I have a special place in my heart for Red Flag â€“ you see, they were the first â€œrealâ€ rock band I ever interviewed, back when I was a Broadcast Journalist in the U.S. Army.
Itâ€™s okay, Iâ€™ll give you a few minutes to wrap your head around everything in that first sentence.
Brothers Chris and Mark Reynolds were born in Liverpool, England, but formed Red Flag many years later in the late 80s in San Diego. By the time they signed to Synthecide/Enigma and released their debut, â€œNaÃ¯ve Art,â€ I was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, working as a DJ and reporter for the base cable radio station and newspaper (heady stuff, I know). I was addicted to San Francisco alternative radio station KITS, particularly the Steve Masters show since he played the best shit and seemed very passionate about the music. It was on Mastersâ€™ show that I first heard â€œRussian Radioâ€ and thought, â€œDidnâ€™t Depeche Mode just release a new single last month?â€
Eventually, I found out it was actually by a band called Red Flag. Bought the CD, liked it quite a bit and discovered the duo was touring through San Francisco in a few weeks. In a display of youthful fearlessness combined with enthusiastic naivety, I phoned up their label, Enigma, and requested an interview for my radio show. They agreed and soon I was driving up to a small club in SF to interview the brothers backstage before the show.
The Reynolds Brothers could not have been nicer to a nervous, fumbling, slightly mis-informed music fan/interviewer. They answered each eager question in detail, coloring each response with funny anecdotes, giving me plenty to work with. In fact, they put me at ease so much that I felt the misguided need to give them some advice â€“ in my zeal, I suggested that â€œBroken Heartâ€ would make a great single. After all, everyone I played it for loved it! It would be a sure-fire hit.
Months later, I found out â€œBroken Heartâ€ was in fact the albumâ€™s FIRST single and had done poorly. Whoops. God bless â€˜em for not pointing this out and making me feel like a moron. I’ve posted the superior U.K. remix by Jon St. James and Stacey Q (yes, “Two of Hearts” Stacey Q) of SSQ, who we’ll get to someday soon.
Just as Red Flag were about to break thru (â€œRussian Radioâ€ had been added to MTVâ€™s â€œ120 Minutesâ€ and nearly hit the top ten of the Billboard Dance Charts), Enigma went under. The boys signed to IRS Records for one single, but were dropped soon after. Still plugging away, Red Flag continued releasing music under their own label (and moving further away from the Mode-isms into their own sound), until Mark Reynoldsâ€™ unfortunate passing in 2003.
I consider myself lucky to have met them at the start and will always remember how gracious they were to a glasses-wearing, crewcut-having music geek like myself.
“Russian Radio” peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart in 1988.
“Broken Heart” peaked at #24 on the same chart the same year.
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