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Album: White Feathers
There are many ways to start a band. One way, apparently, is to decide you’re a good-looking guy with talent and place an ad in a paper looking for other guys with the same qualifications. This is how the band Kajagoogoo began. Kajagoogoo means ‘good-looking guys’ in baby talk. The band started a bit of a frenzy in Britain, something called googoomania. In America, they had one hit, Too Shy. It went to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1983, spending 19 weeks on the chart.
The song is at once silly and unforgettable. “Too shy shy, hush hush, eye to eye” sticks in your head as do the vocals. And, bassist Nick Beggs’s bass playing on this tune is something to be admired. I do have to admit, though, that when this song came out, I always thought the singer was singing “hush hush, idee-ay,” or something to that effect. So much for my understanding of a British accent.
Before hitting America, the song had reached number one with a bullet in the UK, as well as in Belgium and Ireland. It went to no. 2 in France and Switzerland and no. 4 in Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands, This wasn’t the band’s only hit in the UK and elsewhere. They had enjoyed great success and had sold one million records before America. But, but it was the only song that made any significant headway in the U.S. It was eventually ranked no. 9 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s. They even managed to make it to the U.S charts before Spandau Ballet, an achievement in itself.
When Chris Hamill, who called himself Limahl, placed his ad in Melody Maker looking for bandmates, an already performing band called the Handstands responded. The Handstands, who had begun as Art Noveau, was made up of Steve Askew (guitar), Nick Beggs (bass), Stuart Croxford Neale (keyboards), and Jes Strode (drums). They had been playing the clubs doing covers of Steeley Dan and the like before meeting Limahl. Everyone clicked and they decided to join up.
Not long after forming, the band encountered Nick Rhodes, keyboardist for Duran Duran, who soon got them a meeting with EMI and a subsequent recording contract. Nick Rhodes and Duran Duran producer Colin Thurston produced their first album, White Feathers, except for the instrumental (with some lyrics in concert) theme song Kajagoogoo, which was produced by Tim Palmer and the band.
Three UK top twenty hits came from the album, including Too Shy, the first single, Ooh to be Ah, and Hang on Now. Their theme song, Kajagoogoo was used as the opening title song in the John Hughes movie, Sixteen Candles.
In America, Kajagoogoo was often panned by critics, who called them such things as “bubblegum disguised as synthpop…with some similarities to Duran Duran…they were pretty and they played immediately accessible polished pop.” God forbid! I never knew that synthpop couldn’t also be bubblegum, only a disguise for bubblegum, but there’s no accounting for critics. Too Shy, and their other hits are every bit as inane and bubblegum as such statements suggest. They are also catchy and easy to listen to. Hardly a mortal sin in the pop world.
Just after Too Shy hit it big in the states and the band was set to conquer the U.S. Limahl left the band and began a solo career. According to bassist Nick Beggs, he was fired from the band for numerous reasons. Beggs summed it up by saying “it had become increasingly difficult to work with him.” The other band members suggested that Nick Beggs, who had already been the main backing singer, take over as lead singer, which he was hesitant to do. The band gave him a Chapman Stick ‘as an incentive to do the job.’ Seems like a strange incentive to me, but apparently it worked. In the U.S., the band dropped the ‘googoo’ from their name and became Kaja.
After the departure of Limahl, Kaja released one other album, Islands, in 1984. Nick Beggs who used his new Chapman stick on the ablum, wrote the lyrics and the album was once again produced by Colin Thurston. In the UK, they had a no. 8 hit with Big Apple with a couple of other more minor hits. In the US, the album was released as a mini-LP with only five songs from the album and two bonus tracks. This version featured a remix of the no. 47 U.K. song, Turn Your Back on Me, which reached no. 2 on the dance charts.
One other album followed, called Crazy Peoples Right to Speak, without drummer Jez Strode. This album essentially failed and the group disbanded. Nick Beggs formed a gospel group called Iona in the late 80s which ended in 1983. He went on to become an A&R man for Phonogram records.
Limahl had a hit in 1984 with the song Never Ending Story which was recorded as the theme song for the movie of the same name and then later released on Limahl’s debut solo album, Don’t Suppose. He continued to record until 1992, with little success. Never Ending Story was recently used on the soundtrack for Stranger Things, Season 3.
After VHI gave Kajagoogoo some exposure on the 2004 program Bands Reunited, EMI re-issued the band’s three albums.