This year at OC Music News, we have celebrated several amazing bands that recently turned 40. Each band has something recognizable about them that sticks in our mind; something we always associate with them. It would be easy to label Flock of Seagulls as “the band with the hair,” but they are so much more. Grammy winners. Overnight successes. One of the most recognized bands of the ‘80s. Seriously, is there an ‘80s compilation without “I Ran?”
With a clean shaven look now, founding member Mike Score continues to write….and write…and write. Last year, he told Classic Pop, “I’ve got between 100 and 200 songs.” That was before the quarantine of 2020, so how many hundreds does he have now?! Score was kind enough to let me badger him with questions and give us an update on what he’s been doing in 2020.
“During lockdown I have obviously been writing some songs – working in my studio on different things. We did a couple of charity streaming events and that was fun, but it’s not like doing a gig – which I miss a lot,” Score said (I think we can all agree on that!). “And also just being a bit lazy, taking my time over things. I learned to play drums a bit as well.”
Created in 1980 while Score was a hairdresser, he took on vocals and keyboards, his brother Ali was on drums, and fellow hairdresser Frank Maudsley covered bass. They added Paul Reynolds on guitar and practiced above the hair salon. Very quickly, they became a force in the new romantic movement.
As I looked back on their history, I was kind of blown away how quickly they became the musical legends we know. “Overnight success” is a common phrase thrown around, but it really seemed like the case for them. During a two year period, they had two hit records, multiple successful singles, constant shows, and all the lifestyle “perks” that go with it.
They released a four song EP in 1981 and “Telecommunication” became a club hit.
Suddenly, they had a record deal and prepped their first full-length studio album.
Released in 1982, “Flock of Seagulls” included “Telecommunication” as the first single, and then… “I Ran (So Far Away).”
MTV began playing them like crazy. Who can forget the spinning video with mirrors and aluminum foil? And yes, the hair. The single was a hit worldwide and remains on pretty much every list of top ‘80s songs.
Over the years it got a boost from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and “Stranger Things,” thereby creating new fans in younger generations.
They released the second single, “Space Age Love Song.”
Again, boom, hit!
That first album was not done yet because “D.N.A.” picked up a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Reminder…all three of these were on their FIRST studio album! What a way to start!?
Before the year was up, they released another monster song that would end up on their next CD.
“Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” landed them on the charts yet again and the album “Listen” included a new version of their first ever single, “Talking,” now named “(It’s Not Me) Talking.”
With “Listen” being released in 1983 and hits all over the place, a Flock of Seagulls made an appearance at the historic US Festival with Oingo Boingo, Men at Work, Stray Cats, INXS (and the many other amazing bands over the weekend).
Looking back, in 2018 Score said, “Really, it was a bit much. We went from playing colleges… to playing with The Go-Go’s and The Police for 20,000 to 100,000 people in less than nine months.” He continued, “For us, it was kind of mind-bending and quite scary. It’s still quite scary to look back on it. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we’re growing so fast. I hope we don’t fall off the edge.’”
Unfortunately, cracks did appear (like most bands turning 40 right now!). As most siblings do, Mike and Ali had conflict, and Reynolds was finding the success overwhelming. The guys completed their next album, “The Story of a Young Heart,” for a 1984 release. While it did not match the success of the prior two albums, it did have the great songs “The More You Live, the More You Love” and “Remember David.” Unfortunately, Reynolds vacated the band and it would be the last album the four members did together until 2018.
With such immediate success, the band struggled with direction and members over the new few years. The original three members did release “Dream Come True,” but separated in the years following. Mike remained the constant and continued to tour and release music as a Flock of Seagulls and a solo artist.
Thanks to pop culture, a Flock of Seagulls was always around us – Chandler’s hair on a flashback episode of “Friends,” references in “The Wedding Singer” and “Pulp Fiction.” New fans were hearing about the band, and VH1 came calling for their “Bands Reunited” show. In 2003, VH1 convinced the original members to get together again for a special performance. (I dare you to watch it and not tear up when they reunite!) That performance led to a brief tour, and then Mike carried on with the name – still writing, still performing.
We were pleasantly surprised in 2018 when all four original members recorded together for the first time since 1984. They gathered with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to create “Ascension,” new renditions of their songs, including my personal favorite, “Space Age Love Song.”
Score told Classic Pop Magazine: “Ascension has brought us a bit closer, and so has getting older. There’s space to do a tour. If the right offer comes up, we’ll see how the vibe goes. I’d love to look across the stage to see Paul and Frank – then look back and see my brother scowling at me like he always did! I’d love to feel that electricity again, and I think it could be like that.”
As a band so associated with technology decades ago, I was curious what Score thought of the technology available now. “The world of music tech has exploded and you can have an amazing studio at home now with super high quality gear.” He went on, “If you have a talent for recording, it is all within reach. The fun of the studio in your bedroom or laptop. And of course the internet allows you to release it without interference or record companies telling you what to do.”
I replied the return of vinyl and synth music was interesting, and Score commented, “Vinyl is a surprise, but synths have never gone away. They are more powerful now than ever. Tech in the synth world is totally over the top and I’m loving that! Soft synths are brilliant. You can own all those classic boards without the cost, or needing a big studio and the hardware choice is now totally incredible.”
So, what can we look forward to in 2021 if life plays fair with us? When I asked Score about his plans, he laughed, “Plans??,” but he continued, “Yes we have some plans and releasing a solo album is on the cards, as well as a couple of others things. Going on tour again would be nice, but what is it they say? We make plans and the gods laugh – looking forward to some sort of return to normality really.”
I mentioned we all needed to find positives from this year to carry us forward and asked Score for his. “Well 2020 has been a very strange year I think generally, but of course positive things have come out.” He continued, “Being able to take time out to do other things – not just music – is cool. Time to think, time to consider, and getting better sleep! For me, working in my studio alone has taught me a lot about recording and songwriting.”
Although 2020 has robbed us of so much, at least we do have more from Mike Score and a Flock of Seagulls to look forward to. For now, I highly recommend you check out “Ascension.”
You can purchase it as a standalone, but there is also an amazing limited edition box set version that includes five CDs, band autographs, and more. It should keep you busy for a while!