New Wave Nostalgia


As a man known largely by one hit and a funny hairdo, Mike Score seems as surprised by his longevity as anyone.

"People are always telling us if you don't make albums or have a record deal you're finished. And yet the band just seems to keep rolling on," says the frontman and only remaining original member of A Flock of Seagulls.

"I look back at it sometimes and go, 'Where did all this come from?' " he says.

"I guess as long as people remember (the music) or the hairstyle or whatever it takes to remember the band, we keep getting shows and we keep going."

The '80s pop outfit is back in Las Vegas today for the third time this year, sharing a crowded Mandalay Bay Beach stage as part of the "Lost '80s Live" package with General Public, Dramarama, When in Rome, Real Life and Gene Loves Jezebel.

Score, a congenial Brit from Liverpool now living in Florida, is riding a wave of '80s nostalgia and a willing circuit of casinos to feed it.

Gaming's nationwide spread has been good counterbalance for the sea change that downloading and CD copying brought to the music industry. Score's story is that of countless acts whose life on the road long has surpassed its shelf life in record stores.

Flock played the Stratosphere in March and The Cannery in June, bearing witness to Score's claim that "I haven't had a record deal for 20 years, and it hasn't affected me in the slightest."

The good thing about downloading, Score figures, is that even though people don't pay for the music "it probably means that more people will listen to you because they get it free." And that has "created a better live market, a bigger audience when you play live."

Score plays about 50 dates per year, many of them multiband events that don't demand a full-length set. That leaves time for pursuits such as Legends Cafe, the restaurant he opened this summer in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

For most multiact shows such as the one today, the bands travel separately. That doesn't leave a lot of time to talk about the old days, even though Flock and Gene Loves Jezebel share a parallel history: both bands included two brothers who eventually split. Score's brother Ali is still on the sidelines.

"In the early '80s, we partied a lot," Score says. And of all the things going on backstage, "one of them wasn't hanging around to see the other bands." But today, "It can be interesting to meet up with these guys who went through the '80s as well. Find their angle on it and what happened to them."

The original Flock ruled early MTV with the 1982 hit "I Ran (So Far Away)," then followed it up with two more Top 30 hits, "Space Age Love Song" and "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)."

By 1986, however, Score knew "a lot of stuff was being done to keep the name up there, that the name wasn't standing by itself." After going through the inevitable adjustment "to the fact that we were at a new level, not the highest," Score started to enjoy his new place in the music business.

"Now I know the name stands by itself, because we don't spend a lot of money on publicity. It's just known."

Of course, he might not have been so lucky had it not been for the hair.

Score's lasting contribution to pop culture turns out not to be his singing or synthesizer licks, but the flattened Mohawk which he peered out from under like a sheepdog.

It first happened one night when Score, a former hairdresser, had his poufed-up, Ziggy Stardust look flattened by bassist Frank Maudsley.

"Being a hairdresser, it just developed from there," he says. Once MTV picked up on it, he decided, "Let's take this all the way."

"I look back now and go, 'I must have been a bit crazy,' but it worked," he says. "It was amazing how many people knew the band by the hairdo, and any way you could get that kind of 'in' into somebody's memory was the way to go."

In fact, he figures his life today bears out advice he received in his earliest days of show business: "I was told the name of the game is fame, not money. You can turn fame into money, but you can't necessarily turn money into fame."

The hairdo has worked its way into TV and movie references, many of which are relayed to Score by friends and fans. He didn't know "Pulp Fiction" would name-check the band, but the makers of "The Wedding Singer" asked for permission.

"If we ever sell out Madison Square Garden or something, I'll do it again," he says of the look. "But I'll have to have notice, because I'll have to have a hair transplant."

 

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