One might think of Limahl in the same bracket as Boy George, Phil Oakey or Margaret Thatcher as having one of the defining bouffants of the era! But the original duotone spikey mullet man was, oh, so much more than his legendary hair; the band he fronted so much more than their crazy name and angular posturings.
Limahl won the hearts of a global audience as lead singer of Kajagoogoo and co-writer of their million selling album ‘White Feathers’ spawning the deliciously catchy début single ‘Too Shy’ which stormed to the top of music charts all over the world, including number 5 in America.
The UK chart positions were as follows: ‘Too Shy’ (no.1), ‘Ooh To Be Ahh’ (no.7), ‘Hang On Now’ (no.13) ‘Only For Love’ (no.16, ‘Neverending Story’ (no.4).
Big chart hits, look, all top 20!! A five-hit wonder, but no flash in the pan. For a small time, a big star!!
The band’s eye-catching image struck a chord with a whole generation inspiring ‘Kaja mania’ and a new wave of sometimes dodgy imitation haircuts!
Mainstream popularity brought platinum sales awards and the accolade of performing at prestigious industry and public events alike. One such early career highlight was an invitation to perform at the 1983 Children’s Royal Variety Show at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London in the presence of HRH Princess Margaret. The momentum of that breakthrough year culminated in Kajagoogoo winning the ASCAP Award (American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers) for having written one of the most played songs of the year on American radio. The award was presented by Hal David better known as one half of legendary songwriting duo Bacharach & David.
Although that premature dissolution of Kajagoogoo Mk.1 left us with one of the most delicious ‘what if’ questions in the history of modern pop, what better incentive did Limahl need to embark on a solo career, a task to which he addressed himself with his customary gusto.
The self penned ‘Only For Love’ gave him his first solo chart hit.
Significantly, it was while performing this song at the Tokyo Music Festival that Limahl met legendary songwriter/producer and three-time Academy Award winner Giorgio Moroder. Moroder was working on a new film soundtrack and invited him to perform a then unknown song, ‘The Neverending Story’. After reaching no.1 in over seventeen countries.
Limahl writes: ‘The Neverending Story’ so very nearly didn’t happen. Firstly, it is well documented that it was really only by chance that I crossed paths with Giorgio Moroder at the Tokyo Music Festival in 1984 and that he just happened to be looking for a singer for the theme tune of a new film soundtrack he’d been commissioned to work on. I travelled to his studios in Munich, Germany soon after and recorded the song. I can recall my then manager Billy Gaff swearing and shouting on the phone to Peter Jamieson (Managing Director of EMI Records 1983 – 1986) animatedly trying to enthuse EMI ’s top executive to release the song, telling him it was a “goddam hit” and offering to fly him out to Germany to contemplate the song in the context of the movie.
Such success was a long way from his humble roots in Wigan, (Lancashire); “My family were miners, everyone worked in factories and things like that, any ambition I had didn’t seem to have the remotest chance of being real”. But it was here where the 16 year old local lad won a singing competition at the famous Northern Soul venue The Wigan Casino.
“During the next three years” says Limahl ” I undertook a very solid performing apprenticeship” in various theatre roles including Benjamin in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’, the disciple Lamar in ‘Godspell’ and a brief flirtation with acting as Dennis in Agatha Christie’s ’Murder At The Vicarage’.
Crucially, “Every penny I earned, I put into writing and recording demos” . The rest as they say is history . . .
In a west London studio in the 1990’s, Limahl teamed up with keyboard player/songwriter Guy Phethean to form a music production team called Jupiter. They achieved moderate success with songwriting, production, mixing and remixing duties with or for DJ’s like Ariel and artists like Kim Appleby, Tony Di Bart, Livin’ Joy, Kim Wilde, Peter Andre and Worlds Apart.
In 2000, Limahl co-starred with Gwen Dickie of Rose Royce in an onstage celebration of the disco era in the feel-good show ‘What A Feeling’. The theatre show toured nationally in the UK and was directed by Bruno Tonioli, celebrity judge on BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
In 2004, the music channel VH-1 produced a TV series entitled ‘Bands Reunited’ where Kajagoogoo reformed for the first time in twenty years which culminated in a successful gig at The Scala venue in London.
2005 saw Limahl reach the semi-final in a TV contest type show in Germany / Austria / Switzerland called ‘Comeback’ where fan mail from teenagers started to arrive again. These were probably the children of the original Limahl fans who were there the first time round.
In 2008, Kajagoogoo reunited with all five original members. A new EP entitled ‘Death Defying Headlines’ was written/recorded and released together with a new pop video and a national UK tour.
In January 2012, Limahl, collaborated with Norwegian dance producers Rune Maurtvedt and Stig Antonsen resulting in a sublimely reminiscent celebration of the year ‘1983’ in song.
Again in 2012, a creative songwriting alliance was formed with the ‘Savoy Hotel’ London ‘American Bar’ pianist Jon Nickoll and celebrated ex-PWL record producer Ian Curnow. The result was a stunning one-off single ‘London For Christmas’, a lyrical heartwarming winter’s tale of two lovers enraptured in the maelstrom of excitements in the countdown to Christmas – set against the backdrop of London.
Limahl also maintains an ad hoc presence on UK TV, the most notable recent appearances include ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ (2005), ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ (2012) and ‘Pointless Celebrities’ (2014).
After 30 years in the business, Limahl’s performing apprenticeship has been well and truly served, with countless worldwide TV, theatre and ‘live’ appearances. He even has successful music production credits to his name…… such a combination of diverse demands keeps those schedules as busy today as they ever were! Not only has he survived, but has truly achieved a substantial degree of the longevity that eludes
many a performer and musician; long may his varied career indeed be, never ending……