A Flock of Seagulls' frontman Mike Score has plenty to get off his chest: "I wrote a new version of 'I Ran,' and people complain that I can't do that. Well, don't tell me what I can do with my song. It's not your song. It's mine! People say, 'You should do your hair like you did in the old days,' and I'm like, 'Don't be stupid. I'd look like a dork!'"
Score takes a deep breath and sighs. "It's almost like reeducating the fans," he says. "It should be easy. I lived in the '80s, and I live today."
Next week, Score and the rest of A Flock of Seagulls will be living in Memphis, at least for one night, to play a gig at the Midtown bar Neil's.
With A Flock of Seagulls, Score rocketed to the top of the 1982 music-video charts on the strength of one good single, the aforementioned "I Ran (So Far Away)." While heavy synths, a gravity-defying asymmetrical hairdo, and a decidedly new-wave-influenced pop sound brought instant fame, the group just as quickly plummeted to one-hit-wonder status.
Score started out as a hairdresser in his native Liverpool, England. "In those days, punky people in bands would come in and get their hair colored, and we were always playing the Sex Pistols," he explains, letting loose a snarky laugh before deadpanning the punch line -- "on our eight-track player."
"For me, hair, fashion, and music were inseparable," he adds. "Eventually, my brother and I met up with a few musicians, but it wasn't ever about becoming big. We were just thrashing out our tiny dream."
Taking the band's name from the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull and a line from a Stranglers' song called "Toiler on the Sea," A Flock of Seagulls practiced for a few months. A meeting with local label Zoo Records -- home of other new-wave acts Echo & the Bunnymen and Julian Cope -- led to the band's first single, "I Ran," and, he says, "the pieces of the jigsaw fell into place."
"When we look back now, we say, Did that really happen?" Score wonders. "It was so bizarre. There were bands who had worked for years and years, and we met one guy, and we were off and running. For some reason, everything jelled."
Jelled, that is, until the middle of the decade, when the group imploded after The Story of a Young Heart, the band's third album, failed to chart. "When we split up, I thought about going under my own name," Score says now. "But A Flock of Seagulls came from me. I wrote all those songs. Why should I change what I created? Through good times and hard times, at least people will know that's the guy and these are his songs.
"As long as I'm there, it's gonna be A Flock of Seagulls," he proclaims.
Yet in the 1990s, even Score dropped out. He moved to Key West, Florida, where he started a new career building boats. Later on, he relocated to Cocoa Beach, on the east side of the state. Last year, he found himself back in the spotlight when VH-1 featured A Flock of Seagulls on an episode of Bands Reunited.
Although Score remembers the filming as a particularly painful experience, he admits that the forced reunion was probably inevitable.
"It had to come at some point," he says. "It started off okay, but in the end, I didn't enjoy the experience. Paul [Reynolds, the group's original guitarist] has typical rock-and-roll problems. He's not worth working with, although if he straightened himself out, I wouldn't be opposed to giving him a second chance. Despite the rumors, me and my brother [Ali, the band's original drummer] get along. I liked working with him and Frank [Maudsley, the bassist], we may well go off and do other stuff together.
"If I hadn't done it, I would've always wondered what might have happened," Score says. "But the band I have together now has been playing with me for six years longer than the original band did. We're not just a band from the '80s. We're actual working musicians."
Nostalgia might provide a paycheck, but Score is determined to soldier on with his musical quest. "I can step back and play what people want if they pay me enough," he says. "Three years ago, we played the Flashback Tour, and fans sculpted their kids' heads into my old hairstyle. It was an event. But just because people are having fun remembering when they were 16 or 18, it doesn't mean that the next day I won't go play all new songs."
Score estimates that he's written some 200 songs with the second incarnation of A Flock of Seagulls. "I have my own studio, and we start working on songs here and there," he says. "I don't know which ones are best -- it depends on which mood I'm in -- so I'm setting up a streaming Web site, where, as soon as a song gets finished, it will be put up on the Web for fans to download."
Playing small clubs like Neil's, he says, is part of the current picture. "I like playing," he maintains, "and sometimes you get offered really good gigs and sometimes you don't. But think of it this way: If you play a huge festival, you have to impress people. If you play a club, you can have a few beers and hang out. It's a much more open atmosphere.
"And," he adds optimistically, "right now, we're playing a lot of new songs which we can judge better in a small club. Afterward, we can get drunk and fall about and just be a band." •
A Flock of Seagulls at Neil's, 1827 Madison Avenue, Saturday, May 14th. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Admission $25.