Talking 'Bout Regeneration

1980s hitmakers ABC, Human League, Flock of Seagulls, Maked Eyes and Belinda Carlisle team up for the Regeneration Tour

Aug 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm

You knew it would come to this one day. Back in the '80s we were rocking out to ABC, The Human League, A Flock of Seagulls and Naked Eyes, to name but a few. Acts from the '60s, much as we liked them, were mostly nostalgia acts.

It's the destiny of many artists, from every phase of the Rock & Roll era. I'm sure in 20 years or so a journalist will write about the upcoming Return of the Century Tour featuring All-American Rejects, Weezer and maybe Phantom Planet. Then he'll strap on his jet pack (we'll surely have them by then, right?) and head to the show.

It would be easy to slough off the Regeneration Tour as a mere nostalgia show. But in these parts, at least, there's a bit more to it. If you grew up in the Tristate, you actually heard the aforementioned '80s acts extensively on the radio (mostly WOXY) and saw them a lot on MTV.

Certainly those who listened to Top 40 radio back in the day would likely recognize the big chart hits, but each of these artists has a healthy canon of songs which they'll bring to the National City Pavilion this Monday.

"We're really lucky we've got quite a good catalog," Human League lead singer Phil Oakey says from the band's studio in Sheffield, England. "I think as you get on you realize that that's almost the biggest thing about what you do. If you've got enough songs to cover the time then you'll probably get away with it."

Oakey adds that many people who come to their live shows these days are surprised at just how many songs by the band they actually recognize.

"One hit wonder" is term associated with some of these artists, a description that is accurate only by narrow definitions. A Flock of Seagulls, for example, made just one trip into the Top 10 ("I Ran") but had two other Top 40 hits and many more songs widely played on MTV and other video outlets.

The term doesn't bother Flock leader Mike Score. Well, not too much.

"It only irks me partly because Jimi Hendrix only ever had one major hit. Pink Floyd only had one major hit," Score says. "So I don't mind being classed with those people as a one hit wonder. But if people say it to denigrate the band it just shows how little they actually know about music."

Score also points out that "if you're a fan, everything a band does is a hit."

Belinda Carlisle is able to draw hits from both her solo career and her work with The Go-Gos, who still tour with the original lineup. She enjoys playing with the group that made her famous, but only in small increments.

"I think if it was anymore than that," she says, "it might not be so fun."

She has been performing a few of the bands songs on the tour as well as her own hits.

Again, it was video that helped a lot of these bands live on in our memories, even though some would say those efforts look almost cheesy today. ABC's Martin Fry, of course, is not among them.

"Today videos are pretty boring really," he says. "They're either very corporate and contrived or they're just a guy strumming a guitar. Back then being in a group was like being in a gang and you kind of had to make your statement as different from the other groups around as possible."

For ABC that included making a short espionage-type film called Mantrap, which featured live performances from their debut The Lexicon of Love.

"Ah, yes that was our film noir," Fry says with a laugh.

"We all thought we were very stylish and good looking," Oakey recalls. "We desperately wanted to be filmed and have our pictures taken, but we didn't realize that it would be two days waiting in a (trailer) to go out and do five seconds."

Members of Human League also quickly found out that film crews had little interest in them.

"Mainly people wanted to film (Human League female vocalists) Joanne (Catherall) and Suzanne (Sulley) anyway, because they're the good looking ones, so we were waiting around while they were prettified and all the crew tried to chat them up," Oakey says, adding that if he were asked to do all over again he most certainly would.

More than 20 years on, all of these acts have some new material either just completed or in the works, and a return to the charts shouldn't be ruled out for any or all of them. Back when all of these bands were becoming popular, The Beach Boys, then viewed as a nostalgia act, took "Kokomo" to No. 1 in 1988, so who can say?

Of course, after two decades some tragedy could be expected. For Naked Eyes it's been a bittersweet journey indeed.

The duo of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher decided to put their band on hiatus after two hit albums. Fisher went on to record with singer Simon Climie in Climie/Fisher, scoring a hit with "Love Changes Everything." Byrne worked with artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They reformed in 1999, but their partnership came to an untimely end when Fisher passed away due to complications following surgery. Byrne has carried on, releasing an acoustic album in 2007.

For now, these artists will do the time warp again. That leaves us to scramble to find a babysitter and hope we're not too tired for work the next day.

The Forgotten "Hits"

Belinda Carlisle:

The big (solo) hits:
"Heaven Is a Place on Earth,"
"Mad About You"

But also did:
"I Get Weak"
"Circle in the Sand"
"Leave a Light On"

The Human League:

The big hits:
"Don't You Want Me?"

But also did:
"(Keep Feeling) Fascination"
"The Lebanon"
"Tell Me When"


The big hits:
"Be Near Me"
"When Smokey Sings"

But also did:
"The Look of Love"
"Poison Arrow"
"How to be a Millionaire"

Naked Eyes

The big hit:
"Always Something There to Remind Me"

But also did:
"Promises, Promises"
"(What) In The Name of Love"
"When the Lights Go Out"

A Flock of Seagulls

The big hit:
"I Ran"

But also did:
"Space Age Love Song"
"Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)"
"The More You Live, the More You Love"

THE REGENERATION TOUR comes to National City Pavilion Monday. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.