“When Memories Become Souvenirs”, A Neverending Story, and even STRANGER THINGS. Conversing with a childhood favorite, Gay Musical icon, Limahl.
When I was 9 years old in 1983, my two favorite bands from that time of life were Duran Duran and Kajagoogoo. I loved hearing these incredible voices for as long as I can remember loving music. Since then, I have been able to see, meet, shoot, many great entertainers, but I have to say, when I got the opportunity to interview Limahl, the vocalist of Kajagoogoo, I felt like life just came full circle, to finally speak to someone whom I had loved so much, for so long.
Limahl, (Nee Christopher Hamill, just switch around the letters of his last name and there you have it) is one of the greatest of the “new wave” pop voices that helped to carved out that genre, conquered the world with the hits “Too Shy” and “Hang on Now”. His smooth jazz influenced R&B style seemed unstoppable. With a short tenure in the band, getting booted, moving on to sing the theme song to the film “The Neverending Story”, he proved himself formidable. With a few solo albums, that are absolute gems, and his own patented two-toned David Bowie “Ziggy Stardust” mullet, he seemed one of the “has-beens” of the ’80s. Nothing could be further from the truth. He just released a remastered version of his single “London For Christmas”, and we talked about that, the “Age of Coming Out”, being gay in the ’80s, and now. He is one of the kindest, charming, and funniest people to talk to, and he was gracious enough to indulge a superfan. A nice resurgence of his music happened recently as “The Neverending Story” was played on an episode of Stranger Things, showing the longevity of the song.
Jeremy Hinks: So, Limahl, thanks for taking the time, I’ll start just by explaining my excitement. You are one of those voices, from the “new wave” pop era of the ’80s, it wasn’t just the dance disco stuff, and, your voice is up there with the greats of Holly Johnson, Jimmy Sommerville, Marc Almond, and Martin Fry. We called it the “Jazz/No-Rock” romantic voice club.
Limahl: Wow, I’m humbled to be compared to those guys, thank you.
JH: Well, you guys all buried it, man. You crushed Nick Kershaw, Style Council, even Spandau Ballet, not to rip on Weller, or Gary Kemp. They were good, but it was you guys and your powerful smooth voices that were, ARE legendary. You guys were in that top cadre of voices.
L: Thanks, I’m flattered.
JH: So, well, everyone in that club is gay except for Martin Fry, so, as flamboyant as he dressed, he is the straight one. (he is laughing) Anyway, the new Christmas single, “London for Christmas”, it is wonderful. I’ll explain why it clicked with me so well. I am half Scottish, and you know that band Deacon Blue from Glasgow, they did that song “Christmas in Glasgow”, and it was this very romantic soft feel to it. Then you come along with this one, and WOW, the same feeling, it was immediately a winner, just holding all the charm of … well, you.
L: First of all, I’m a big Deacon Blue fan, and I’ve never heard that song, so, when I get off the phone with you, I’m going to have to look for that, it sounds wonderful. Basically, for years, I thought I would love to attempt to write a Christmas song, as a pure songwriting challenge. It’s very difficult when we have at least a hundred years of lyrics and melodies in popular music. You think can anyone write something that hasn’t been done. In the music industry, we have a saying “Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ”, and you know there are some big instances of that lately. For instance, Ed Sheeran had to settle out of court a couple of times, and the Marvin Gay estate sued somebody else. So, to make some music that doesn’t sound like someone else work is almost impossible. So that was kind of the motive behind me doing this one. It was a big challenge to do that, and the other part of it was that I have lived in London all of my adult life, and I love it. And I look at all this, sort of landscape in music, and all of these places named and listed, that I never knew existed until the song came along, Amarillo, San Jose, Georgia, and of course, New York, and Los Angeles. And I thought, why the hell is there no songs about London, there are only two that I know of. One is really about a square in London, “A Nightingale sings in Barkley Square” which is lovely, of course. And the other was “London Calling” by The Clash, have to put that one in there too, but not in what I call the Jazz Standard vibe.
I mean, “London Calling” is great, its iconic, punk, pop, its wonderful, but at the time of writing “London for Christmas” I have a friend living around the corner, who is the jazz pianist for the Savoy Hotel in London, and as songwriters and musicians do, I said to come over one afternoon and we would have a JAM. There was no deadline, no rush to finish, no one tapping on the door asking when it was going to be ready. It was lovely to be able to work that way, without any pressure, or requirements, let’s just see what happened, and we went with it.
JH: Well, mission accomplished, good to know you weren’t just trying to beat the rush for the Christmas Single on the pop charts, and just did it for the sake of doing it. When I heard it, I thought “Well Done!!” You are not afraid to play with different ideas. I hope you get some more success with it.
L: Well, with the internet and technology changing so much of how you get and hear music, I thought maybe people would be interested. After the three biggest TV shows featured the Christmas songs, we hoped this would do well.