The 80’s were a period of intense creativity, of fluorescent clothes, outlandish hair, happy pop and new wave songs featuring copious use of synthesiser and a booming economy, replacing the darker elements of punk and high unemployment in the 70‘s. It’s an era that is revisited frequently and one in which image was paramount. They were also a period in time that 80’s pop star Limahl, of Kajagoogoo, remembers fondly and clearly when he reflects about what made the 80’s so significant, along with the importance of the image of bands of that era:
“I think the image of the band, the image of me, are part and parcel of what the whole thing was, so people are always interested in what I look like. I wasn’t like some folk singer strumming a guitar, the image was really kind of superfluous. The early 80’s were all about images when you think of early Eurthymics, Soft cell, Human league, Culture club and so on
The 90’s became a real kind of hybrid, the pop stars became DJs, the vocalists would sample the technology and it felt more controlled by computers and gadgets in a way. The early 80s was a great wave of images and a lot of them were Brits, like all the acts I just mentioned and of course Duran Duran, Spandau ballet, Culture club, Soft Cell, Human League, Depeche Mode, the synthesiser.
As we went from the late 70s to the 80s it was the end of punk and punk was a dark period, it was challenging melodically, it was an art gig, it was pain, pins, spitting. We had miners strikes and black outs from the power cuts.[pullquote] As we went from the late 70s to the 80s it was the end of punk and punk was a dark period, it was challenging melodically, it was an art gig, it was pain, pins, spitting. We had miners strikes and black outs from the power cuts.[/pullquote]The 70’s felt quite dark at the end of the 70s. Of course there was that wonderful period in the middle, disco, which I love as well. Coming out of the late 70s into the early 80’s and the birth of the synthesiser with the birth of the kind of futuristic sounds seemed to offer hope. There was optimism.
We wanted to re- introduce colour and it was hope in a way. When you combine all those things together it made a great cultural impact and a global impact. In those days when you had a big hit record it just seemed to travel across the world. So I had this wonderful thing with “Too Shy”, the Kajagoogoo song which I co wrote and “Never Ending Story”, the following year. It was very exciting for me to be told by the inernational department of EMI records, your song’s number one in Poland, Germany, Scandanavia, and France and Spain, Japan, South Africa, Australia, America and Canada. It was just the most exciting feeling. I’m digressing but my point is I think that everything is more diluted today. It was beginning to get so in the 90’s and I think this is why the 80s seems to have this lasting legacy. This stronger legacy.”
Surprisingly Limahl has never played live in Australia with his band or solo, although he did once host Countdown. In July as part of the Totally 80’s tour, fans will now get the opportunity to see Limahl perform live;
“I think I’ve been there once very briefly but I don’t remember much about it coz it was all a bit hectic, so hopefully this time I’ll get a feel of the place a bit better. I never performed live in Australia anywhere, can you believe that, 35 years? I co- hosted countdown with Molly Meldrum in 1984, but never performed live. I came in and did a sort of whirlwind promo tour for Never ending story Here I am 35 years, I finally get the invitation to perform live. (What took you so long?)”
When Limahl tours here in July, he gives us an inkling into what to look forward to during his live performance and luckily he did actually sing on his records :
“Well thankfully I’ve still got hair, that’s quite important for me. The voice is holding up, my body’s falling apart, but the voice is ok and I still i’ve still got the hair so I can still work. I shouldn’t say this but I do like to say it. You’ll discover, unlike Milli Vanilli I did actually sing on my records. I’m being cruel. As I said earlier, I’m not, you know bald and fat which is another good start.”
[pullquote]Well thankfully I’ve still got hair, that’s quite important for me. The voice is holding up, my body’s falling apart, but the voice is ok and I still i’ve still got the hair so I can still work. I shouldn’t say this but I do like to say it. You’ll discover, unlike Milli Vanilli I did actually sing on my records.[/pullquote]
Limahl is a witty conversationalist and has a good sense of humour. His name is actually an anagram of his surname and whilst a made up name, he has discovered people have named their pets and themselves after him. Whilst his birth name is Christopher Hamill, he prefers to go by the name Limahl, and makes an interesting point about stage names;
“Well It’s weird because when I’m working and I’m in what I call, Limahl mode, yeah I’m Limahl. I’m Limahl right now. Of course my mother calls me Christopher. I’ve often wondered, does Elton’s mother call him Reggie? Or Cliff Richard, does his family call him Harry? You know. It’s hard to imagine when it’s somebody else, isn’t it?
[pullquote]I’ve often wondered, does Elton’s mother call him Reggie? Or Cliff Richard, does his family call him Harry? You know. It’s hard to imagine when it’s somebody else, isn’t it?[/pullquote]
It’s so weird because my name isn’t real. It’s an anagram of my surname and yet I’ve become aware over the years that people have named their pets Limahl. I actually found a guy on the internet the other day called Limahl, with the exact same spelling as me; Limahl Taylorson. He’s like a model or something. I was showing my mother who’s got her first iPad, how google images works, and of course being my mother she’s always interested in what Im doing. I put Limahl in google in the search and they all come up with me, some good, some bad and there was this guy called Limahl.
I am partly responsible for the introduction of not only the hairstyle but a name, I’ve invented a name. Maybe I should get a royalty ?”
[pullquote]I am partly responsible for the introduction of not only the hairstyle but a name, I’ve invented a name. Maybe I should get a royalty ?[/pullquote]
When one thinks about Limahl, what they often remember is his iconic hairstyle: The glorious duo-tone mullet. Often emulated, sometimes successfully and often not, spawning a spate of not so fashionable mullets in bogan enclaves. Limahl says that it is one of his favourite subjects and he loves talking about his hairstyle and how it came about:
What happened was in about 1980 I was in a show, a theatre show. I’d done about two years of theatre and I was in a show with music written by Stephen Schwartz, who’s just written something really current. The show was called Godspell, which spawned a big hit, from the 70’s called Day by Day. I can’t remember who did it. It might have been a band called the Fifth Convention or something. I was in Godspell at the Palace Theatre in West Cliff which is on the East Coast in the UK. I was very excited. I was like 19 or 20, I loved this show, because there were six guys and six girls and it was a twelve strong cast and I think there was a character Jesus , and everybody got their own solo song. prior to that I’d been in Joseph. It was great training for singing. The Joseph score is full on, it’s that early genre of rock opera; Jesus Christ Super Star, so in Joseph it was great training, but in Godspell I got my own song to sing and I went to the director Chris Norman and I said to him, Chris, all the girls, six girls, one’s got red hair, one’s got dark hair, one’s blonde, ones got long curly, one’s short and straight, but look at the guys. We’re all exactly the same. We all seem to have brown mousy hair
I’d worked in hairdressers from the age of 16. My first proper job was in a hair salon. I thought I was hairdressing, but really I was sweeping the floor and washing hair. The important thing was it introduced me to a creative environment. So I was already thinking about hair. I went to the director and I said we’ve all got exactly the same hair. I’ve always fancied being a blonde. I’ve always fancied dying my hair, he said with blessing. He said go off and get it done, so I went to a hair salon in South End. I came back to the show and was blonde. It was fabulous, I loved it. Suddenly I felt that in the show it helped me to be the character. I felt more individual. I felt stronger really and it was fun. I really loved it
Later on I added the black bits for Kajagoogoo, because it was important to be different , to try and stand out from the crowd, as a band it was fiercely competitive. It kind of evolved a little bit from the first initial blonde. Thats how my hairstyle came about, it really sort of happened over 3 years. It wasn’t how it would’ve been today, maybe the conglomerate record mogul would say “Get the stylist we need to re imagine these people.” We kind of did it ourselves, it was very organic and that’s how it was with most of the other artists that we talked about earlier
I love telling the story, and I love the fact that you asked that because I remember how much fun it was going to do it and coming back all the cast were like I love your hair. I was young, excited so optimistic about the future, and loving what I was doing, so it’s always great to to go back there mentally.”
The 80’s were an important period musically for Gen X ers who were teens growing up and purchased their first records. First records always resonate with music fans when they reminisce about growing up. Limahl elaborates :
“The wonderful thing is through all your life, those songs will just stay with you and that’s the amazing power of those first recordings you buy. I’m continually told by people at gigs or meet on the street or via the internet, how much these songs, maybe my two songs ,take them back to their first holiday, their first kiss, their first cigarette behind the bike shed at school.”
Whilst Limahl acknowledges the addictive high of performing live, he discusses his pre-show anxieties and no matter how famous you are there’s always that far flung German town that is the exception;
“I’m very proud of my legacy and I love performing live. an intimate live reaction, interaction. It’s a drug, theres’s an adrenaline moment, theres the excitement and the fear. Theres always the two. Things go wrong in life.Theres always the health and safety fear. I know the story for example about Gloria Gaynor who fell backwards into into the monitor and she hurt her back, that was like 20 years ago and there’s other stories about people falling off stage on YouTube. There’s that aspect, and then, am I gonna forget the lyrics? is my voice going to hold out. Am I going to fall? Is it gonna work ?
I had a gig in some former East German town, and they had some terrible floods. It was a big event to raise money. I’d been around the world, I went to this place in germany called Grima and as the bars to the introduction to Too Shy started, they had never heard the song before. They looked quite baffled and slightly uninterested. That comes into the fear thing. Are they gonna know the song ? are they going to like me. Are they going to throw tomatoes?”[pullquote] I had a gig in some former East German town, and they had some terrible floods. It was a big event to raise money. I’d been around the world, I went to this place in germany called Grima and as the bars to the introduction to Too Shy started, they had never heard the song before. They looked quite baffled and slightly uninterested.[/pullquote]
Limahl is looking forward to meeting Berlin on the upcoming Totally 80’s tour and is keen to swap stories about working with legendary producer, songwriter and performer Giorgio Moroder. Limahl discusses what is was like to work with him on the song Never-ending Story.
“I’ve never met Berlin, it’s going to be exciting to hear their story of working with Giorgio Moroder. It was very exciting, because I was very aware of who he was and I was thrilled to get the call to try my voice on this new song he was working on. That was kind of weird, the fact that here I was with a number one song with Kajagogoogoo. I didn’t actually get the gig. I didn’t sign a contract and then go over and sing it. Giorgio said “I like to try Limahl’s voice on the project for the film.” He’s Italian, but he was raised on the border of Germany and he used to do all his recordings in Munich. I flew to Munich and met him there, and It was just a thrill. If you were an actor and you got a call from Steven Spielberg to do a film, that’s how exciting it was to me. It was a thrill and a pleasure, I felt quite honoured to be behind a microphone and getting instructions and directions from the Maestro himself really, is how I considered him.”
He is an avid theatre lover. Theatre is his scene. It’s not surprising given his early start in musical theatre. Limahl explains :
“I’m a member of something in London called the audience club and sometimes we get very last minute tickets for stuff for free. So at 4.40pm yesterday an email popped into my inbox offering members of the club West end launch of the new musical War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne. It’s a huge event and dominion is a massive theatre. I live 17 miles out of london now, but I can be in town in about 40 minutes, half an hour. The train is even quicker 17 mins on the train Suddenly i was in work mode, and suddenly i was like making phone calls inviting friends and colleagues. and I was in the car whizzing down to London to get there by 7.30 driving down to the theatre. I love theatre. I started in theatre Im so passionate about it. Musicals especially.”
Catch Limahl on the Totally 80’s Australian Tour.
Tuesday 12th July – BRISBANE Eatons Hill
Thursday 14th July – GOLD COAST Jupiter’s
Friday 15th July – MELBOURNE Palais Theatre
Saturday 16th July – SYDNEY Enmore Theatre
Wednesday 20th July – PERTH Astor Theatre
Thursday 21st July – ADELAIDE The Gov
Friday 22nd July – HOBART Wrest Point
Tickets on sale NOW from: http://www.metropolistouring.com/totally80s