It’s not accurate or fair to call A Flock of Seagulls one-hit wonders. They had two Top 20 albums in the US, three singles that made it into the Top 30, and won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song “D.N.A.” “Space Age Love Song” is a legit jam. And yet despite all of this the band is primarily remembered today for two things. The hit single “I Ran (So Far Away)” and Mike Score’s haircut.
This faux one-hit wonder status seems like something that blossomed in the early 1980s, probably because MTV contributed to the accelerating emergence of actual one-hit wonders and changed the way we consumed music. There seems to be a lot of nostalgia for this period (which could be me simply projecting my own sense of nostalgia onto the rest of you) and an endless supply of compilations of the era’s songs. And if you’re doing an early 80s new wave comp there are a handful of obligatory songs that almost have to be included, their mythological places in the period’s musical landscape becoming separated from reality and in fact making their own reality. “I Ran (So Far Away)” is one of those songs. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that in 1982 we all just sat around listening to it along with “I Melt With You” and “Tainted Love” on a continuous loop. Add the song to things like the GTA Vice City TV commercials and a reference to the band in Pulp Fiction (You, Flock of Seagulls. Know why we’re here?) and it takes on a life of its own. But in fact it only made it to #9 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1982. It’s perhaps more ubiquitous today than it was when it was charting.
There are some good jams on A Flock of Seagulls. “Modern Love Is Automatic” is classic new way, synthy and a bit dark with a certain insistent quality to it and could have easily been released as a single. “Space Age Love Song” is rock solid, and of course you can’t deny the brilliance of “I Ran (So Far Away)” which catches your attention immediately, the first three seconds compelling you to continue listening. It’s definitely a fun album and one that while a bit dated still holds up a pretty well.
The collection of freebies that recently came my way included the first three albums by A Flock of Seagulls, so I gave the others a listen as well. Listen (1983) is a bit more chill and less poppy than A Flock of Seagulls, things moving into a more post-punk (“Nightmares”) and goth (“Transfer Affection”) realm. The Story of a Young Heart (1984) opens with the very new romantic title track, and “European (I Wish I Was)” feels like it could have been a hit. The B side opener “Remember David” is an uptempo rocker, a pleasant surprise and my favorite track on the record.