Formed by and led by record producer David Cunningham, the group was a loose collective of avant-garde and free improvising musicians, such as David Toop and Steve Beresford as instrumentalists, with Deborah Evans-Stickland, Patti Palladin and Vivien Goldman as main vocalists.
In August 1979 the band appreared twice on BBC's Top of the Pops performing their hit single "Money (That's What I Want)". They also appeared in February 1980 performing follow up single "TV". Virgin Records extended the band's recording contract after the success of "Money". The group released their début album The Flying Lizards in 1980. The album included two songs – "Her Story" and "The Window" – written and sung by Goldman. Their single issues included their postmodern cover versions of songs such as Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and "Money".
The 1981 album Fourth Wall received praise from critics but did not sell well. Top Ten (1984), with vocalist Sally Peterson, released. by Statik records, consisted entirely of covers, done in a similarly deliberately emotionless, and robotic style, (described by the NME at the time as "Sloane Rap"), including two singles, James Brown's "Sex Machine" and "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" as well as an album track of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne". Cunningham and Peterson worked together on music production for film and advertising after Top Ten was released, including a re-recording of "Money".
The Flying Lizards version of Barrett Strong's "Money" remained popular, and was used in the film soundtracks for The Wedding Singer, Empire Records, Charlie's Angels and Lord of War, as well as in the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning American television medical drama Nip/Tuck and the follow-up to the UK TV drama Life on Mars, called Ashes to Ashes. In 2011, the song was used in a commercial for Taco Bell.
An album of dub instrumentals, The Secret Dub Life of the Flying Lizards, recorded by David Cunningham mostly in 1978, was finally released in 1995. The first two albums, The Flying Lizards and Fourth Wall, were re-released by RPM in 2010, with the catalogue number RETROD883. With only one single making the UK Top 40, the Flying Lizards join the list of one-hit wonders.