Songs I Love: ‘The Story of a Young Heart’ by A Flock of Seagulls (1984)

Admittedly, if it wasn’t for Mike Score’s fucking stupid hair, A Flock of Seagulls might not have been so famous. At the same time, if it wasn’t for Mike Score’s fucking stupid hair, maybe they’d have been taken so much more seriously. Although they boasted no real classic album to speak of, despite the virtues of the first two LPs, the ‘Gulls regularly scored more than a few brilliant singles in their favour, two of which (‘I Ran’ and ‘Wishing’) are deserved mainstays in any self-respecting 80’s compilation playlist. Yet there was also the cosmic excitement of ‘Space Age Love Song’, the utterly dreamy ‘Transfer Affection’, the dark, exciting ‘Nightmares’ among others. Then there were great album tracks like the dystopian ‘Man-Made’ and the slap-bass your face fantastic ‘What Am I Supposed to Do?’

Yet above and beyond all of that, the obscurity of ‘The Story of a Young Heart’, the opening track of their so-so third album, definitely makes me sad a little. If you’re willing to exclude the excellence of those two ubiquitous singles, then ‘Young Heart’ is definitely the band’s all-time high. It wasn’t even selected as a single, which baffles me to the point of madness, for you can just imagine it doing the rounds with a vengeance on MTV, accompanied by a video where Mike rides his space-age motorcycle through the deserted memory towns of his youth, pining for lost loves and lost times through sunset-dappled late summer evenings. A video to go up there with ‘Broken Wings’, ‘Summer of ‘69’ and all that. It really could have been a beautiful thing, were it not for Mike’s fucking stupid hair.

Anyway, forget the hair, because the music… man, the music is so sad. I mean, it’s strident, punchy, chrome-plated and very, very radio-friendly, but there’s melancholy running through every second. Mike isn’t exactly rated as an excellent singer, but his admittedly limited range works so well here – melancholic, yearning, yet glossed with that perfect MTV sheen that somehow makes it all the sadder, like a robot crying or something. The lyrics are so simple, yet they cut me good;

“This is the story of the young heart/It only seems like yesterday/That we were walking in the rain/It only seems an hour or so/Since I looked into your soul/It’s tearing me apart/To tell the story of the young heart/It only seems a week I’d say/Maybe it’s slipped into years/Since we were burning down the days/And there was happiness, not tears/The story in your eyes/Is the story of the young heart”

Okay, that doesn’t read so well, but they really do me over when sung. And it all works in perfect conjunction with Paul Reynolds’ always-brilliant, super-sleek future guitars. Reynolds’ sound is one of the most reassuringly great things about early-eighties pop, and he knew how to quicken the pulse as well as send shivers down your spine. Again, it was a samey sound – and the Gulls only had so much longer to journey before it all broke down, but there were at least a dozen remarkable Reynolds hooks over the course of their legacy. Together and with the bright, sparkling electronics and the impact of the drums (which kick off the song with a real oomph), everyone delivers the steely resolve to barely keep all of this misery in check.

Then there’s the solo, which sounds exactly as you’d expect given it follows the course of the chorus, but my god it burns my soul every time. It’s so beautiful, one of the real heart-stoppers in 80’s pop music – it tears up the skies in that searing, scorching, yet admirably restrained, understated way Reynolds’ solos do so well, and this is the bit when in the imaginary video Score gets off the bike and stares out on the peak of the hill overlooking the town and it’s all there, flooding back, poor guy. You can weep to it, or you air guitar to it, it works either way. The finale brings it all back home, though Score’s singing gets more pained, his delivery more foreboding  given that ‘you know they’re going to break your young heart’ directs the pain right at us, the listener, or at the very least whoever the singer’s passing his wisdom on to – could be a younger sibling, a good friend, his protégé, whoever. The song dies out with a simple keyboard elegy, love dies a death, so do the ‘Gulls after this song, frankly, but what a send-off. Truly one of the most gorgeous, underrated songs of the decade.


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