean, basic sound may well have been due to their limited abilities as players, it nevertheless made them stand out even more so from the rest of the emerging field, who tended to fill up the spaces in their music with extraneous electronic percussion effects.

Not long after the (uneventful) release of their kinetic debut single "(It’s Not Me) Talking" in 1981, the Flock released a debut EP with production handled by ex-Be Bop Deluxe leader and Cocteau Records co-founder Bill Nelson. While this EP made no discernible impact on a commercial level, enough attention was garnered at dance clubs by the pogo-friendly single "Telecommunication" to start turning heads a bit higher up the music industry food chain, and within a few months, the boys found themselves signed to Jive Records and recording their debut album with ex-Gong bassist (and budding New Wave guru) Mike Howlett producing.
Most of the debut EP (including "Telecommunication") made its way in re-recorded form to the combo’s full-length debut album, which was released in the spring of 1982. Initially, A Flock Of Seagulls went nowhere as the band could not find any purchase at radio for the first single, the grandiose alien abduction epic "I Ran (So Far Away)." This problem was quickly solved by the content-starved MTV cable network, which at the time was adding just about anything thrown at it in order to fill up airtime. With "I Ran" now in the channel’s rotation, the band then set out on tour as the opening act for fellow UK pop lineup Squeeze..

Boiling forth from a doomy, ominous instrumental intro, "I Ran (So Far Away)" was for most of America a real blast of fresh air in the increasingly soft/corporate rock-dominated climate of 1982. An imaginative use of aluminum foil and floor mirrors, the promotional video clip for the song was certainly not a big budget piece in the mould of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf," but it contained enough direct, iconic imagery to make it memorable (not to mention Mike Score’s hair, the shape of which was now beginning to resemble that of a seagull in flight) and it soon became one of the most popular videos on the network. Between MTV exposure, resultant airplay from rock radio stations being bombed by listener requests to hear the song, and the band’s ongoing road work, "I Ran" began to build a good sized head of steam that finally got it into the Billboard Hot 100 by midsummer, with A Flock Of Seagulls nearly out pacing its performance on the albums chart.

Winning markets over one by one, "I Ran" took a long time to reach the national Top 10: initially charting in July of 1982, the song finally crested at No. 9 for a couple of weeks right at Halloween with A Flock Of Seagulls reaching the Top 10, selling 500,000 copies as well and staying listed on the album survey for a year.

Because the United States had deep tensions with Iran during this time, the US 45-rpm version of "I Ran" was called "I Ran (So Far Away)."

While "I Ran" remains to this day the song they are best known for, A Flock Of Seagulls had other notable songs like their follow-up single "Space Age Love Song" and the Grammy-winning surf-tinged instrumental "D.N.A.," which were in a similar melodious, epic vein as "I Ran." A decent-sized follow-up hit, reaching the lower end of the Top 30 in February of 1983 (following a similarly lengthy climb as its predecessor), "Space Age Love Song" was a more outwardly emotional, even romantic piece that featured Reynolds’ guitar work effectively making the five-word choruses work in spectacular fashion to some.

By the spring of 1983, the band’s follow-up album Listen was ready for release, and was presaged at radio and MTV by the single "Wishing", which some have said is the most affecting song in the band’s canon. While it didn’t glide quite as gracefully as their preceding singles (the drum sound here was far more robotic and mechanical in nature than what had come before), "Wishing" was a more hypnotic kind of work that was all about scale and austerity. It also featured a 2 1/2 minute instrumental coda with Reynolds’ oddly-muted guitar presence emerging from the background like a pitched-down whalesong. While "Wishing" stalled at the bottom of the U.S. Top 30 (a little below the peak of "Space Age Love Song"), it became the first and only of the band’s singles to be embraced by their home country: reaching the Top 10 of the UK singles survey.

Those awaiting more of the same on the second Flock album were disappointed to find Listen offered up a different listening experience than the debut. The band still maintained parts of their earlier sound: "that intoxicating sweep and sense of space was still there, but the feel of the music was colder, darker, and more overtly synth-driven than what had come before, which was fully the band’s intent" describes music critic VBC. The changes are likely due to the record being recorded in Germany (where AFOS had success) in the studio owned by legendary Krautrock producer Conny Plank (though Howlett was manning the boards again). Other tracks like the failed second single "Nightmares," the bracing techno-rocker "Over The Border," or the chilling instrumental "The Last Flight Of Yuri Gagarin," display Neu! and Kraftwerk influence in the final mix. Also included was the sublime electro-ballad "Transfer Affection," which remains a favorite among their fans.

Listen was viewed as a commercial letdown in comparison to A Flock Of Seagulls, even though it reached to #16 on the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and was listed for five months in the U.S.; but it was on the 1984 album The Story Of A Young Heart that the wheels really started to come off. Listen may have been alienating to those who wanted more of "I Ran," but The Story Of A Young Heart offered up more of the "classic" Flock sound, and still didn't please anyone. While the group appeared to be trying to reclaim lost ground in already-changing times, their once charming shortcomings had started to become a bit glaring, particularly in the areas of songwriting and artistic growth to critics. "By switching back to their "classic" sound, A Flock Of Seagulls weren’t at all rejuvenated, but instead sounded like they were running out of gas", notes VBC. The public also agreed, as the The Story Of A Young Heart flamed out at #66 on the album chart, ten notches below the peak position on the Hot 100 of its one and only single "The More You Live, The More You Love"; which yet performed well in the UK reaching #26 with a total chartrun of 11 weeks. Both album and single represented the last appearance of the Flock on the U.S. charts.

The next couple of years for the band weren’t pleasant for anyone involved as some massive changes fundamentally altered the direction and sound of the band, the most damaging being the departure of Paul Reynolds. A bit of a fragile soul during the best of times, Reynolds descended into serious drug and alcohol abuse as a result of stress and constant rigourous touring. By all accounts, Reynolds was a physical and mental wreck and leaving the band probably saved his life. At the time, however, the loss of his highly distinctive guitar work (a crucial part of Flock’s signature sound) really took the wind out of the band’s sails.
Left with three members with the departure of Paul Reynolds the band waited and toured. Brothers Mike and Ali Score wanted to base the band out of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. With past success in the USA, both brothers thought leaving the UK and a new life in America was a perfect solution. With the popularity of the first two albums and the name "A Flock of Seagulls" still having some equity they had 4 straight sell out shows in Philadelphia. Mike, Ali and Frank Maudsley all applied for and were conditionally awarded green cards based off of the celebrity status under the O-1 work Visa. The conditional approval is granted to all three who settled in Philadelphia.

Frank became disillusioned with living in a strange city who loved AFOS but had no family, missing the UK he returned to England. Mike and Ali stayed in Philadelphia and satisfied the terms of the visa. With Frank in Britain and the brothers in the USA it would appear the band was split into two camps. In fact it was Frank Maudsley who kept the band communicating. Unfortunately the brothers had a falling out that resulted in Mike remaining as the sole remaining original member of the touring band and Ali going to Boston. Ali played in a hard rock band and then worked for a computer company in Cambridge once the work visa turned into a permanent resident.

The magnitude of this loss became glaringly apparent when the band’s fourth album, Dream Come True appeared in the spring of 1986. Recorded in Philadelphia, co-produced by Mike Score and Wayne Braithwaite and with a far different sound and approach than any of the albums preceding it, Dream Come True was deemed "a clunky, misguided disaster on just about every imaginable level, from the embarrassing, over-shellacked techno-funk production to the frankly hideous cover art" by VBC, and similarly derided by other critics. The album didn't do better with the public, and the band came to crashing halt.

Frank was the go-between for the brothers and during the recording of Dream Come True some have indicated that Ali played on only 3 songs, Frank on 4 and Mike did all 9. One of the songs that all three did play on was entitled "Cosmos (Effect of the Sun)" and was dropped from the album. This dropping of the song brought the track listing down to 9 songs for the album. A large row ensued where Frank and Ali wanted to drop "Love on your knees" and include Cosmos. It was with this argument that two videos, Who's that Girl and Heartbeat Like a Drum, were filmed in quick succession. These two videos were the last time the three remaining members were together in a recording or music capacity until 2004.

Following the complete dissolution of the band in the wake of Dream Come True, Mike Score laid low for a while and then resurfaced in 1995 as A Flock Of Seagulls with an entirely new band installed around him. This new lineup would change regularly around Score over the years, with two singles ("Magic" and "Burnin' Up") or album (The Light At The End Of The World) which was better than previous one and had some little success.

In November 2003, the original line-up (Mike and Ali Score, Paul Reynolds and Frank Maudsley) reunited for a one-off performance on the VH1 series, Bands Reunited.

In September 2004 they reformed again and played a small number of live shows in the United States, but broke up immediately afterward. The reunion included a performances at Nike Run Hit Wonder, a series of 5000 and 10,000 metre road races, featuring popular one hit wonder bands (including Devo, General Public, Tone Loc, and Tommy Tutone) playing along the race course.

Mike Score continues to tour under the band's name with a new line-up, but the other original members have retired from music.

In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin dismisses the 1970s and '80s as little more than "a gas shortage and A Flock of Seagulls".
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was the lead theme used in commercials for the video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City". It was also featured in the game itself. Space Age Love Song was also featured in the prequel, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was used in a 1983 advertisement for the Opel T-car based Daewoo Maepsy.
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was used in a Kia commercial in 2002.
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was sung by Fez in the sitcom "That '70s Show" in a hypothetical flash forward in which the characters are in the 1980's.
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was covered by the Texas pop-punk band Bowling for Soup on the second release of their 2002 album Drunk Enough to Dance.
Bowling for Soup's cover was used as the opening theme for the US version of Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac)
"I Ran (So Far Away)" was covered by Hidden in Plain View for the Punk Goes 80's compilation, Fearless Records.
The group made a cameo appearance in the 1999 movie The Suburbans, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Will Ferrel.
"Wishing (If I Had A Photograph of You)" was covered by The Honeytraps, the girls-pretending-to-be-boys band formed as part of Channel 4's reality show Boys Will Be Girls in 2006.
The band were one of the first signees to the Jive label, which was founded just a year before the band's debut album was released. Interestingly enough, Jive's reputation is now that of an urban/teenpop label, neither of which are labels that one could use to accurately classify A Flock Of Seagulls' music.
In a celebration of early electronic music, digital radio station BBC 6 Music compiled a chart of its listeners' favourite synthesiser riffs in November 2006. Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) came second in the list to the Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army single Are 'Friends' Electric?.
Just recently a history teacher at Doherty high school has joined the group his name is Chuck Schwartz.He is something of a local legend in Colorado Springs, with his recognizable hair and passion for all things 80's. He is a master of machiavellian politics andhis hobbies are: spending hours surfing wikipedia, lighting fires and stomping them out like cowboys do, and dressing up like peter pan.
Mike Score's distinctive hairstyle has been mentioned, copied, and parodied many times in the media, most notably in the American television sitcoms Friends (by Chandler and Ross, in their high school times, when they joined a new wave band) and That 70's Show. It has also been referred to in movies such as Pulp Fiction and The Wedding Singer.
A Diet Pepsi commercial shows a man telling us that he wants to feel young again, then it shows a montage of the man with Score's hairstyle while the song "I Ran (So Far Away)" plays, but finding out it's a bad idea.
In the song "Albuquerque" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, the song's main character encounters a hermaphrodite with a "Flock of Seagulls haircut".
In a Supercuts commercial, a man enters a hair salon under the impression that it is just like "Supercuts." After a few moments he notices that the only hairstyle given is Mike Score's famous haircut. (In the background, the sound of seagulls can be heard.)
In an ESPN Commercial some anchors are standing around talking about Johnny Damon's new haircut when they flashback to the days when they didn't have the dresscode, It shows one of the anchors with the trademark hairstyle. The anchor also says "He Ran he ran all day and so far away"
When Danny Pintauro came out of the closet, The Daily Show blamed the Flock of Seagulls haircut on Who's the Boss? as the instigator of his orientation.
In the hit movie "The Wedding Singer," Adam Sandler's character approaches an air steward who is sporting a Mike Score hairstyle. The steward says "Do you like Flock of Seagulls?" with Sandler's reply, "I can see you do!"

A Flock of Seagulls (1982) #10 US, #32 UK, #32 SE
Listen (1983) #16 US, #16 UK, #44 SE
The Story of a Young Heart (1984) #66 US, #30 UK
Dream Come True (1986)
The Light at the End of the World (1995)

"(It’s Not Me) Talking"
"I Ran (So Far Away)"
"Space Age Love Song"
"Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)"
"Transfer Affection"
"(It's Not Me) Talking" [reissue]
"The More You Live, The More You Love"
"Never Again (The Dancer)"
"Remember David"
"Who's That Girl (She's Got It)"
"Heartbeat Like a Drum"
"Magic" [reissue]
"Burnin' Up"
"Rainfall" [reissue]

External links
The band's MySpace page

No comments:

Ad by Google