A Flock of Seagulls

Song: Space Age Love Song – A Flock of Seagulls, Number 43, 5 December 1982

Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now:

flock

Surely one of the most derided hairstyles in 80s pop music.

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It must have been spectacularly irritating to look around.

In June of 1982 Flock’s best and generally only really known song, I Ran, reached number seven on the charts in New Zealand.  Space Age Love Song is actually quite a good follow up.  As are about two other songs on their fairly short Greatest Hits collection (it cost me $9… which is probably about right).

Listening to I Ran, Space Age Love Song, and The More You Live, The More You Love it struck me that the main reason this band was any good at all was the guitarist: Paul Reynolds.  He had a good ear for hooky riffs that could make quite dull songs interesting.  After the big self-titled album of 1982 (such fun!) the band is mostly window dressing some ordinary musical ideas and some ordinary lyrics.

Since you’ve been gone it’s been raining hard
Like crystal teardrops to the floor
It’s even raining in my heart

Across an ocean wide a voice that calls your name
A love that never dies like an eternal flame
Across the great divide for all eternity

I feel like I, and everyone of a certain type, wrote these exact same words in their diary when they were thirteen. I reckon the mistake they made was not extending the metaphor of rain in the heart.  Something like “It’s even raining in my heart / sad puddles are forming in my intestines / grief-stricken mud is trickling out of my….”  Maybe not.
flock6Flock were interviewed in Smash Hits in 1982.  They come across as quite serious.  The dude with the haircut and his brother Ali are from Yorkshire originally, but moved to Liverpool.  Mike had two hairdresser stores  but chucked it in for the band.

In the Smash Hits interview the lead singer claims that, “Any idiot with two fingers crossed can make a record.”  I beg to differ.  Still it’s nice to know that a band I had previously thought of as sort of ridiculous was an actual band that played instruments and slogged it out on long tours building a following and pushing their songs up the charts.  As anyone knows who has read this blog for a while I have a great big soft spot for the one hit wonders, forgotten stars, and almost made its of this world.  It is somewhat sad to realise that in this interview the peak for this band has already past, and although they are talking about the promise-filled future the high point had already been reached.  At the end of the interview the singer reflects on their ride so far: “You suddenly get that little memory of how it was… and how it is.”  It seems to me that this sentence might be as true now for the band as it was in 1982.

But never mind all that.  Let’s enjoy the fact of their self-titled album which I have to say is an enjoyable album, full of cool songs, nice hooks and a stupid haircut.  More serious critics than me state that this was a concept album about an alien invasion.  I don’t see it.  The lyrics are too weak.  The only thing that really seems to connect these songs is the frenetic pogo-ing you would need to do on lots of them if you wanted to dance at their concerts.  Elsewhere I read that the band claimed to have actually seen UFOs.  Although they seemed not to want to talk about that by the end of 1982: “Too much has been made of it.  It’s like someone mentioning their car and forever after they’re asked about it.”

No, it’s really not like that.

Sadly, it would seem that by 1984 the singer had abandoned his awesome haircut.

flock5

Which, in a Samson and Delilah kind of way, might explain why the hits dried up for A Flock of Seagulls.

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17 thoughts on “A Flock of Seagulls

  1. I’m at work where I can’t listen to the song, but the haircut only makes me want to hear it. I do like ‘I Ran.’ I think my brother owned their first album. I’ll have to ask him. Of the two of us, he’s the one who would have gone for the haircut.

  2. I Ran is great. I liked to do strange things to my hair when I had hair, but I think this haircut was a bridge too far. He was a hairdresser. I’m not sure I’d trust my hairdresser if they had a haircut like that.

    What this comment needed was more uses of the word “hair”

  3. I remember being fascinated by Reynolds. Not just the catchy riffs. He had a look about him that endeared him to me. The videos focused on him fleetingly, mostly playing to Score rocking as he played his keyboard one-handed and those ridiculous hair styles.

    Score was not (and as of my last sighting of him in ’01, still isn’t) a handsome man. And the camera would briefly flash on Reynolds, with his soft chin, the pouty lips, the immaculate hair, those huge tinted glasses, the boyishness, looking even younger than the 20 years or so he was at the time. It was stark for me: Score, the Beast, and Reynolds, the beauty.

    Recalling these thoughts from 30 years ago and it amazes me how struck I was by him. What was it really? No, it wasn’t the least bit a sexual attraction. I wasn’t into that over-produced crap and the proto-metrosexual styles. I was still mostly a Deadhead though a big fan of bands of that era like the Talking Heads, REM, and the Clash. While my friends were wearing those stupid shirts with the flap like Score wears in I Ran, I was still in jeans and polo shirts.

    But still he fascinated me. More than any other musician in that genre. And still does. If I see one of their videos, I wait patiently for the camera to move off Score and show Reynolds slicing away on his guitar.

  4. Great comment. Thanks. I only really noticed the hair, but developed a fascination with many other members of bands. I always liked Pal and Mags in A-ha and waited to see what Pal was up to. Often not much but I imagined he was the sensitive, creative one whom I liked to see as me.

  5. I too had a fascination with the guitarist, Paul Reynolds. He was only 17 when he joined Flock of Seagulls and he left when he was only 21. He now plays in a jazz band and does small gigs in England.

  6. Nice to know he’s still performing. I think he was the difference on their songs between forgettable and memorable.

  7. It was when Reynolds left the band that their hits dried up. Witness the video for the abominable, ‘Who’s that Girl? (She’s Got It)’ and see if you don’t find yourself waiting for Reynolds to show up. It should be on Youtube.

  8. Holy Mother of God!

    Top comment underneath the video: “What just happened?”

    Reply: “The 80s happened.”

    Thank you for telling me about this. It is so SO good.

  9. I’ve just read your ‘about’ page for your blog and have decided, in the spirit of this topic deserving a further analysis, I’ll post here what I’ve discovered. A Flock of Seagulls are the classic cautionary tale of what happens when one person thinks they’re more important than the rest of the band or that the whole of the band is ‘their baby’ and theirs alone. Mike Score, in this instance, is that person. When he said, ‘any idiot with two fingers can make a record’, he was judging others by his own standards. Let’s face it, his writing wasn’t some grand vision and his keyboard playing could have been done by a tech who isn’t in the front of the stage. He made the band happen and was the one with the focus to drive them forward.
    Paul Reynolds brought the sex appeal to FOSG and he brought true creative talent. If you listen closely to ‘I Ran’ or see a live clip of them, you will find that the opening faraway noises that sound very much like seagulls is Paul Reynolds sliding his fret finger over the string and using his pick finger to tap the strings to create these sounds (you can also hold the fret finger down to give a sharper ‘tinkling’ sound). Heavy metal guitarists employ this technique quite often on a grander scale but to see someone do it in such a subtle manner where one forgets the guitar is even present is the mark of a true creative and one who has made the instrument a part of his or herself.
    I’ve done a bit of research because a few years ago I wanted to find Paul Reynolds to ask him to sit for a photographic portrait and that was how I found out he still plays small jazz gigs. He now goes by the name, ‘Paul Reno’ and has a myspace page which I’m not sure is kept up to date. Since reading your blog, I decided to go do some more digging and what I found made me laugh but is also sad because it’s the same old story of what happens when someone let’s their ego take over and loses sight of the music. Mike Score didn’t know what he had in Paul Reynolds.
    A few clues: if you watch their videos, you will find that Mike Score was set on making himself the front guy with no room for anyone else. He couldn’t achieve that with someone like Reynolds on the same stage.
    If you have another look on Youtube, you will find an interview of the band from those days and not long before Reynolds left. It’s from ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and is about 11 minutes long or so. Reynolds is naive and that is to be expected from one so young. If you watch it til the end, you’ll see Score going off on a mini-rant about ‘not taking £500.00 to go off on holidays’ and not letting other things pull the focus away from continuously working. If you watch closely, you’ll see Reynolds look up at him when he starts saying all that. It’s because he’s heard it before.
    There was confusion over whether Reynolds left the band because he ‘couldn’t handle the rock and roll lifestyle’ or if he was pushed from it. I think Mike Score just got jealous that Reynolds was having all the fun and actually living what he couldn’t just allow himself to do. If you go and have a look at ‘Paul Reno’s’ myspace page, there is a photo that is very telling posted there. It has the caption, ‘NYC to see Duran Duran’ and what you see is Reynolds with an attractive young woman and they’re obviously loved up and their sitting right next to Score who looks like he wants to strangle them both.
    Those words at the end of that interview were directed at Reynolds and after seeing the ‘Bands Reunited’ clip where Reynolds says, ‘if I hadn’t have left I probably wouldn’t be here today’. I’m pretty sure Score kept at him and probably told him, ‘for your own welfare, you should leave.’ It is also poignant that at the very end, Reynolds is about to start crying and says how grateful he was to play with them again. Curiously, their reunited show (which isn’t all that great) has the guitar turned almost so low it’s non-existent in the sound. I thought it was a mistake from the sound tech but now I wonder if it wasn’t Mike Score making sure the poor guy wasn’t heard. Reynolds makes a few mistakes and maybe he was drunk but he wasn’t so awful that his sound should be turned all the way down. The result is muddy and missing all the magic Reynolds brought to their songs. He did, obviously, get caught up in the party of being in a band but, much like Keith Richards, one has to wonder if A Flock of Seagulls would have had more success had they kept Reynolds in and Score had found a way to get over his personal feelings.
    I don’t want to write too much here but it appears someone else could see Reynold’s greatness. If you, again, look on Youtube, you will find a clip called, ‘Paul Reynolds, Space Age Love Song’ which is just clips of him playing. I recommend that video for the person, who is probably gone from this thread but may like to see it if they stumble this way again.
    I gotta run and apologies if this is taking the thread in a much different direction but I just thought I’d throw those things out there.

  10. *are… instead of ‘is’ in the sentence about the opening noises on ‘I Ran’. Apologies for any other typos or grammar mistakes. The post was a ‘stream of consciousness’ and I didn’t have time to proof read it all after I wrote it.

  11. Thanks for the links to different clips. There’s a Toasted interview where Score says: “FOSG is me because I write the songs”. Which fits with your idea and is clearly not true of the band in the early 80s. In that Looking Glass clip they sound like a band who jammed out riffs and stuff and came up with their songs organically and then Score did the lyrics, i.e. like a normal band. Space Age Love Song is a perfect example of what Paul brings. Take off his guitar and it’s a very dull song. I Ran has a decent vocal line but it’s another song that generates all of its coolness from those delicious riffs and tinkerings. Love how they came up with the title for DNA (“its D ‘n’ A, innit?”) for which they got a Grammy! Isn’t this just Paul Reynolds jamming? Mike needed Paul, but Paul needed Flock. Love to hear from Paul about how he felt when he was leaving, because on the Reunited clip he is clearly loving every minute of it.

  12. Paul Reynolds never played in any jazz bands. He’s mentioned it before back when he had a website of his own. He doesn’t play any jazz. He does however still play with Frank Maudsley. There are pictures floating around on the internet that you can find if you look up their names.

  13. Love the post by the way. It’s a shame he Paul couldn’t find success with any other band. I talked to him about the band him and Frank were apart of in the late 80s, Almighty Atmosphere, but he said the leader singer of that band was also bigheaded and things fell apart not too long after. If you were fortunate enough to have been a member of his website back like 10 years ago he posted some of his solo work, songs by the titles of “Emperor Jones,” “Middle of Nowhere,” and “Shaking the Life Tree.” All great songs, but done with an acoustic guitar.

  14. I think that if this post accumulates more comments we’ll be able to write a book about Paul. I spent some time in bands (crap, amateur bands), and ego is so huge even at the crap, amateur level. It’s such a personal thing, and so charged. With the pressure of attention and success it must be 100x worse. I hope Paul’s doing alright. I’d love to hear those songs.

  15. Paul was always my favorite. Definitely the most talented member in AFOS.
    Once he left, the band sucked!
    He was strikingly handsome. And he still is.
    Several years ago I got the chance to speak to him on the phone.
    If I’m really lucky, I hope to meet him in person someday.

  16. Paul made the band. The” kid ” (then of course) could really play. I loved his stage persona. His sound really caught my attention. Great admirer of his talent and sound!!

  17. Well said and put Beezlebubb👌Paul Reynolds holds my fascination for the Flock of Seagulls so much so that I’m trying to purchase a Kramer XL5 guitar like he played and not that I can play rather I just loved his style, sound and persona.
    I played their song “I Ran” as a DJ in niteclubs and just was in awe of Paul’s intro. The song was a huge dancfloor hit here in Australia in the 80s and early 90s.
    I’ve watched all the utube clips over and over and it’s so true that he made the band without doubt.

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