Limahl interview by Barney Ashton
I wonder what it was like to be a small boy with big dreams on a wet weekend in Wigan ?
My family were miners, everyone seemed to work in factories and things like that, any ambition I had didn't seem to have the remotest chance of being real. I really thought I would be a DJ, I thought what a great way to make a living, playing all the records that you like. I used to DJ at the youth club, spinning my current favourite record over and over again driving everyone crazy.
We had no money, we were very poor, we didn't have a lot of comforts but we were happy. My mum and dad had four mouths to feed and only just managed to get by, although we did go for a holiday every year to Cornwall, but I just thought I was going to do something normal. I used to earn extra money as a paper boy and sometimes helped deliver bread on Saturdays for a local firm. I was quite entrepreneurial too; everyone seemed to have hedges in their gardens on the council estate, so I used to get 10 pence for cutting them. I'd work really hard all day to get something like 50 pence, and then I'd go and buy a record with that 50 pence to which my mum and dad thought I was absolutely potty. Then, of course, I'd take this record, my proud new possession, a '45' and take it to the youth club then play it repeatedly, wearing it out really. This way I felt in control of the music and escaped within it.
Was the local record shop like a TARDIS of dreams, a pleasure dome to escape into ?
Totally! Thinking back it's amazing that there was a record shop in my local area Pemberton (a suburb of Wigan) back then, it's not there now and like a lot of High Streets it's become quite generic, but it was very exciting to go to that record shop and look at the Top Twenty, but most of the time there was one specific record you were just dying to get your hands on. The escapism through the music took me to a more glamorous place, just like losing yourself in a good book, I guess the grass always looks greener on the other side. I always wanted to be somewhere else other than that 'here and now'. I loved those early records and read every credit on the sleeves, in a way I was obsessed and later developed a real passion to get involved with anything and everything to do with records or music.
Was it a bit like, to quote Jarvis Cocker, that the music you were listening to was creating a soundtrack to the movie of your own life ?
Definitely but I didn't realise it at the time of course. There was a bit of a nutter on our estate and we had a name for him, can't remember what, but he used to take it everywhere, a stereo that was so big he could hardly physically carry it, walking around playing it at full blast, and oh, the price of batteries!! He was a bit severe and people called him names, he may have been an oddball, but he literally carried the soundtrack to his life around with him, like some kind of ghetto blaster crucifix, so important was his music to him. I wasn't that bad at all but I was certainly in that direction. I was at the back of the school class with one of those awful mono transistor radios. I have one very early music memory when for games at school we'd often go running on what we called cross-country, I had my radio with me and 'Close To You' by The Carpenters came on, it was a big hit at the time and with the opening bars of the song, I remember how excited I was and thought, “Oh my God, my God, it's that record!!” So yes, songs like that and a lot of early Motown stuff are for me, very much the soundtrack to my early life.
Cliff Richard talks even now of some early Rock 'n' Roll records giving him goose bumps when he hears them; were there any tracks that affected you from those formative years when you started gaining your musical awareness that you have carried with you ?
Oh God yeah!! 'Band Of Gold' by Freda Payne, 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' by Diana Ross and The Supremes, Motown stuff you see..... actually I just watched a Motown TV Special the other day and I was completely transfixed. In a way, tragically, there is so much information in the world today and analysts break everything down but I didn't want that to happen because I enjoyed the illusion of my memories. One of the amazing things about those early Motown records was the artwork, which have since become available on CD. One of their Chartbusters series of releases had this silver star graphic and on every line of that star was the name of a song and an artist, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson etc. So, yes, those early Motown hits were my goose bump tracks and amazingly, they still are!!
Your biographical notes state that one of your first public appearances in London was as a guest of 'Polly Perkins' singing “I've got the music in me” in the 1970's, what else did you have in you in the 1970's ?
Oh you say that with such a twinkle in your eye you bad boy......"in me", I had a burning ambition, a real zest for life, just being in London was so exciting. I don't think at that point I really knew how important it was being here. I thought that this must be the place where it all happens... and it was !!
In that sense was Wigan a state of mind or a skin you had to shed ?
Well I naively thought it was a skin I had to shed. I remember thinking at the time, I must not tell people I'm from Wigan. I deliberately tried to lose my accent. In early Limahl interviews, you'll notice I even sound a little bit London, a very clean accent, but of course we now live in a society that embraces accents and as audiences, we welcome the local touch. At that time I thought it would really affect my chances if I had a sort of 'Coronation Street' accent, which is basically what Wigan is. Yes I tried to shed that but I guess I just mistakenly thought Wigan didn't have anything to offer that would interest anybody. In retrospect, it was important growing up there because it gave me this burning desire to get out and see the wider world and be something different.
Thinking about your bouquet of talents, acting, performing, singing, songwriting, they all sort of morph into this hybrid brand Limahl. So I want to ask you, what is Limahl? Is it you, is it an act or is it a lifestyle ?
It's an extension of me.... up north in the 'Working Men's Clubs' you'd be referred to as 'the act' or 'the turn', sometimes in my professional dealings I'll still refer to 'the act' or 'the artist'! There is of course, an element of acting in a performance, but it's acting in a sincere way trying to do something that works creatively, emotionally and connects with an audience. In that sense there's an act, yes.
So, let me put you on the spot, so to speak and say as a lot of your songs are to do with love one way or another, do you peddle cheap dreams when your singing about love or is there some thing you find to believe in every time you revisit the same songs ?
Love is possibly a cheap dream isn't it, sold to us via Hollywood movies in which every love story has a happy ending whereas in reality, two out of three marriages end in divorce. I have experienced great love, finding love, losing love, passionate love, un passionate love. I think I can very much speak from experience. I pride myself on being a great agony aunt to friends giving advice over the phone, over coffee, whatever and then of course when you have to apply it to yourself you can't, which is hilarious really. I think love is something that when it first happens to you, you never really forget it it. That sudden overpowering feeling that someone is actually more important than yourself. I have experienced that so I think when I sing about love, I guess I'm selling the idea..... there's a little bit of marketing in singing a love song but it's also helping people to hark back to maybe when they were in love. It's always valid to sing of love because there is always a new generation experiencing that and I hope the songs help people to not lose touch with that. It's the rule of life isn't it... love.
I remember being very struck by a deliciously cryptic sleeve note on 'Colour All My Days' thanking an unspecified someone for “a sweet sensation” oo-er!! Also it was the album you created with Giorgio Moroder on which you wrote by way of a sleeve note and I quote “Music to me is entertainment, a little glitter in our lives, a spark of colour in our days. Oh how sweet the feeling..... A song can take you to places you've never been, places you long to go and places we know, so, so well. See you there......” To which you may well add, “pretentious, moi?” Anyway the point is, do you think it perhaps more honest instead of singing about love to sing instead of sensuality ?
Boy, that's nearly 20 years ago, Looking back at some of my early sleeve notes I just feel slightly embarrassed by them, because I think they were important to me at the time, but no one else could have really given a fuck. I was being typically melodramatic I suppose. Anyway I do think sensuality and love are inextricably linked and the interpretation that is brought to bear on anything that I sing is, as ever down to the individual listener.
Yes that's true, how receptive any person is to a song is going to depend on the experiences of love and life that they themselves bring to bear in their interpretation of the song words. With that in mind, let's look at the hit you had at that time, the first single you made with Giorgio Moroder, 'The Neverending Story'. It is perhaps one of the archetypal songs about optimism, dream fulfilment, eternal hope, everlasting love and I wonder is it still part of your dream now when you sing it, or has it become, crudely, simply a Limahl vehicle. I think what I'm getting at is the distinction between an artist and singer ?
Same sort of answer as before really, i think that being an artist and a singer are again, inextricably linked. Neverending Story was one of those great creative accidents that one just stumbles upon. It's really weird, you can put so much passion into writing a song, into the instrumentation, into the teamwork of writers, engineers and producer and in the process of doing it all you can get very close to the work, like a work of art. Then you're too close and you've really got to stand back to take a proper look at it and Neverending Story, well, it was a great learning curve in this respect, because I just flew to Munich - Germany, recorded the song and left. I had no involvement in the writing of the song and I sang it purely from a professional singer's perspective in that I was there to deliver a vocal. I had a busy schedule, I kind of flew into Germany with a hangover, a bit nervous about meeting Monsieur Giorgio Moroder, when I got back I listened to it on my ghetto-blaster at my flat and I thought “oh this is not as good as the other Giorgio Moroder songs that I like”. But my then manager Billy Gaff, somehow recognised something and raved about it and, of course, the rest is history. That taught me that I can meet someone that I hardly know and write a song or record a song with them and then leave. It doesn't always have to be the long emotional process of getting the idea in some inspired location or feeling it in your heart. It can sometimes be a little bit like a factory, yet everything gels. My heart was in that performance, of course, and all my previous years in the theatre and performing were brought to bear in that recording session. So to come back to your question, elements of being a 'singer' and elements of being an 'artist' are both required if one is to lend maximum colour, credibility and believability to the song in hand.
It seems to me in dramatic terms that the story that song embodies are some of the most epic dramatic themes that there are; eternal life, mysticism... such a powerful song for so many people.
I give credit to Keith Forsey for that, because as a lyricist he had such a proscriptive brief, in that he had to distil the story of a whole book into that 4 minute song. Now twenty or so years later, I, as a songwriter who has sometimes really struggled to get work recognised, have really come to value that song as a simple embodiment of the complex agenda of that movie. And I believe he stayed true to the book. He captured it very well; it's a perfect lyric for a romantic movie theme song.
So are you a singer or an artist ?
I don't think you can have one without the other. I've seen performers on stage who are absolutely cold, and I've seen performers who are absolutely magnetic. You take inspiration from the latter. I have always prided myself on being a great communicator. I have the kind of voice that some critics have raved about and others not, but you can't please everyone, that's just the way it is, so you get on with it.
Let's go back to the period just pre 'Too Shy', your initial advert in the 'Melody Maker', your influences cited at that time being 'Soft Cell', 'Japan', 'Yazoo'; all bands which were part of an emerging post-punk scene, all very much associated with electronic music, all arguably very dysfunctional romantics. What drew you to those acts at that time, you've already stated that the real big influences in your life were Motown ?
They were in fashion and I was a fashion victim; if there was anything new, I had to have it and that whole synth thing that really started with the Human League and Soft Cell, just mesmerised me. Both of those performers, and I used the word earlier, were magnetic. A guy like Phil Oakey with lopsided hair and red lipstick, his influences were obviously the 70's which we'd all lived through and grown up with, and, of course, the androgyny of Bowie and Bolan. Other influences were the dark eyeliner and very melodramatic gestures of Marc Almond backed by synthesisers, the sounds of which excited me as much as the performers excited me. I thought that this was also more likely to be accessible to me, I mean although the artists legacies would undoubtedly live on, Motown was 16 years earlier and was gone.
The first fantastically futuristic name for 'Kajagoogoo' when you were living and rehearsing in Leighton Buzzard in the early days was 'Art Nouveau' which managed to sound brazenly optimistic, a name then that captured the pretentious spirit of the times peut-etre, but which actually refers to a design style of a load of flamboyant crusty old antiques, how apt it has become n'est-ce pas? Are you an antique or was it a simple case of style over content ?
They already had that name, so don't blame moi! With my education as well, I had no idea what it meant. I mean you had Classics Nouveaux, Spandau Ballet etc, so it didn't feel wrong. If I was honest I think I liked that name, they'd already had an indie single out "Monochromatic". I think it was just a play on words, besides you can imagine at some point, a group of musicians once sat around a room and come up with The Rolling Stones or The Beatles. So I think Art Nouveau meaning new art was possibly something they wanted to achieve, and in a way we did. Anyway, antiques are an acquired taste aren't they ?
Thinking about the 1980's, one was aware of a much different 'spirit of the age' I always remember that decade as being incredibly colourful, not just in terms of fashion or the blurring of gender identities, but there was a real sense that one could transform one's live through their own efforts. What's your take on that, was it a myth?
At that time I think my life was seemingly in blinkers like on a horse, and I didn't perceive much that was going on in the big world around me, I just had this youthful, driving ambition musically to succeed. Fame appealed and it all seemed so close. When I started working at the Embassy Club and started meeting all these people that are on TV and you read about, you realise that they are just human like you and me. So the idea then of becoming successful doesn't seem so strange because I was seeing them nightly at work. What those early 80's were about was young hopeful dreams and you know, one thing about me was I was unable to sit around and do nothing. I had to be busy, busy, busy!! Right from my early years, I was cutting hedges or delivering bread on a Saturday. I also used to sell hospital bingo cards for charity and I would get paid for taking them around the estate. I remember my mum and dad poking fun at me saying “Eee, he'll always make money doin' summat, our Chris” so consequently, I arrived in London and didn't really wait for things to happen to me. I worked, I was writing songs, saved my money, I was doing demos. I put the ad in and found the band, got people interested in us and really went for it. That's what that whole period was about for me. Is that wrong, I don't know. It wasn't wrong for me. Perhaps it's like the unpopular guy at school who never gets asked to the party's who manages to become successful. So yes, I guess through my own efforts I did transform my life.
So an untypical kid, who would have been an outsider, you join a band, you're an outsider there. You have a solo career and it's not long before that goes down the chute and you're an outsider on the music scene and in the wilderness as a performer, so much so that you have been quoted as saying the phone stopped ringing for Limahl until the 80's revival of the mid-90's by which time you were trying your hand as a producer. You've had you fair share, through the years, of weaving in and out of the music business and the public consciousness. How have you dealt with being an outsider ?
Aren't we all outsiders ? I mean you hear stories and more and more of them as we get older about families who don't speak over some quite stupid things. You're born alone and die alone, skirting through life on this bold adventure that you are never quite sure where it's going. You try to steer it and think you have some control. I don't feel like the outsider. In a city like London, it's easier to be a kind of single loner figure, you don't know your neighbours, you don't speak on the tube, we're all vaguely frightened of someone pulling a knife or a gun or whatever. And we're all busy going on our own journeys, I don't think I'm any different to anyone else really. As an artist I see myself more of a survivor because when that phone did stop ringing I just dealt with it. Gawd, I've seen people with heaps of money and success who are clearly not happy even with all that material wealth. But that's the cliché right there isn't it......money doesn't bring happiness, it just makes you a little more comfortable while you suffer, ha ha!! Anyway, I've been on the inside, so to speak, and it was fun for a while but in reality most artists will NOT have careers like Madonna or Elton John, those two are very much in the minority. I had two No' 1's which were huge global hits, so I think I've made a small, but very valid contribution. Does that make me an outsider ? I don't really think so, I've probably taken my respective place in the pop archives, so to speak, along with many other respectable and still hard working musicians/performers!! Anyhow, I am usually welcomed with great affection in most places that I perform and when it happens I do feel a little more wanted and respected which is nice. Besides, let's see where some of today's newer artists will be in 20 years ? Do I sound defensive? Ha ha!! I've dealt with it relatively well, all things considered......I've seen quite a few people and friends die from partying, drugs, HIV & AIDS, or completely fall apart after mental breakdowns, marriage problems, prison sentences etc etc, and here I am alive, well and happy still doing what I like to do plus earning well from it I might add. On top of all that, I have been in the most wonderful relationship for nearly thirteen years which I believe has influenced everything. It's my rock and everything stems from that. Life is for sharing and I'm bloody lucky I found someone to share the journey with. Mind you, I am a cheeky sod, when I first approached my partner in a nightclub, I was politely turned down but I didn't let a silly little thing like "no thanks" get in the way......and here we are thirteen fabulous years later !!
Do you think that drive to be a performer and to keep performing is to do with a desperation to communicate ?
No, not a desperation to communicate. I do enjoy performing, I still do. I like the conditions to be right. I like to think I could stop if I was getting bored. I need money to live like anyone else. I need to work and at 30+, by the way that's my official age now 30 plus, this is what I've done all my life. I love it. There's certain things in the pipeline for me that will totally re-kindle all my early love of performing and that's important. If you're just gigging month in, month out doing the same old shit, then you're bound to get tired. I think so far, I keep doing interesting things. One day perhaps I'll start my own cosy little venue and maybe perform there occasionally but, until then, the Sagittarius in me adores to travel so I must go where my star sign leads me!!
If I were to play devil's advocate and you were coming up to me on a talent show or whatever, a 'Pop Idol', a 'Fame Academy' or any bastardised permutation of that kind of latter day 'Search for a Star' vehicle and I was to turn around to you and ask, “what have you got to say that other people couldn't say better” or “does your creativity matter?”
It matters for some people some of the time depending where they are in their own life. God if we all like the same thing then that would be boring. Different tastes are what makes the world go round. I had the radio on today and there's this thing on Radio 2 about pop trivia on the Ken Bruce show called Pop Master and sometimes I do really well and sometimes I don't, you can win a digital radio but you've got to name three top ten hits by a certain artist in 10 seconds and last week a guy couldn't even get one answer when the artist in question was The Three Degrees. I had four answers in 5 seconds flat, 'Dirty Old Man', 'My Simple Heart', 'When Will I See You Again', 'Year Of Decision' and others. Then today there was actually an artist that I hadn't heard of; my point is that it's fascinating how people are turned on by such different music. My creativity matters to some people and not others......different strokes for different folks. What I've got to say is my personal interpretation of whatever I'm trying to get across which some people will hopefully perceive and receive well......it's not a case of who's better, it's very subjective and it's all about taste.
What interests me about pop music is that at the outset most kids come into the business, they are marketed, they sing kind of proficiently, look good if a little cloned sometimes and we don't really expect their careers to last. But they are singing songs a lot of the time that are kind of commensurate with the kind of age they are, what I'm interested in, and what we don't see too much of, are pop stars like yourself who are ageing and looking fabulous on it too dear, I might add (grovel, grovel!) singing about your own 'here and now'. What is the fear about embracing the age that you are and singing about the concerns of middle age and being honest about that? Is it because there is no market? Is it because we are in a society that doesn't much care for sung stories that are about anyone but the very young? Is it a question of access to radio play? Is there little hope of any fresh material being played, material that might be listened to and bought by people who are in the same stage of life as the singer ?
Great question. I think this comes down to the central issue, “what is a pop record ?” It's a three and a half minute musical journey with hopefully something hooky that get's under your skin and makes you sing along, smile, dance or even cry. Occasionally there are other subjects; 'Neverending Story' was of course based loosely on the book. There's a real pressure to deliver what is expected of an artist by record company marketing departments and the constraints of the radio station format but one can at least be a little more experimental on album tracks and 'live' in concert. Great mavericks like Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' can and do break through thankfully and good luck to them. However, even then there is a danger with experimenting, we've all witnessed artists who climb so far up their own creative arse, they disappear......naming no names. I think there are plenty of artists who sing about growing older, love or whatever. Whether concerns of "middle age" as you so kindly put it, are marketable will depend on how the song works creatively as a musical piece. I think growing older and looking fabulous should be sung about......thanks for the idea and the compliment. We almost certainly do live in an ageist society but it's probably only the young that don't much care for sung stories that are about anyone but the very young , I think there's a huge audience for a broader spectrum, hence BBC Radio 2 audience figures now massively out performing Radio 1. Radio 2 is the new Radio 1 but even then don't hold your breath. It's fiercely competitive and they must keep the audience figures healthy which is why they're reluctant to venture too far away from the tried and tested radio station programme format.
I think what I am driving at is this. Are the hopes and dreams of somebody in love who is your age different in a way from kids who are in their 20's. Are there different things to write about on the topic of love through the experiences you've gained by being older ?
Hmm, yes I know what you're trying to get out of me here. I do absolutely believe the hopes, dreams and the experience of love at my age - as you so diplomatically put it – is quite different to love at 20. But as I saw recently in that ever so charming movie "Ladies in Lavender", love unexpectedly rears it's lovely/ugly head (depending on your point of view) on Judi Dench's older woman character and the guy in question is merely in his 20's. To me it proved the point ever so accurately that love can still make you crumble and fall apart at 60 as if you were indeed just 20. Of course it's often about circumstances and where you are emotionally in your life but nevevertheless, no one is immune and that's almost comforting isn't it. That scenario from the movie I described in itself would invoke quite a different lyric and musical feeling of love experienced and gained by someone older which personally I find a lot more interesting. Emotional subjects that delve deeper are very appealing to moi, I think I'm a frustrated agony aunt or psychologist ha ha.
I want to explore that distinction between singer and artist. You can sing 'Too Shy' and 'Neverending Story' for the rest of your life, or at least until the voice packs up ! They are tunes which are in the public consciousness, part of our collective memory for those of us who grew up in the 1980's. But what do you want to say ?
Until the voice packs up ?......what are you suggesting......I'm a trained singer you know, no nodules on the vocal chords por moi. Believe it or not, I still relish the challenge of sitting down and coming up with an idea. I want to sing about all kinds of things. I'm writing at the moment, but there is a ‘requirement' and I have to work within that requirement of what kind of material the record company think they can market as a Limahl tune. Recently I sat down with a guy who, kind of, plays jazz and we strayed into a totally new area for me, kind of into the 40's, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, that kind of thing. It was very exciting, songwriting without a remit, just vibing. In the way that I imagine 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay' might have been written. You imagine a guy sat on a rock with a guitar, with the sun beating down on him. I've still got great desires in musical theatre. I started in musical theatre and that sort of excitement has never really left me, I see everything I can on stage in the West End or on the fringe because I both enjoy it and I can claim it back on the tax ha ha. Of course, in musical theatre there are a lot less restrictions than there are on a three and a half minute pop record. If I was Robbie Williams or Kylie or Coldplay..... but even they are more or less restricted to that radio friendly 4 minutes.
Sure, there is perhaps a complacency that creeps into people of your position that it is comfortable to go out and ring in the money, and who wouldn't, for singing yesteryear's hits wherever you go. They're your calling card those three or four hits you had in the early 80's. Now forgive me here, because I am trying to wring a response out of you and because I think there is a distinction between an artist who creates and a singer who presents material. it must be addictive and flattering the response you get when you sing, primarily 'Too Shy' and 'Neverending Story', two truly fabulous pop moments that are part of popular memory now and people are delighted to hear those songs and delighted to see you in person singing them. But there is an artistic and creative side of yourself and let's face it, some people who have been pop stars in the past are quite happy to belt out their old hits, and take the money ‘thank you very much', I suppose along the lines of the old thespian's adage "say the lines, miss the furniture and go home". You are not just a pop singer, you have a theatrical background and you have ambitions in that area which might give you another kind of career longevity. But when you have a succession of gigs coming up and the safety of money, the creative side of you, which is there underneath all the froth of fame..... isn't it about time that you locked yourself away in your spare room a bit more to create and see where that journey went. Is it something that you are frightened of ?
Hell no, I'm not frightened at all nor complacent!! It's just finding the right project to do. I'm not sticking myself away in a room to write an album that no-one is going to release, particularly without a record deal at the moment, so what's the point. In 1988 I was signed to Arista Records in New York by the legendary mogul Clive Davis who spent two hundred and fifty thousand dollars recording six songs (a lot of money then) then dropped me from the label. I spent seven years writing and producing for other artists from 1992 and I came up against so much political crap and bullshit that I just burnt out......I could go on and on, perhaps I'll put it all in a book one day, one of the obstacles was Simon Cowell, but that's another story ! It's all about who's managing who, who's shaking hands with who and who's doing drugs with who, so I've kinda done that and got the T Shirt. If I was absolutely unfalteringly rich then I would start a company and back my own ideas. I wouldn't have to go knocking on some 22 year old A+R guys door. Anyway I haven't got a spare room to lock myself in ha ha, I've deliberately filled all the rooms up.
To sum up, what you seem to be saying is that you are working hard within show business where the opportunities to re-invent yourself are fairly limited but you're still enthusiastic and far from just soldiering on ?
I am indeed working hard and certainly still enthusiastic. There's lots of passion still there for me , lots of new things coming up and who knows..... that's part of the fun of my job. I never quite know where I'm going to be from year to year and I must admit, I like that. I mean in the summer I was in Paris to record with a big French DJ and that wasn't on the agenda in January, nor was the recording I'm currently doing in Germany or the 'Here And Now' tour I did last December with all the other 80's artists, which was great fun. I sometimes worry a bit because I know I'm an artist who had his two biggest hits 22 years ago but the work keeps coming in and frankly I'm grateful......I guess I must be doing something right. I don't think you can survive solely on singing your two biggest hits. All the re-bookings that I get to perform and let's face it, my diary is as busy as it was in 1984, I think that that says something about the way I present myself and perform, about my professionalism perhaps !!
Yes and I think with the distance we now have from the 1980's, people perhaps don't recall how many or how few hits those faces from the 80's had. I think many too just remember the visuals; I mean as a face of the 80's you're right up there with 'Boy George' and 'Phil Oakey', even if you aren't quite 'Margaret Thatcher' !! Highly memorable hair styles, fashions, colours and poses that people can from this distance take the piss out of because their was little subtle about anything from those years !! So you are remembered even though 'Culture Club' and the 'Human League' had more hits because of how striking the duo tone spikey mullet and dayglo angular clothes and that look, that pout etc.
Well, it's funny because I laugh with friends and say, I'm an antique now ! Like other stars from that age, as time goes by, we have all gained retrospective value. It's a different part of the career but is just as valid. My perception of what I do now is obviously completely different to how it was when I was 23 but I think it would be improper, not to acknowledge that validity.
When you think of yourself as a 23 year old and how canny you were at changing around the band, giving them a new identity, bringing in the synthesisers, even though you have confessed that you were jumping on a bandwagon, you styled the band, got them the break they needed. What do you think of that 23 year old now ?
Oh God, when I was helping to build my website recently and really had to focus on the past, which I don't really ever give much thought to, I was digging out the old video footage, old photos and blowing off the dust, scanning it and all that. I was impressed and touched with all that I'd achieved when I looked back. So much hard work, I recognised the ambitious young fellow and took my hat off to myself in a way. I laughed too, looking at those early images, I did want to share them because in life I was always driven aesthetically. I liked and still like beautiful buildings, clothes, music, food, bodies etc and that's what I was trying to create, I worked hard at the image and I still do. If you're interesting visually then people are going to be a lot more attentive about what you are performing and when I really looked at myself at 23 I just went ‘Wow!', how the fuck did you get on that train dressed in that outfit in the middle of the day in 1981. And that's the wonderful thing, you don't have that kind of emotional baggage when you are 23, you just get on and do it! To sum up I'd say that looking at the 23 year old Limahl now puts a wry smile on my face.
One final and potentially, or pretentiously , deliciously interesting question from my depraved point of view and it's this supposition I put to you; 'No Kajagoogoo, no Limahl'? Looking at the trajectory of your career in musical theatre and where you were getting to at the time you re-located to Leighton Buzzard to concentrate on all things 'Kajagoogoo'. If they hadn't have happened, there was quite a strong possibility that you would have continued working in some capacity in musical theatre; you'd done four theatre shows and were getting fairly regular work. Is that a lost career that you can pick up now ?
It's true I started in theatre and that love never leaves you, once you've done it you're hooked!! Hell, I've been paying my 'Equity' (The Actors Union) subscription for twenty years sweetie so doing more theatre would simply be moving toward something that is already in my blood, but lets see what happens, there's a strong possibility of more theatre roles imminently but I don't want to jinx it and give any more away than that, Lets just say, watch this space......
But there's a distinct possibility that you would have had a career in musical theatre anyway ?
Yes I suppose so, it was the beginnings of a career but I guess you could say the chances of making it in the pop world were just as remote; thankfully I gave it a go and it worked out. I don't know where the theatre career would have gone and that's another juicy 'what if' question !!
How would you describe your voice......it's got a bit of vibrato in it, a bit of warmth ?
Smooth, and definitely warm, akin to George Michael I suppose and I'm good at getting it to work for what I need it to do and that's important. You've got to be able to make your instrument work well and getting the best from it. Singers get into bad habits and one of them is using too much vibrato, so I watch that.
Well let's hope you put that smooth, warm, minimal vibrato voice to some good use in the near future Limahl, good luck with all your projects.
You mean this is the end ? Thank god, I thought this interview was never ending– sorry couldn't resist - I've got through four cups of tea and need to pay a visit !!
Limahl is a keen cyclist, a strict vegetarian and lives in Primrose Hill (north London) with his partner of 13 years.