Interview: Limahl

Limahl_2020
Limahl (Photo courtesy ReyBee Inc.)

In 1983, singer Limahl released an album with the band Kajagoogoo. It was titled White Feathers, and I probably don’t need to tell you much about it because the lead single “Too Shy” never went away. You can hear the smash hit everywhere! Soon after, Limahl cemented his place in our collective pop consciousness as a solo performer with the majestic “NeverEnding Story,” the title theme to the movie of the same name.

“NeverEnding Story” and “Too Shy” have withstood the test of time and even went through a rejuvenation in 2019 after being featured on hit television series Black Mirror (Episode: “Bandersnatch”), American Horror Story (Season Nine: “1984”), and Stranger Things (Season Three). Now, Limahl enters a pop culture renaissance with the release of “Still in Love,” his first new solo release in eight years, on June 5, 2020.

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter was very pleased to chat with Limahl, born Chris Hamill, about the new single and his landmark ’80s tunes in a recent phone call.

Mickey McCarter: You know, I saw you perform in New Jersey on the Retro Futura tour a few years ago.

LIMAHL: Two years ago, yeah.

MM: And you sang a scant four songs, which was nowhere near enough. You sounded amazing. And you were in great spirits. Can you tell me about that experience?

LIMAHL: Oh, well that show was exciting because I’ve never achieved performing live in America before. So, I was so excited to finally get the chance to show people that unlike Milli Vanilli, I did sing on my records.

Read our Parklife DC review of Limahl at Retro Futura 2018!

MM: No doubt! Well, you sounded so good, and I was stunned to discover that it was your first time in North America or the United States. How is that possible?

LIMAHL: Well, Kajagoogoo was on the verge of booking America for a tour. And then of course I got the phone call firing me, and it never happened. And then I only really had the one solo hit, “The NeverEnding Story.” And then I left EMI, and I got signed to Arista Records in New York by Clive Davis in about ’86. They spent $200,000 recording six songs, and then they dropped me.

I was fed up, and I didn’t do anything for about four years. Then, I went into music production from ’92 to ’98, and then the ’80s revival started, and I was getting all this live work, which I thought would last about six months. All over the world except America! And I’ve been busy really, and just enjoying that. And then I got the call.

That’s the weird thing: The 2018 tour was before I got all the American TV stuff using my songs last year. So, things have moved really nicely in the last three years. So, really great.

Watch the official music video for “The NeverEnding Story” by Limahl on YouTube:

MM: I’m so happy to hear that. I don’t want to dwell too much on Kajagoogoo but there’s a story that I was always fascinated by — that the band got its start because you gave a demo to Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.

LIMAHL: Oh, that is absolutely true.

MM: Can you revisit that? I’m sure it’s a well-worn story.

LIMAHL: Yeah, of course. I was a waiter at a nightclub in old Bond Street in London. It was very trendy, it was the club to go to. I used to see all kinds of music and media people in there, and I saw Lemmy from Motorhead. I saw Elton’s manager, John Reed. I saw Gary Numan, Bananarama, Steve Strange from Visage, Boy George came in, and one night I served a drink to Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran.

He was sat there with this manager, and I talked about my band, Kajagoogoo, and to my amazement, he said, “Send me your songs and I’ll have a listen.” I sent him a cassette. He gave you an address. I sent the cassette. Now, thankfully I had the demos ready. You know, I’ve been working with Kajagoogoo at this point for a couple of years writing and recording. And a week later he called me up and he said, “Limahl, I like the songs. I’m going to take them into EMI records and tell them I want to produce you.”

And when I put the phone down, I had to pick myself back up off the floor because, you knew Duran was so successful at that point. It just felt like a door was being opened.

MM: That first record has stood the test of time. I mean, good lord, what a magnificent record. And, needless to say, you still hear “Too Shy” everywhere, which is fantastic.

LIMAHL: Well, the way I view it is, yeah it was a bit acrimonious at the end, but it’s like a sort of marriage. You can get a marriage between two people that ends quite bitter or angry, but the beautiful thing that comes out of it is other children, usually. And at least you can say, “That was something wonderful.” And really that’s the same with “Too Shy.” I mean, I will always have the fondest memories of my very short time with Kajagoogoo. Because we only actually made one album together, which is crazy when I look back.

And I think in hindsight, they probably realized, if they didn’t like being a teeny band it wasn’t my fault. And the Beatles were teeny band and Duran Duran were a teeny band and Wham! were a teeny band. Your audiences grow up with you and, and we could have very easily continued, I think.

Watch the official music video for “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo on YouTube:

MM: Let’s talk a little about the new single. You have one coming out on June 5. Can you tell me a bit about how that came about?

LIMAHL: I’ve been concentrating on life, and I’m not getting any younger, and after Stranger Things used “The NeverEnding Story,” the streams on Spotify went up. The monthly streams went from 300,000 to 1.5 million. And I just thought, “Oh, is this an opportunity?” Maybe an audience might be interested in hearing something new. And so I called up a musician colleague I’ve worked with — Miro Markus, a German chap, talented guy. And we just had a dig around, see if we could come up with something interesting. And the result of that was digging around was “Still in Love.” And I’m absolutely thrilled with it.

MM: It’s a terrific song. I listened to it and I was like, “Wow.” You still sound amazing.Will you tour behind the single? Will you do some shows once everything opens up?

LIMAHL: Who knows to be honest, Mickey. It’s kind of “let’s see what happens.” All the reactions have been amazing. Recently, I did the UK’s biggest radio station on a show that has 8 million listeners, Steve Wright in the afternoon on BBC Radio Two. And he was raving about the song. So the vibe is incredible. I can’t believe it. I can’t quite believe it, but you know, I’m ready. I love what I do still. And if the single goes well, there’ll be another one and there’ll be more material.

I love doing what I do. I love the idea of making another video. I love the whole thing, and I would love to tour.

MM: You know, Limahl, here’s something interesting to me. And I’m wondering a little bit about your perspective. When you were talking about the Spotify success there, I couldn’t help but think that you kind of have a built-in audience, right? You sort of have this name recognition, you have a brand, and it’s just there waiting for you to take advantage of it, don’t you think? People know your name!

LIMAHL: Wow. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I guess so, but I think it just felt like the right time after that. When I got the three TV shows in a row in America using “Too Shy” and “NeverEnding Story,” then that’s reaching a much younger audience as well. And so I’ve got the older audience, obviously from the old days, and I’ve got a potential new audience who maybe their parents are saying to them, “We’ve been listening to this guy for years.” So it just felt like the right time. I think I needed the right incentive. It’s good to go in the studio with an incentive, but no pressure. I liked that. Just had to be a kind of organic, creative thing. Let’s just see what happens. And that’s really how it all came about.

Watch the official music video for “Still in Love” by Limahl on YouTube:

MM: It’s always been my personal feeling that there was a whole bunch of folks like yourself making really, really wonderful music in England in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And I just feel like that was such a creative time period. And this is me speaking personally, when I look at today’s charts, I don’t see anything nearly as interesting or creative or fascinating. And, I’m wondering if you have any perspective on making music during that particular time. It seemed like creativity was high, and all those great bands were making music at the time. Any perspective on why that was so? How that happened?

LIMAHL: Music was more special back then. There were less distractions. There was no widely available internet in the UK. We didn’t have cable channels for years. I remember the first time I came to America and a friend of mine showed me about 65 TV channels. I was totally gobsmacked. We didn’t have that in the UK for years. So that’s the first thing. I think music just played a more important role in life in general, because there was no internet, there was only four TV channels here. If you did Top of the Pops, the UK big music show national TV, you were picking up an audience of like 20 million, 23 million. It was incredible.

The other thing was, to record a demo, you have to go into a recording studio. There was an energy about getting your team together and prepping to go in and make your absolute best effort in that studio. Nowadays, everyone’s got a computer and in one sense, it’s even more competitive than it ever was because how do you stand out from the crowd? I feel sorry for new musicians, even. I thought it was difficult creatively. I didn’t at that age, but looking back, you’ve got a hundred years of popular songs, lyrics, and melodies. How the hell does anyone find anything new and original and interesting? And that’s virtually impossible. We’re like the guys on the beach with metal detectors, looking for treasure. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re looking for treasure. Otherwise, you’ve just got another average song.

MM: We would love to see you perform here in Washington, DC, some day!

LIMAHL: I’ve been to Washington DC. I would love to come back because I love historic buildings. I’d like to explore it more.

MM: It would be terrific to see you hear! Perhaps when we are fully emerged from our coronavirus lockdown.

LIMAHL: Maybe! Let’s hold for 2021 or 2022. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

**

For more music by Limahl, visit his website.

Check him out Friday for “Still in Love,” which we will share here as well!

 

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