Spring of 1982. Junior year of college. We have an apartment of moderate squalor. We have an heirloom black and white cabinet TV. We have basic cable. We have MTV.
So, yes, of course I own “A Flock of Seagulls.” Yes, of course I thrilled to the sci-fi weirdness vibes of “I Ran (So Far Away).” I played it, I loved it, and although I ever went too far down the synthpop path, I did enjoy this. It is in every way a period piece: the garish airbrushed colors of the cover, the synths and programmed drums, the space age alienation lyrics.
I played this to death in 1982 and 1983, and many of the songs ended up on various mixtapes. Anything that needed a modern feel, A Flock of Seagulls would fit the need. But after that, I can’t say that I played them much through the years. They came to be thought of as a haircut/video band, and they were, but they were also more than that. Playing this album again after all these years: it’s good. It’s completely not what I wanted to listen to this weekend (it’s been a Butterfield blues and Fanny kind of weekend), but after finally putting it on and listening to it, I wasn’t disappointed. Beyond the obvious hit of “I Ran,” it has the thoroughly enjoyable “Space Age Love Song,” “You Can Run,” and ‘Modern Love Is Automatic.” Perfect new wave synthpop.
Like a lot of people at the time, I was very much of two minds regarding the advent of the video age. I agreed that video could and would make stars of people whose music was secondary at best. And I often didn’t care for having my own visuals, whatever images I might conjure in my brain to go with any particular song, replaced by someone else’s vision. I worried that in the future, The images I associated with a song would be whatever the video director decided they were. There’s an extent to which that is true. But when “I Ran” was dominating the airwaves and cable, we couldn’t have imagined how short a time videos would be the initial way of experiencing music. It was only a few years before MTV started shifting its focus away from videos; its replacements never achieved the same impact, and once I returned to first experiencing the music as music, rather than a visual image, videos held less sway over my impression of a song. So now, while I enjoy videos of some of my favorite songs, I also think of the songs on their own.
But the other mind was that these videos were exciting, and they seemed to be bringing us music of a type that hadn’t existed before. Certainly, living in Syracuse, where radio took a very narrow view of what rock ’n’ roll was, songs like these were not going to get airplay — so without the videos, we wouldn’t have known about them at all. And while at this remove, the iconic video for “I Ran” looks positively primitive, it looked cutting edge in 1982. The sci fi, futuristic themes appealed to us kids who had grown up in the space age. And the sounds were just so fresh, such a departure from the plod that ‘70s rock had become. But that feeling didn’t last long. This music was very much of its time, and just a couple of years later, it was already something of a period piece, a throwback.
So yeah, I came out of 1982 with A bunch of A Flock of Seagulls records. We all did. It’s all right.