So there we were, Art Nouveau a new five piece band writing songs, rehearsing, doing the occasional gig (they had quite a good local following) and everything was going well, most of the band had day jobs except me which enabled me to be free, creatively. One by one though, they all left their day jobs as more and more time was needed for the group who’s name we had miraculously changed to Kajagoogoo……and you can’t blame me for that one, it was the bass players idea, although I have to admit I was drawn to it immediately, but the rest of the guys needed a little more persuading.
Around this time, an old friend of mine Roddam, stepped in and offered to help. He obtained three of the latest synthesizers for us. I use the word ‘obtained’ carefully because Roddam could best be described as a rather colourful and eccentric character who had a remarkable skill of ‘obtaining’ things…… Anyway it was best not to ask any questions, so we didn’t. I remember being incredibly excited one day when we recorded some home demos with our new synths. It was completely inspiring – suddenly we were starting to sound like all the bands/artists who influenced me and for me this was a real turning point. The synths breathed new life into our songs, now we sounded like, what the press were dubbing, New Wave
After writing and arranging several new songs with the synths, the obvious thing to do next was get into a proper recording studio and demo them at good quality. We all chipped in with the money, and on completion, we had six or seven well produced tracks which we then shopped around the London record companies (who at first, turned us down). To be fair, Polygram Records (now BMG/Sony) did actually put us in their recording studio with the Culture Club producer Steve Levine, however they didn’t follow it through with an actual offer.
So near yet so far……
Around that time, I moved back to London to help promote the band but I needed to earn some some extra money, so returned to my old job as a waiter/barman at the place to be seen, The Embassy Club on London’s delicious Old Bond Street. Famous people, especially music biz types always seemed to be in the club and one night I met the keyboard player Nick Rhodes from the hot new band Duran Duran who were then in the charts with their first hit. As I served him and his manager champagne, I enthused proudly about my own group Kajagoogoo, our image, songs, ambitions and indeed our respect as musicians for Duran Duran……well it must have made an impression because to my amazement and jubilation, he then asked me to send a copy of our demos to an address he scribbled on a piece of paper……I think I skipped all the way home from the club after work.
The next day I couldn’t wait to call everyone and tell them about the chance encounter (the band were still living in ‘Leighton Buzzard’ at this point). I don’t know why, but I really believed Nick Rhodes would call me. He seemed genuine and sincere – there was something in his manner that didn’t scream ‘bullshitter’! Sure enough, a few days later, he kept his word. I think I was breathless at my end of the phone when he said “Hi Limahl, it’s Nick here, I’ve got your tape, I really like it and I’m gonna take it into EMI Records”
We all waited with baited breath for EMI’s reaction which came quickly and positively a few days later and after the usual lengthy negotiations between lawyers, we finally put pen to paper and signed our first recording contract. It’s ironic because EMI had actually turned us down a couple of months before Nick Rhodes got involved……but hey it didn’t matter any more, now we had a record deal and boy did it feel good.
From this point things moved pretty fast and thankfully we were more than ready, we had the songs, the image, the musicianship, the determination which I suppose meant to a huge conglomerate like EMI, we were ripe for the picking as a new marketable product. It’s funny, but if someone had said to me that night before I left my flat to go to work at the club, “tonight you will meet Nick Rhodes and it will change your life” I would have said, “get outta here”……but change it did and everything we had worked for, everything I had dreamed of for years, suddenly started taking shape.
It was agreed that music production on our first recordings would be done byNick Rhodes & Colin Thurston (Duran Duran’s producer). EMI also suggested we go on the road supporting a band called ‘Fashiøn’ who were being tipped for big success at the time (which alas never came), but the tour was important because it gave us a chance to play every night, perform in front of an audience and solidify our musician/performance skills needed to sustain any career that might come. We also started building up a strong fan base which would later be crucial when fans would buy our debut single that helped the record to chart.
About six months before ‘Too Shy’ was released, there was yet another important piece to fit into the jigsaw puzzle. I met and became good friends with successful BBC Radio presenter Paul Gambaccini. Once again, I enthused about my band to someone I thought might be able to help and low and behold, it paid off. He asked me to send him a copy of our recordings to his flat but I did better than that, I went ‘in person’ as he only lived around the corner! Lady luck shone again because Paul immediately took a strong interest in our music, he was and still is an avid music ‘fan’ and thus played his own pivotal role in our little piece of pop history.
His favourite song later became our second single ‘Ooh to be Ah’.
At the time, he was about to present a new music series called ‘The Other Side of The Tracks’ for the new terrestrial television network ‘Channel 4’ with forty minutes of the first programme being dedicated to the hugely successful artist at that time Phil Collins. Paul had the idea that in stark contrast, the final twenty minutes of the programme could focus on the struggle to launch a brand new band – enter Kajagoogoo. As if that wasn’t enough, the programme was also scheduled to broadcast on the Saturday night before the Monday release of our first single ‘Too Shy’ .
I’m sure this promotional coup must have helped fuel the marketing and promotion budgets of EMI because let’s face it, in the big bad world, to get a product out to the masses, the clout of such a big corporate machine is fairly critical……and so now the stage was set for Kajagoogoo to be launched on to the world music stage.
The rest as they say is history……’Too Shy’ went to no’ 1 in the UK which was soon mirrored in charts all over the world including no’5 in the all important USA and culminated in Kajagoogoo winning the prestigious ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) award for having written one of the most played songs on American radio that year (1983). The lavish London award ceremony was presented by Hal David who was one half of the legendary songwriting duo Bacharach and David.
Four and a half million global single sales later, it really was a proud achievement……at one point in the UK, EMI could not manufacture enough copies to keep up with the demand of 30,000 orders a day and it wasn’t long before we were presented with various ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ sales award discs from all over the world.
It was tremendously exciting……we appeared on ‘Top of the pops’, ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ (which was huge then) and the ‘Children’s Royal Variety Performance’ in the presence of Princess Margaret whom we met afterwards in the artist line-up….
As the single took off overseas, there were countless appearances to be done, it was a constant whirl of interviews, TV, press, radio and for a while it was literally, crazy with daily flights to international destinations for yet another promotional trip. It was a weird concept arriving in a country you’d never been before but be recognised by people……such was the power of the ‘pop video’.
It was during this hectic haze that I also met many people I had admired like Freddie Mercury at a private party after their huge Wembley Stadium concerts, Princess Diana at a fashion charity event at London’s ‘Hippodrome Club’ and last but not least Elton John who invited me to his 40th birthday party thrown by his manager – Elton’s birthday present was a brand new Ferrari which had been wrapped in a huge pink ribbon on the lawn in front of the house, rock and roll eh !!
Two more worldwide chart hits followed with ‘Ooh to be Ah’ & ‘Hang on Now’. Kenny Everett also had a cameo role in the ‘Ooh to be Ah’ video, he was a big fan of the band, I was very sad when he died a few years later.
Everything was really in overdrive, we were already writing and planning the follow-up album as we toured the UK and Europe to sell out shows and in August we performed at a huge outdoor festival in Finland to forty thousand people.
The next day after the Finland concert, totally out of the blue the band fired me!!
Yep……that’s right……you heard me correctly……they fired me and they even did it by telephone ……after only eight short months in the public eye, their brains short circuited and like the movie ‘Star Wars’ ……they gave in to the dark side of the force (although I have since learned that the drummer Jez was against the idea).
I’ve spoken more about the details of the break up, and my feelings on the next page….