As frontman for Kajagoogoo, Limahl exploded onto the pop scene in 1983, when the band scored a worldwide smash with ‘Too Shy’. Going on to release classic album ‘White Feathers’ the same year, it was a short lived affair, with the singer exiting the group after less than a year in the public eye. The memories of the good times remain however, and as he EXCLUSIVELY reveals, it might not be the last we’ve heard of the band. We caught up with Limahl at Rewind Festival to talk the past, and possible future. White feather; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Limahl, and welcome to Rewind! How are you today?
Yeah, I’m good. When I came into the backstage area, you sort of come down this private road across a field, and I saw the whole site in sunshine, I was like; “yes!”, because yesterday, I believe it was quite soggy, and these events, if you get the sun, or some sun, it makes such a difference.
All that’s missing is the soundtrack, which you, and all the other great acts are providing.
Yes, a very small piece of it! Yes, it’s a great line-up, and I think Rewind’s been going what, twelve years, and I was working it out today; I don’t think I’ve been here since 2012. Why, I don’t know, but it’s great to be back!
What’s it like to you to be part of the nostalgic ‘80s scene?
Yeah, it’s lovely because over the years I’ve been told so many times in person, or now on social media that; “your song was the first record I bought”, or; “your song was our first dance at our wedding”, and “your song reminds me of my first love affair”, or whatever it is, and of course I’ve got those songs that do that to me from the ‘70s, and so I understand how important that is. How does it feel? It feels great! It feels… I try not to get emotional because I loose concentration. When I’m on stage, I’m like, there’s so much to think about and I’m like the swan; elegant and graceful on top and then paddling like crazy underneath, because I’m thinking about the lyrics, I’m thinking about performance, and I’m thinking about; “don’t fall over”.
Does it amaze you that those songs still mean so much to people?
It’s all good. I can’t believe that thirty-eight years on, if anybody had of said… And I’m going to talk about this to the audience a little bit today, but American Horror Story are using ‘Too Shy’, and Kajagoogoo in the storyline, just introduces the songs to a whole new generation. What’s the expression? The song that keeps on giving! Well, both of them; that and ‘Never Ending Story’ used by ‘Stanger Things’ – same thing. So, to think that these two songs mean so much to so many, is wonderful. I feel very lucky.
It must have been quite the rollercoaster joining Kajagoogoo who had been a band of brothers, and then having such huge success in a short space of time.
It’s like all your Christmasses rolled into one. You know, if you look at the band, the media said we were an overnight sensation, blah blah blah, but of course we’d spent years trying to make it; the years writing bad songs before you wrote something half decent, you’re learning your instruments, I’m learning to sing, the bad gigs, the good gigs, the demos, the record company doors slamming in your face. I think it was about six years for me, for the overnight sensation! So, when it finally came, it was really like; “thank god!”. No one really prepares you for it.
That obviously leads into what happens next, with the band splitting after just one album; was it too much too young?
I would definitely say bad management, because, you realise as you get older that it’s a very rare occurrence to have your first single to go number one, and your album be a million seller. You don’t just knock that on the head. I think we could have stayed together and everybody could have fulfilled their artistic desires by going off and doing other projects, and we should have kept Kajagoogoo together. That’s what we should have done.
We’ve spoken before about the VH1 documentary that saw Kajagoogoo reunite; do you think it’ll ever happen again?
Well, it’s funny you should ask. This is an exclusive; last December, we were approached. My agent called me and said; “ITV are doing a new show with Gary Barlow at the helm, blah blah blah. He wants to recreate some songs, classics; are Kajagoogoo interested?” So I fired off an email to the band, and within an hour, everybody had said yes. But the TV show didn’t happen due to COVID. But the thing is, I think if the right project comes along, or came along in the future, I think the band are there, and you know, I think we’ve all grown up a bit and we realise what we had was special and unique.
The band was incredibly talented, and each member brought something special to the band.
You know, obviously, I’ve learned over the years. When I went for the audition, as it were, when I met the guys, I recognised something straight away; their attitude, their energy, their musicianship. So as I’ve worked with other musicians over the years, I remember I was working on ‘Hang on Now’, the third single, and it’s got this really unique guitar riff at the end, and the guitarist that I was working with, the guitarist was kind of dissing the guitar as done by by Steve Askew; “you shouldn’t do that, he should have done this”, and that made me realise – not that I didn’t realise it – but it made me realise, well actually, what Steve Askew had done was actually rather interesting and challenging and creative, that this other guitarist didn’t like, for whatever reason.
What do you remember about working together as a band in Kajagoogoo?
I remember working out the parts on the songs. Everybody worked really hard. The keyboard [Stuart Neale] player went to the Leeds Royal College of Music. There’s definitely some talent there. It’s so sad. It makes the album very unique, really. There’s only one album with the five of us, the ‘White Feathers’ album, so in that sense, it’s very special. I don’t know if there’ll be any more recordings, but we certainly might work together; we’ll see, we’ll see. I say never say never.
Finally, what’s happening next for you.
I released a single last June, and then a Christmas song in November. What’s next? Well, let’s get over covid, you know? I’ve done a few gigs, and it’s really nice to get back out there. It’s really weird, I’ve been doing it a long time but there was still that question mark; is the voice still working? Can I still do it? It all came back quite quickly, like riding a bike.
Any plans to record?
I threatened to make an album, and I started it. I was working with a German guy, and I paid him, we agreed £1,500 to do three tracks. I sent him half the money and then I never heard from him again! I’ve started gently nudging him on Whatsapp, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. I thought the album would be ready in 2022, and I hope it still is. If not, it’ll be 2023, and that will be my first album in twenty-five years or thereabouts. Gary Kemp’s just done that; he’s done his first album in twenty-five years, so if he can do it, I can it!
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