Tag: A Flock Of Seagulls (Page 1 of 2)

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1982

While 1981 was the most important year in synth for its mainstream crossover, 1982 saw it consolidating its presence and finding itself intertwined into other genres.

A number of the school of 1981 such as OMD, KRAFTWERK and JAPAN were absent in album form during 1982 although they maintained a presence on the singles chart with KRAFTWERK getting a belated and well-deserved No1 for 1978’s ‘The Model’ while OMD scored the biggest single of the year in West Germany with ‘Maid Of Orleans’.

Meanwhile, JAPAN became chart regulars with re-issues from their previous label Ariola Hansa and their then-home Virgin Records, notching up a further six Top 40 singles including a pair of Top10s in ‘Ghosts’ and an understated 1980 cover of Smokey Robinson’s ‘I Second That Emotion’, but the band split by the end of the year after a world tour.

It was very much a year much of the past catching up with the present with THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s original 1978 Fast Version of ‘Being Boiled’ reaching No6 on the back of a reissue under licence to EMI while ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ reached No1 in America, just as a remix collection ‘Love & Dancing’ maintained the band’s profile back home.

Taking a leaf out of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s book, SOFT CELL revealed what they had been doing while clubbing in New York with the remix EP ‘Non-Stop Ecstatic’ and although it didn’t hit the heights of the Sheffield combo, Marc Almond and Dave Ball continued propping up the Top3 of the UK singles chart with ‘Torch’ and ‘What’.

In their album chart absence came new acts like YAZOO, TALK TALK, BLANCMANGE, CHINA CRISIS, BERLIN and RATIONAL YOUTH as those who had made their wider breakthroughs in 1981 such as DURAN DURAN, ABC, ASSOCIATES and SIMPLE MINDS swooped in. Meanwhile as DEPECHE MODE were soldiering on, NEW ORDER found a new electronic direction on the standalone single ‘Temptation’.

Despite all this, signs of a synth backlash were coming to a head and there were those who didn’t consider the use of synthesizers as real music. Songwriters like Elvis Costello and Ian Dury publicly declared their dislike of acts who used synths while the Musicians Union tabled a motion in May 1982 to ban synthesizers from recording and live performance.

Tensions had been brewing for a while; when HEAVEN 17 performed on ‘Top Of the Pops’ for the first time in 1981 with ‘Play To Win’, singer Glenn Gregory remembered how the heavily unionised show, where MU membership was compulsory, refused to let Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh ‘perform’ behind synths, insisting that they used a guitar and glockenspiel instead! There were plenty of misconceptions about the latest technology as Andy McCluskey of OMD said on ‘Synth Britannia’ in 2009: “The number of people who thought that the equipment wrote the song for you: ‘well anybody can do it with the equipment you’ve got!’ “F*** OFF!!”

But with the best selling UK single of 1982 being the more traditional ‘C’mon Eileen’ by DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS, the public were perhaps tiring of the sound of synth and with this in mind, things were never quite the same again. In alphabetical order with the restriction of one album per artist moniker, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK lists 20 albums that contributed to the electronic legacy of 1982.


ABC The Lexicon Of Love

ABC wanted to be a far more technically polished pop proposition than their first single ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ so approached Trevor Horn to produce their debut album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. The first fruit of labours was ‘Poison Arrow’ which was augmented by some dramatic piano passages from Anne Dudley who also added strings to the smooth electronic funk of ‘The Look Of Love’ and the ballad ‘All Of My Heart’. Meanwhile, Horn planted the seed of the FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD sound on ‘Date Stamp’.

‘The Lexicon Of Love’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.abcmartinfry.com/


ASSOCIATES Sulk

ASSOCIATES were a majestic and outlandish new pop take on Weimar cabaret in a newly emerging electronic world. Produced by Mike Hedges, ‘Sulk’ was a kaleidoscopic triumph. Featuring reworked versions of ‘Party Fears Two’ and ‘Club Country’, from the frantic instrumental ‘Arrogance Gave Him Up’ to the chromatic overtures of ‘Skipping’ to the evocative drama of ‘No’, the music had the basis for being more accessible, but was still inventive with the brilliant ‘It’s Better This Way’ art and pop in perfect unison.

‘Sulk’ is still available via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial


BERLIN Pleasure Victim

Inspired by ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, BERLIN’s independent mini-LP ‘Pleasure Victim’ was one of the first occasions of an American pop act embracing the synthesizer which had changed the face of music in Europe, exemplified by brilliant songs such as ‘The Metro’ and ‘Masquerade’ with their motorik drum machines and Teutonic pulses. It led to a deal with Geffen Records and notoriety with the deviantly fuelled breakthrough single ‘Sex (I’m A…)’.

‘Pleasure Victim’ is still available via Rubellan Remasters

http://www.berlinmusic.net


BLANCMANGE Happy Families

With the blistering opening of Linn Drum and elastic synth bass, the aggressive ‘I Can’t Explain’ opened  ‘Happy Families’ and set the scene for an impressive debut album from BLANCMANGE. ‘Feel Me’ crossed TALKING HEADS and JOY DIVISION while the haunting melancholy of ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ fused the sombre lyricism of the latter with textures of OMD. Featuring tablas and sitar, breakthrough hit ‘Living On The Ceiling’ headed to towards mystical East.

‘Happy Families’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.com


CHINA CRISIS Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain

Of CHINA CRISIS’ debut, frontman and synth player Gary Daly said: “I love all the songs, I love the way Ed and me from the off were not a “band” and we made the most of every musician who contributed to our songs”. Making the use of four producers, the songs ranged from the tribal mantras of ‘African & White’ to eveocative ballads such as ‘Christian’ with catchy synthpop like ‘Some People I Know To Have Fantastic Lives’ and the ambient closer ‘Jean Walks In Fresh Fields’ part of a fine collection.

‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms…’ is still available via Caroline Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


DAF Für Immer

The last of the Conny Plank produced album trilogy, ‘Für Immer’ maintained the industrial standard of its predecessors and featured a minimal electro body re-recording of their 1980 Mute single ‘Kebab Träume’. Transformed into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” threw more wood onto the provocation bonfire. But despite the fame, all was not well within DAF with Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl falling out under a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer…

‘Für Immer’ is still available via Grönland Records

https://www.groenland.com/en/artist/deutsch-amerikanische-freundschaft/


DEPECHE MODE A Broken Frame

While Eric Radcliffe was holed up working on the first YAZOO album at Blackwing Studios on the night shift, during the day Daniel Miller was working with DEPECHE MODE on their second. With a catchy melodic theme, ‘Nothing To Fear’ made the most of Miller’s programming expertise to signal an optimistic future while ‘My Secret Garden’, ‘See You’ and ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ made use of pretty ringing tones courtesy of a newly acquired PPG Wave 2. But ‘Leave In Silence’ pointed to darker climes.

‘A Broken Frame’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.depechemode.com/


THOMAS DOLBY The Golden Age Of Wireless

‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ was a real ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure of an album featuring the singles ‘Airwaves’, ‘Radio Silence’ and the percussive ‘Europa & The Pirate Twins’ featuring XTC’s Andy Partridge on harmonica. The UK hit breakthrough came with the tremendous ‘Windpower’ which ended with a BBC shipping forecast from John Marsh. For his intellectual approach to modern pop, Thomas Dolby adopted a boffin persona which came to its zenith on the US hit ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ which was later appended onto the album.

‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ is still available via EMI Records

https://www.thomasdolby.com/


DURAN DURAN Rio

On the Colin Thurston produced ‘Rio’ album with its iconic Patrick Nagel cover image, DURAN DURAN achieved the perfect balance between art and pop. “A dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego”, ‘New Religion’ was a highlight capturing a schizophrenic tension while ‘The Chauffeur’ threw in a drum machine, synths, treated piano and an ocarina alongside a closing monologue about insects. ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, ‘Save A Prayer’ and the title song provided the hits… and no, ‘Rio’ is not about a girl!

‘Rio’ is still available via EMI Music

http://www.duranduran.com/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS A Flock Of Seagulls

With a sound that combined enough conventional rock guitar to have mainstream appeal while adding a spacey sheen with prominent synths, Liverpool’s A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had winning formula to break America. Produced by Mike Howlett, their long playing debut was a concept album of sorts about an alien invasion that featured ‘I Ran’, ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘Telecommunication’. In an America still drunk on TOTO and JOURNEY, their greatest achievement was winning a ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ Grammy Award for the album track ‘DNA’.

‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ is still available via Cherry Pop

https://www.aflockofseagulls.org/


THE LEAGUE UNLIMTED ORCHESTRA Love & Dancing

“The most creative experience I’ve ever had in my life” was how THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s producer Martin Rushent described ‘Love & Dancing’, an album of remixes from ‘Dare’. Pre-sampling, the material was reworked from the mixing board using a multitude of effects with vocal stutters created by cutting up small portions of tape and splicing them together with the aid of his custom-made ruler. The percussive dub laden barrage of ‘Do Or Die’ was one of the highlights, along with a largely instrumental ‘Don’t You Want Me’.

‘Love & Dancing’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


LUSTANS LAKEJER En Plats I Solen

LUSTANS LAKEJER are the unga moderna trailblazers once described as Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN. Their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN while Mick Karn also played sax. One of the first pop albums is use an Emulator, it featured prominently on ‘Den Glöd Som Aldrig Dör’ and ‘Något Måste Brista’. With international ambitions, an English version was recorded first and later released as ‘A Place In The Sun’ with the band changing their name to VANITY FAIR.

‘En Plats I Solen’ is still available via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/LustansLakejer/


GARY NUMAN I Assassin

After the downtempo nature of ‘Dance’, Gary Numan got more energetic again with the single ‘Music For Chameleons’ and the subsequent ‘I Assassin’ album. Still under the spell of JAPAN, Numan brought in Pino Palladino to take over from Mick Karn on fretless bass which provided the dreamy focus next to crashing Linn Drum programming. Songs like ‘We Take Mystery’ (To Bed), ‘War Songs’ and ‘This Is My House’ were more rhythmical, signalling Numan’s desire to return to the live circuit having announced his retirement in 1981.

‘I Assassin’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


RATIONAL YOUTH Cold War Night Life

Montreal’s RATIONAL YOUTH comprised of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda; their debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’ captured the fraught tensions of two opposing ideologies and living under the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction. A tense vision of how young Poles might have spent their down time in underground clubs under martial law was captured in ‘Saturdays In Silesia’, while observing “Checkpoint Charlie’s social climb”, there was the possibility of ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’. When the wall came down at the end of 1989, the trio’s work was done.

‘Cold War Night Life’ is still available via Universal Music

https://rationalyouth.bandcamp.com/album/cold-war-night-life


SIMPLE MINDS New Gold Dream

Following the promising ‘Sons & Fascination’, SIMPLE MINDS lost their intensity and recorded a magnificent album filled with pretty synthesized melodies, effected textural guitar and driving lead bass runs. The titles like ‘Someone Somewhere In Summertime’, ‘Colours Fly & Catherine Wheel’ and ‘Hunter & The Hunted’ made investigation essential and the luckily, the music reflected that. Jim Kerr’s lyrics were enigmatic gibberish but the vocals were fairly low down in the mix to produce a wonderful wash of sound.

‘New Gold Dream’ is still available via Universal Music

http://www.simpleminds.com/


YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI What Me Worry?

Being the main vocalist for YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA did not necessarily mean Takahashi-san was a great singer and indeed, its Bryan Ferry / David Bowie cross very much had a Marmite. With his solo albums of course, his voice took centre stage although on his fourth offering ‘What Me Worry?’, ‘This Strange Obsession’ written by Zaine Griff featuring vocals from the Kiwi and Ronny provided one of the highlights. Meanwhile complimented by Bill Nelson’s blistering E-bow, the frantic ‘It’s Gonna Work Out’ signalled where YMO were heading.

‘What Me Worry?’ is still available via GT Music

https://www.facebook.com/yt.hints


TALK TALK The Party’s Over

‘The Party’s Over’ was an impressive synth flavoured collection devoid of guitar that very much captured the sound of the era with its thundering Simmons drums and fretless bass. While very much of its time, it still retains much of its charm. Despite being generally glossed over in TALK TALK history, the album is an excellent under rated jewel that has aged well, thanks to the quality of its songs such as ‘Today’, ‘Talk Talk’, ‘It’s So Serious’, ‘Have You Heard The News’ and its epic title track.

‘The Party’s Over’ is still available via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/SpiritOfTalkTalk


ULTRAVOX Quartet

For the ‘Quartet’ album, ULTRAVOX worked with George Martin who produced THE BEATLES. The sound was brighter, more structured and stripped of the density that had characterised the albums with Conny Plank, perhaps coinciding with the use of more digital hardware like the PPG Wave 2.2 and Emulator. The catchy ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ opened proceedings with an immediacy that was less angular and experimental that anything before although ‘Hymn’, ‘Visions In Blue’, ‘Mine For Life’ and ‘The Song (We Go)’ provided some neo-classical pomp.

‘Quartet’ is still available via EMI Music

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE The Anvil

‘The Anvil’ is possibly the most under rated album of the period. There was still neu romance in songs such as ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’ and ‘Again We Love’ but influenced by the New York club scene, the title song offered heavy metronomic beat sans hi-hats in a soundtrack to hedonism. But VISAGE got the funk on ‘Night Train’ resulting in the two founder members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan falling out over the drummer’s insistence that John Luongo remixes were needed for the US market, with the Glaswegian bidding adieu…

‘The Anvil’ is still available via Rubellan Remasters

https://www.therealvisage.com/


YAZOO Upstairs At Eric’s

Disillusioned by the pop circus, Vince Clarke departed DEPECHE MODE in late 1981 and formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet. The debut ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ was a perfect union of passionate bluesy vocals and pristinely programmed synthpop. Songs such as ‘Only You, ‘Don’t Go’, ‘Tuesday’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Goodbye 70s’ and ‘Winter Kills’ set a high standard but while Clarke and Moyet eventually parted ways, the talent that was apparent on ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ has meant both have maintained musical careers that continue to this day.

‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ is still available via Mute Records

http://www.yazooinfo.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th January 2022

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 2.0 1981: The Rise Of Synth Pop

1981 is the year covered by the second instalment of Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series.

1980 was something of a transition year for the synth as it knocked on the door of the mainstream charts but by 1981, it was more or less let in with welcome arms. From the same team behind the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums and the most excellent ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set, ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ presents rarities alongside hits and key album tracks from what many consider the best year in music and one that contributes the most to the legacy of electronic music in its wider acceptance and impact.

Featuring HEAVEN 17  with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’, OMD with ‘Souvenir’ and the eponymous single by VISAGE, these songs are iconic 1981 canon that need no further discussion. Meanwhile the longevity of magnificent album tracks such as ‘Frustration’ by SOFT CELL and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ by ULTRAVOX can be summed by the fact that they have featured in 21st Century live sets alongside their parent acts’ hits.

Although not quite as celebrated, ‘You Were There’ from pastoral second John Foxx long player ‘The Garden’ captures the move from stark JG Ballard imagery to something almost romantic. DEVO are represented by the LinnDrum driven ‘Through Being Cool’, the opener of the ‘New Traditionalists’ album which comes as a statement that the mainstream was their next target; the Akron quintet were one of the many acts signed by Virgin Records as the label focussed on a synth focussed takeover that ultimately shaped the sonic landscape of 1981.

Then there’s TEARS FOR FEARS’ promising debut ‘Suffer The Children’ in its original synthier single recording and The Blitz Club favourite ‘Bostich’ from quirky Swiss pioneers YELLO. Another Blitz staple ‘No GDM’ from GINA X PERFORMANCE gets included despite being of 1978 vintage due to its first UK single release in 1981. The use of synth came in all sorts of shapes and FASHIØN presented a funkier take with ‘Move Øn’ while the track’s producer Zeus B Held took a more typically offbeat kosmische approach on his own ‘Cowboy On The Beach’.

Pivotal releases by JAPAN with the ‘The Art Of Parties’ (here in the more metallic ‘Tin Drum’ album version) and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ highlight those bands’ then-potential for mainstream success. But in the battle of the New Romantic boy bands, the sitar tinged DURAN DURAN B-side ‘Khanada’ easily blows away the SPANDAU BALLET album track ‘Reformation’ in an ominous sign as to who would crack it biggest worldwide.

The great lost band of this era, B-MOVIE issued the first of several versions of ‘Nowhere Girl’ in December 1980 on Dead Good Records and its inclusion showcases the song’s promise which was then more fully realised on the 1982 Some Bizzare single produced by the late Steve Brown although sadly, this was still not a hit.

The best and most synth flavoured pop hits from the period’s feisty females like Kim Wilde and Toyah are appropriate inclusions, as is Hazel O’Connor’s largely forgotten SPARKS homage ‘(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up’. But the less said about racist novelty records such as ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, the better… the actual nation of Japan though is correctly represented by their most notable electronic exponents YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with ‘Cue’ from ‘BGM’, the first release to feature the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer.

With these type of boxed sets, it’s the less familiar tracks that are always the most interesting. As the best looking member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann had a crack at the single charts with the catchy Robert Palmer produced ‘Repeat, Repeat’ while former Gary Numan backing band DRAMATIS are represented by ‘Lady DJ’ although its epic A side ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ would have equally merited inclusion. But BEASTS IN CAGES who later became HARD CORPS stand out with the stark dystopia of ‘Sandcastles’.

The one that “should-have-been-a-pop-hit” is the ABBA-esque ‘I Can’t Hold On’ by Natasha England and it’s a shame that her career is remembered for a lame opportunistic cover of ‘Iko Iko’ rather than this, but the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ demonstrates again how under-rated Tony Mansfield’s NEW MUSIK were, and this with a B-side!

The rather fraught ‘Wonderlust’ by THE FALLOUT CLUB captures the late Trevor Herion in fine form on a Thomas Dolby produced number with a dramatic Spaghetti Western flavour that is lushly sculpted with electronics. Over a more sedate rhythm box mantra, ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ from BLUE ZOO swirls with a not entirely dissimilar mood.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller was breaking through with his productions for DEPECHE MODE in 1981, but representation on ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ comes via the colder austere of ‘Science Fiction’ by Alan Burnham. ‘West End’ by Thomas Leer adds some jazzy freeform synth soloing to the vocal free backdrop, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing instrumental.

The strangely accessible weirdness of CHRIS & COSEY’s ‘This Is Me’, MYSTERY PLANE’s ‘Something To Prove’ and the gritty ‘Brix’ from PORTION CONTROL will delight those more into the leftfield, while AK-47’s ‘Stop! Dance!’, the work of Simon Leonard (later of I START COUNTING and KOMPUTER fame) is another DIY experiment in that aesthetic vein.

Some tracks are interesting but not essential like Richard Bone’s ‘Alien Girl’ which comes over like an amusing pub singer SILICON TEENS, Johnny Warman’s appealing robopop on ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ and the synth dressed New Wave of ‘Close-Up’ by THOSE FRENCH GIRLS. For something more typically artschool, there’s the timpani laden ‘Taboos’ by THE PASSAGE and SECOND LAYER’s screechy ‘In Bits’.

More surprising is Swedish songstress Virna Lindt with her ‘Young & Hip’ which oddly combines showtune theatrics with blippy synth and ska! The set ends rather fittingly with Cherry Red’s very own EYELESS IN GAZA with the abstract atmospherics of ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ although they too would eventually produce their own rousing synthpop statement ‘Sunbursts In’ in 1984.

Outside of the music, the booklet is a bit disappointing with the photos of OMD, TEARS FOR FEARS, HEAVEN 17, B-MOVIE and a glam-bouffanted Kim Wilde all coming from the wrong eras. And while the liner notes provide helpful information on the lesser known acts, clangers such as stating Toyah’s ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ was from the album ‘The Changeling’ when it was a standalone 45, “GONG’s Mike Hewlett” and “memorable sleeve designs by Malcolm Garrett’s Altered IMaGes” do not help those who wish to discover the origins of those accumulated gems.

But these quibbles aside, overall ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ is a good collection, although with fewer rare jewels compared with the first 1980 volume which perhaps points to the fact that those who had the shine to breakthrough actually did… 40 years on though, many of those hit making acts (or variations of) are still performing live in some form.

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally? With VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ becoming a West German No1 in Spring 1981 through to SOFT CELL taking the summer topspot in the UK and culminating in THE HUMAN LEAGUE eventually taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to No1 in the US, the sound of synth had done its job. Setting the scene for 1982 and 1983, further editions of ‘Musik Music Musique’ are planned.


‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ is released on 15th October 2021 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-2-0-the-rise-of-synth-pop-3cd-clamshell-box/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2021

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS + KNIGHT$ Live in London

Photo by Simon Helm

Out of the bands that emerged post-Synth Britannia, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS were among those to actually make a worldwide cultural impact, initially gaining traction in the US via the cable phenomenon of MTV.

While frontman Mike Score’s outlandish hair style was honoured in Hollywood with comic references in ‘Friends’, ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’, their fourth single ‘I Ran’ has been a ubiquitous staple, appearing in commercials for Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Sensationail, Diet Pepsi and Lexus. Greek synth duo MARSHEAUX even borrowed the main riff from ‘Space Age Love Song’ for their signature tune ‘Dream Of A Disco’.

Today, Mike Score is the only remaining member from the original line-up which included his brother Ali on drums, bassist Frank Maudsley and guitarist Paul Reynolds. Notably his hair is now absent, while his scouse accent has mutated into a Trans-Atlantic drawl from years of living stateside.

Dingwalls in Camden was packed for the second London date of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS’ first headlining UK tour for many years and opening proceedings was KNIGHT$ whose debut album ‘Dollars & Cents’ has been one of the contenders for best album of 2019.

Photo by Richard Price

Fronted by the suave and charismatic James Knights, dressed in a black leather jacket and sequined shirt combo, he began support set with Eurobeat thrust of ‘What We Leave Behind’ and the heavenly pop ‘Playin It Cool’.

Playing the role of the perfect beat boy, Knights was slightly restrained physically, thanks to the small stage, but he made every effort to engage the audience with his brand of BRONSKI BEAT inspired Britalo like the amorous ‘Gelato’.

Meanwhile, the snappy ‘Alligator’ provided an amusing observation on the phenomenon of one-sided conversations. ‘Julia’ offered a more romantic take on the appealing KNIGHT$ sound while presenting a token of musical friendship to the audience, there was an authentic rendition of PET SHOP BOYS’ ‘Heart’. The slinky ‘What’s Your Poison?’ appropriately threw in some sunset sax at the riverside venue, before the catchy ‘Dollars & Cents’ closed an impressive warm-up on an already hot Saturday evening.

Standing behind a Roland Fantom 06 outputting crystal clear electronic sounds, Mike Score took his position to begin A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS’ performance with the vintage Sci-Fi rock of ‘Modern Love Is Automatic’. Backed by his usual North American band of guitarist Gordon Deppe from Canadian New Wavers SPOONS, drummer Kevin Rankin and bass player Patrick Villalpando, the debut album opener was followed by ‘Hearts On Fire’ from 1995’s ‘The Light At the End Of The World’ which had the classic air of ‘Space Age Love Song’ about it.

Photo by Roger Kamp

With a rockier growl to his vocal presence, the gothic gloom of ‘Nightmares’ came over more like THE CURE, but the darkness turned to light as the under-rated ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ provided the first rousing moment of the evening for the mature audience.

The moody ‘Man Made’ and more Motorik ‘She Won’t Let You Down’ showcased varied aspects of the band beyond their singles, but 1983’s UK Top 40 hit ‘Transfer Affection’ was spoiled by some unnecessary bombast and Score being unsure of what octave to sing the tune in.

However, a magnificent rendition of that paean to neu romance ‘Space Age Love Song’ snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, aided by Rankin’s use of a synth drum and his bandmates’ triple call-and-response vocal, while Deppe ably reproduced the textures of original guitarist Paul Reynolds.

Photo by Richard Price

That said though, it all got awry again with the quartet going all SIMPLE MINDS with a prolonged reinterpretation of ‘Telecommunication’; the song was originally two and a half minutes for a reason!

Throughout the show, while Score did speak to the audience, it was the more flamboyant Villalpando who acted as Master Of Ceremonies with a loud “rawk” address that although probably endearing across the water, may well have been anathema for British audiences.

‘Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)’ was the moment many were waiting for. A Top 10 UK hit in 1982, it was interesting to be reminded that most of the song’s hooks were instrumental rather than vocal while inspired by a photo of two people running from a UFO, the brilliance of ‘I Ran’ ended the main set.

There was room for an encore and that came with the pleasant surprise of ‘Messages’ from the self-titled debut album, with its more guitar driven dynamics enabling the quartet to fire on all cylinders.

Photo by Simon Helm

There was no ‘D.N.A.’ or ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ but on the whole, the crowd were entertained and satisfied.

When things were good, it was glorious at Dingwalls and while some may only remember the iconic haircut rather than the music, what A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS have proven is they have a number of great songs which more than stand up in the 21st Century.

And unlike say OMD, DEPECHE MODE and SIMPLE MINDS, they also have a Grammy Award on the mantelpiece. A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS more than deserve their place in British pop history.


With thanks to Debora at London Variety

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘Inflight (The Extended Essentials)’ is released by August Day Recordings in various formats available from http://www.augustday.net/aday054.html

http://www.mikescore.com/

http://www.aflockofseagulls.org

https://www.facebook.com/AFlockOfSeagullsOfficial/

https://twitter.com/REALSEAGULLS

KNIGHT$ ‘Dollars & Cents’ is released by Specchio Uomo in various formats, available from https://knights101.bandcamp.com/album/dollars-cents-lp

http://knights101.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Knights101/

https://twitter.com/JPSKNIGHTS

https://www.instagram.com/knights101/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm, Roger Kamp and Richard Price
20th July 2019

A Short Conversation with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS

Led by Mike Score, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS will embark on their first UK tour for a number of years this July.

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS got their original break when Bill Nelson produced and released their debut single ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ on his Cocteau label in 1981 while another Nelson produced song ‘Telecommunication’ was their first major label release on Jive Records.

But the original line-up of Score, brother Ali on drums, bassist Frank Maudsley and guitarist Paul Reynolds didn’t achieve a breakthrough until their fourth single ‘I Ran’.

It became a 1982 US Top10 hit in the Billboard Hot 100 and later that year, the band scored their biggest UK hit ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph of You)’. Meanwhile in 1983, the band won a ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ Grammy Award for the track ‘DNA’, at a time when The Second British Invasion had still yet to fully take hold in an America still drunk on TOTO and JOURNEY!

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS continue live today with Mike Score being the sole remaining original member and have a collection of extended essentials called ‘Inflight’ on the way. He kindly had a quick chat with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the continuing interest in their music.

It’s been a while since you’ve done a full UK tour, why is the time right now?

Just happened that way really, the time and the offers to play coincided and it all fell in to place. Other years it hasn’t, we are really looking forward to it.

The use of ‘I Ran’ on adverts for Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Sensationail, Diet Pepsi and Lexus won’t have done your profile or bank balance any harm? What was the song originally inspired by and how did it come together in the studio?

That’s a big question, the popularity of the song. ‘I Ran’ has kept it alive in the hearts of fans over the years and some of our fans are in position to want to use it in movies and advertising etc.

The song itself was inspired by a photo of two people running from a UFO, I think the photo was being considered for an album cover for a TEARDROP EXPLODES album as I saw the photo in Zoo Records office in Liverpool. The song was well rehearsed, so there were no problems recording it and we had great input from our producer Mike Howlett and occasional visits from Mutt Lange to see how it was coming along and of course Mike Shipley engineering. For sure, it sounded fab.

How do you look back on the ‘Ascension’ project with the original band reunited and performing with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra?

It was just another way of looking at the songs a different flavour if you like. We recorded everything in separate studios and then the orchestra was added and it was mixed. Apart from doing my parts, I didn’t have too much to do with it really!

So who will be joining you in your live band for the upcoming shows?

The band for the UK shows will be my band from the US, me on keys and vocals, Gordon Deppe from SPOONS on lead guitar, Patrick Villalpando on bass and Kevin Rankin on drums.

You released a solo album ‘Zeebratta’ in 2014, what led you to drop the A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS moniker for this project and how do you think the album stands up now?

I just wanted to do a solo album for myself and I never intended to release it. I think it’s as good as anything I’ve ever done.

Most people know ‘I Ran’, ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)’ and ‘Space Age Love Song’ but ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ is one of your most under rated singles, any thoughts?

One of my best songs I think, again it was a personal song after a chat with my mom. It’s a bit of a lesson in life and a bit of advice to young romantics to be careful with your feelings.

Were many of the songs a result of jamming?

Yes, of course. You come in with an idea of sorts and show it to the band. Then you just jam it out into shape. Some ideas are just one line it a riff or even a beat but after a while, it takes shape and tells you what it needs to turn in to a song.

What were your tastes in music back in the day?

Then THE BEATLES, PINK FLOYD, ULTRAVOX, ELO and good songs from anyone.

Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS kept his Jupiter8 and still uses it, what happened to yours?

I had two JP8s, they were stolen. Some people love them but I think synths are much better now and with software synths. Emulating the old ones it’s easy to have a huge range of sounds.

You are back living in the UK again, how are you finding it?

I’m not permanently living in the UK, I live between UK and USA as I have done a long time. But I’m English and I love coming home.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Mike Score

Additional thanks to Debora at London Variety

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS tour the UK in 2019 with special guest KNIGHT$ (except Bristol), dates include:

Wolverhampton Robin 2 (11th July), London Dingwalls (12th-13th July), Liverpool Cavern (14th July), Bristol Fleece (16th July), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (17th July), Newcastle Riverside (18th July), Glasgow Art School (19th July)

http://www.aflockofseagulls.org

https://www.facebook.com/seagullsrunning

https://twitter.com/seagullsrunning

https://www.instagram.com/seagullsrunning/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
10th June 2019

KNIGHT$ Interview

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Combining the Italo spirit of SAVAGE and RAF with British exponents of the form such as PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER, the debut album by KNIGHT$ is one of the best albums of 2019.

‘Dollars & Cents’ is one of those fine immediate electronic pop records, ideal for these turbulent and uncertain socio-political times.

The solo musical vehicle of James Knights, his bright crowd pleasing nature has made him a must-see live performer following well-received gigs in Europe.

With a stylish energetic persona coming over like the love child of Richard Butler and Neil Tennant, the catchy glitterball Britalo of KNIGHT$ will be playing all in clubs over the UK in July as the opening act for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Gathered together in the corner of a bar in Hoxton to avoid the barrage of televised football, James Knights chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of ‘Dollars & Cents’, working with ITALOCONNECTION, plans for his upcoming shows and surviving the vultures circulating in the music industry…

‘Dollars & Cents’ appears to have been a well-received escapist triumph?

I think so, so far it feels like all the objectives have been achieved. Maybe people were feeling a bit of doom and gloom with Brexit so needed a lift; it definitely did that in the short term.

Was ‘Dollars & Cents’ a natural choice for the title track, did you have a theme in mind for the album?

I knew I wanted the album to be as uplifting and uptempo as possible. In terms of the album title, it seemed to make sense, only because as I went through all nine tracks, that was the one that jumped out at me. I later found out RADIOHEAD had a song called that which was quite disappointing…

You achieved some of that authentic ‘Gelato’ flavour by working with Italo legend Fred Ventura on three tracks, how did the association come about?

I have to thank YouTube for this because I was listening to a lot of Italo playlists and this song came on… I looked up who it was that made it, but I didn’t make the connection between Fred and ITALOCONNECTION. Once I realised, I thought maybe we could do something and I wrote a message to him.

Fred was a total gentleman about being open to working together and when I sent him ‘Alligator’, he completely wanted to get involved. It’s funny, but he said “It’s synth music but it reminds me of THE CLASH”, so thank you Fred and his partner Paolo, they did a good job.

One of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Italian friends thought the middle section with the girl speaking sounded a bit “porno”, was that the intention? *laughs*

I have to say, it wasn’t that thought out… my vocals require many takes but that part with the Italian girl Monia Rega took two! I asked her to sing on the track, the first take she did very well but the timing wasn’t quite what I wanted, the second time she got it completely bang on. There was never a discussion about this so I don’t know what to say, we were looking for a vibe but we never mentioned anything dodgy like that! *laughs*

You know there was a weird European TV game show called ‘Tutti Frutti’ where contestants answered questions to get strippers to take their clothes off???

No! *laughs*

‘Hijack My Heart’ had you tightening your trousers for a great Jimmy Somerville impression?

In many other projects that I’ve been in before, maybe I didn’t have the guts to go up that high but it needed to be done. I’ve sung high live but never quite got there on the records. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It works really well; did you have BRONSKI BEAT in mind when you recorded ‘Hijack My Heart’?

I have to say if I’m going to break down all those elements, the song that I always come back to is ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ by BRONSKI BEAT… I don’t know if it’s the production or what and I know Jimmy isn’t singing that one, but it’s got a vibe I like it.

Did you raid your sister’s record collection for inspiration, because ‘Running’ isn’t that far off early MADONNA?

Yes, it’s got a bit of that and definitely some Whitney, it was like a “let go” thing to get me out of my comfort zone! It was the hardest track to finish and mix so when I breakdown that whole record, it’s the one where I haven’t had that many opinions on. I think it’s because it just happens, it’s very natural and appears at the end of the record… maybe time will tell, it takes a couple of listens for it to really work. That was the nearest thing to an experimental moment on the album.

Talking of experimental moments, ‘Proving A Point’ is perhaps the most unorthodox track on the album, featuring Holger Wobker of BOYTRONIC…

Yes, it is different from the other tracks on the album, I had a demo of this for many years but the idea to do this with Holger obviously came later. We’ve both had similar experiences and difficulties so we thought with this track, let’s tell it as it is, we needed to let something out.

I really like ROBYN and her albums always have a couple of tracks in, these diversions that give the album some sense within the pop.

So ‘Proving A Point’ is your ‘Konichiwa Bitches’?

Yes, I felt we needed it! *laughs*

What was the idea behind the throbbing ‘Shadows’, another track with Fred Ventura?

That goes back to a demo I had on this old four track TASCAM, I’d played all the synths and they were completely out of time. We knew which tracks were going to go down first on the album but I dragged out this demo, it needed a touch up and ITALOCONNECTION did an amazing job. It’s nice to resurrect things because it means you didn’t waste your time all those years before. It’s got a nice YAZOO feel to it.

Photo by Gilbert Yates

‘Dollars & Cents’ is a pretty straight-up full-on uptempo electronic pop album over nine tracks, had that been a conscious decision, are albums too long now?

Yeah, I could watch my favourite band of all time and two hours would be too much! I know other music fans think differently, but a good hour of anything is fine, my album is not even that!

What do you think of this new trend for two volume album works like MARINA, THE 1975 and TR/ST have done?

I wouldn’t do a debut album that way but maybe there’s room for it later on. But I really can’t imagine doing that, it’s hard enough work trying to write good songs without having then to find a thread, it’s not in my way of thinking.

For both ‘Dollars & Cents’ and the new BOYTRONIC album you’re involved in, you used Pledge Music and there have been some very public difficulties with its cashflow; how has this hampered you as an artist?

If it wasn’t for having a good fanbase, it would have been a complete disaster. But going with Pledge Music when I did was the worst thing I could have done, I went in at the wrong time! You have to think that the music will live on and that people will back you. People will back whatever they believe in and luckily, I’ve had many messages of support and we just got on with it, all of the fans have been great.

So what is happening with the upcoming BOYTRONIC album?

That’s was a bit tricky because I was meant to be paid by Pledge in December, so I’ve put my own money into recording the BOYTRONIC album. Obviously, I’m still down because the album’s not yet released, but I hope that it all comes good. A hell of a lot have bands like JESUS JONES have been inconvenienced and very vocal about the situation, but the only way we are going to get any solace from this is the music.

As history has proven, there is always someone in the music industry misappropriating money trusted to them by artists and fans. So is there a future to crowdfunding because no matter what happens, it seems like artists are just making money for a different type of crook?

I once did a calculation based on a record deal I was offered… I could sell 1000 myself or with the record deal, it would give me wider growth and expose me to more people, but I would earn exactly the same money if I sold 8000!! In this day and age, it’s so hard to sell 8000 copies of anything that it’s better to keep everything in house probably and try to sell 1000. People will say that’s short sighted but I don’t think it is.

Even at an independent level, there are people getting into the music industry who apply a smokescreen for more sinister intentions, be they DJs who hate the 80s doing 80s radio shows or event promoters who believe ticket touts are “free enterprise”. Any thoughts?

They will always be there, and unfortunately there will always be artists who take the same view… any artist that doesn’t believe in what they’re making, they’re in the wrong game… what can I say? it’s survival of the fittest.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

On a more cheerful note, your album launch party in London was a great success and even led to you inviting the audience to join you on stage just like early SOFT CELL gigs?

It was a big rush, because you never know what’s going to happen at gigs, you know what London is like. The fact that people came out and really got into it, it was brilliant. My stage is their stage and I wouldn’t really want to create a divide.

I’m not interested in crash barriers, if people want to come up, they should be able to come up. I would rather someone join me on stage and lose their minds.

You had an interesting gig is Sweden because of the venue set up?

That was in Halmstad, the original gig had been cancelled and they moved us to what seemed like the local Wetherspoons, I was on at two in the morning and it was crazy! *laughs*

The Swedes love their Italo…

I think it’s just an appreciation of melody coming through via the ABBA tradition, they really know a good song when they hear one. If there wasn’t any melody, we wouldn’t remember anything.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

You’re touring this UK with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS?

I’m really excited about it and looking forward to going round the UK again with two nights in London, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

I’ve always loved A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, I know they get a lot of stick with the haircuts and whatever, but they’re far better than people give them credit for. The songs aren’t that far from THE CURE, let’s be honest! It’s nice to be part of it.

So for those people who may not know what you are like live, why should they come along and arrive early?

They’d be fools not too! I have some nice surprises up my sleeve but for every person who has decided to sit in the pub to have an extra beer, I will match that beer! So if they turn up early, the beers are on me! *laughs*

What’s on the cards for the future?

I’d like to make another record as soon as possible but it always takes longer than you think, but we’ll have to see. And it would be nice to do an end of year show somewhere…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to James Knights

‘Dollars & Cents’ is released by Specchio Uomo in CD and download formats, available now from https://knights101.bandcamp.com/album/dollars-cents-lp

KNIGHT$ opens for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS on the following 2019 UK tour dates:

Wolverhampton Robin 2 (11th July), London Dingwalls (12th-13th July), Liverpool Cavern (14th July), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (17th July), Newcastle Riverside (18th July), Glasgow Art School (19th July)

http://knights101.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Knights101/

https://twitter.com/JPSKNIGHTS

https://www.instagram.com/knights101/

http://knightstore.bigcartel.com

https://open.spotify.com/album/24YAx5VzMc2hpQ14xuF0Jn


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th May 2019, updated 25th June 2019

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