THE WORST LIVE SHOW I’VE EVER SEEN…..BUT……

The lead song from this 1981 release was supposed to be part of the throwaway and disposable New Romantics EP which I put together for my wee brother’s birthday yesterday.

The thing is, A Flock of Seagulls are, by a long chalk, the worst headline band it’s ever been my misfortune to see and after the gig, at Strathclyde Students Union in 1982, I never again listened to them knowingly.

They were so badly off-key and out of sync on the night that they were genuinely painful to listen to, with many walking out. It seemed strange, given that all the UK music papers were full of how the Liverpool quartet had conquered the USA and were about to do the same over here. In the end, they enjoyed a fleeting moment of fame when Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You) hit the Top 10, but it was far less than what they had experienced with earlier single I Ran (So Far Away) which sold millions in the States, thanks in part to the video being on heavy rotation on the newly launched MTV.

I’ve long ago lost or given away my copy of the debut album, but I do still have a 12″ EP and, as I said at the top of this post, was ready to give it away the lead track very cheaply just yesterday…..until I played it.

The opening minute and forty seconds or so are not what I remembered or expected….it’s as gothic as anything from The Cure/Bauhaus/Sisters of Mercy and indeed, if heard in isolation, the guitar work is akin to the late and great John McGeogh.

mp3 : A Flock of Seagulls – Modern Love Is Automatic

It does kind of degenerates a bit when the vocal kicks in, but even then there is the occasional burst of guitar to rise above the averageness of the melody.

The next song also caught me out in that the guitar playing is very reminiscent of The Skids!!

mp3 : A Flock of Seagulls – Telecommunication

I suppose I shouldn’t really be too surprised given that the production on this track is credited to Bill Nelson who worked very closely with the late Stuart Adamson on the album Days In Europa.

The third track on the A-side of the EP….and another surprise with a guitar-led instrumental:-

mp3 : A Flock of Seagulls – D.N.A.

OK, it does get a tad repetitive but it doesn’t go on for too long at just two-and-a-half minutes.

Flipping over to the B-side:-

mp3 : A Flock of Seagulls – Windows
mp3 : A Flock of Seagulls – You Can Run

Ah….this brings back those memories which were buried very deep.

Windows was one in the live setting where the singing really hurt the ears while the latter is one of those clichéd efforts that should be have been left at the demo stage (also sounds as if it’s a different lead vocalist than usual).

But hey, let’s face it, I’ve found that there was more to AFOS than a lead singer with a dodgy haircut, later immortalised in Pulp Fiction.

JC

11 thoughts on “THE WORST LIVE SHOW I’VE EVER SEEN…..BUT……

  1. A band I had completely written off on the basis of the two big hits (without having the “experience” of seeing them live. Only buying the Revolutionary Spirit box set from Cherry Red recently drew the excellence of Telecommunication to my attention. Looking forward to hearing Modern Love is Automatic.

  2. Congratulations. You own the only AFOS artifact worth owning. I heard “Modern Love Is Automatic” on college radio in 1981 when they got the import 12″ EP. I thought it was definitely in Ultravox territory, which to say, in 1981, got me very interested indeed! When the 5-track EP with “Telecommunication” was released in January of 1982, it didn’t waste any time getting into the Record Cell. In the next year I was agog as AFOS conquered America; one of the first bands playing “my kind of music” to do so. I bought the debut album and was disappointed to see that it repeated 4/5 songs from the EP. I sold it off in the Great Vinyl Purge of 1985; never having bothered with another AFOS release.

    They had an undeserved reputation as a “synth band” in backward America, but a cursory glance at the [ludicrous] video for “I Ran” revealed all: it’s a 2-note monosynth line running through the entire song! Guitarist Paul Reynolds was doing all of the heavy Post-Punk lifting in that band and he got out first by ’84 or so. But AFOS were playing all over America in their time. I never saw them live until 1993, by which time Mike Score lived in Central Florida with a nth generation lineup of the group. It was a free concert in a city square in Orlando. I went because it was there. I can remember the friends I went with and our decision where [or where not] to eat afterward more than the show itself. But I would not have called it the worst concert I ever saw. I have walked out of those.

    I later purchased a copy of the AFOS debut CD at a yard sale for a single dollar in 2001 after moving to where I live now. I listened to it for the first time since about 1983 and put it in the “discard” pile after two listens. The compositions were perfunctory at best, but anything in the songs that was worth listening to was strictly the work of Reynolds; a real talent. “Modern Love Is Automatic” is still a fantastic song, but I could not justify owning the disc just for that, even at a price of $1.00.

  3. Confession time – I’m friends with three of the four original band members (not hard to work out which one I’m not). This band is special to me because I met my wife via them.

    I have to defend their live work, well not for that night you saw them JC, but usually they are fantastic live. Well specifically Paul Reynolds who is an unrecognised guitar genius. I have a soundboard recording from one of the early tours and Reno was at his genius best. One day I hope he’ll get the recognition he deserves even if the band doesn’t.

  4. I like that the band name came from the lyric to ‘Toiler on the Sea’ by the Stranglers. That’s all I got.

  5. JTFL – I totally got that too! I had “Black + White” and when I first heard of them it was obvious to me where their name came from. I never believed that “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” story that Mike Score referenced to the media here!

  6. keepingitpeel – I have always imagined that the band attracted Bill Nelson [who produced their debut single [ which I still have for “[It’s Not Me] Talking” on Cocteau Records] due to his hearing them and deciding that he needed to work with this Paul Reynolds! I’ll admit that I’m curious about the recent “Orchestral” album that the original lineup just cut last year with the Prague Philharmonic.

  7. AFOS lived and died with the guitar of Paul Reynolds. As for that orchestral album, it pales in comparison to the Visage work.
    I have all the time in the world for the debut album and some of the sophomore outing.
    I saw them live twice, once at a very boozy New Years Eve MTV party and they were very slack live…very slack.

  8. I had a friend who excitedly told me he was going to the gig you went to and ever after called them ‘A flock of hairdressers’. I also liked the guitarist’s sound and the basslines – but the lyrics were pretty awful. The album version ‘I ran’ with the long into was class though…. as was ‘Space Age Love Song’ – it’s the guitar again that does it.

  9. I just found out that the “Nightmares” 12″ had some B-side material recorded with Conny Plank! Call me interested in hearing that. I had no idea all of these years, but thanks to djjedredy I’m definitely intrigued.

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