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PCR #203  (Vol. 5, No. 7)  This edition is for the week of February 9--15, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
Book Review: The Houses of Key West
 by William Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Miracle"
 by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
VH1's Bands Re-United, Part 3: Kajagoogoo
 by Andy Lalino
DIGITAL DIVIDE
30 Bands That Made The '80s NOT Suck
 by Terence Nuzum
NICHOLAS REX
Vampire The Masquerade
 by Nick King
MIKE'S RANT
Hurry Back!...And The Grammy Goes To....Award Watch....Damn It! No Ewok Song....Happy Anniversary....Meet The Beatles, Part 4
 by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

VH-1's "Bands Reunited, Part 3:
Kajagoogoo"

Yes, this is the last installment (okay - hold the applause) of the "VH1 Bands Reunited" series; this episode features the 'one-hit wonder' New Wave band Kajagoogoo, and may be the best in the series (it's my wife's favorite, no doubt because all the ex-Kaja's still look 'hunky').

Kajagoogoo, as they were known upon their inception, were formed in 1981 by three friends who actually grew up in the same English community of Leighton Buzzard (all still live there to this day, residing only blocks from each other!): Nick Beggs (bassist/vocals with "Kaja"), Steve Askew (guitar), and keyboardist Stuart Neale. Jez Strode, Kajagoogoo's drummer, was an early member of the band as well, but according to bios, was not in the Leighton Buzzard clique. Their previous band was called "Art Nouveau", which was formed in 1979 while Beggs was in art school (as many New Wavers were while they formed bands; didn't any of them go to music school?). Art Nouveau, at the time, played only instrumentals, but soon the band figured out they could make more money, and probably hit it big, if they had a lead singer. They advertised in Melody Maker magazine, and settled on an auditioning singer named Chris Hamill, who would later become Limahl.

International success came speedily to the newly-formed Kajagoogoo, thanks to their mega-hit single "Too Shy" (sing it with me...). "Too Shy" was a staple on MTV in America, where they were extremely popular. The famed single was featured on Kajagoogoo's only LP "White Feathers" (1983), along with minor (now classic) singles: "Hold On Now" and "Ooh To Be Ah!". "Hold On Now", which is truly a great song, is the band's second most-remembered song. The videos for all three songs can be found on Sony records VHS and 7" laserdisc "Kajagoogoo" Video 45, now out-of print (check eBay). All three videos are most excellent - classy, colorful, and well-photographed.

Some interesting Kajagoogoo trivia: "Limahl", the charismatic lead singer of Kajagoogoo who arguably had the best hair in New Wave, is an anagram for Chris Hamill's last name. Nick Rhodes, keyboardist of Duran Duran, produced Kajagoogoo's album "White Feathers" in 1983.

Just when Kajagoogoo were poised to give Duran Duran a run for their money, Limahl was voted out of the band by the other four members, reason being that Limahl's presence made the band's image too 'teeny-bopper-ish'; Beggs & co. apparently longed to be taken more seriously. This harsh decision proved to be disastrous for the band, marking an end to any further hit singles and ultimately disbandment. One can only think of how successful, both financially and artistically, the band would have been if they had stuck together through the years.

The sacking of Limahl was the beginning of bad feelings toward one another. In retrospect the four members who voted Limahl out deeply regretted it, wishing they could have gotten rid of their manager instead of their popular front man. Any manager who would let a band sack a singer like Limahl, immensely popular at the time, and not fight it with every ounce of strength he had in him, must not have been a very effective mediator. Ultimately, however, the chips fell where they may, and Limahl and Kajagoogoo parted company, and would not reunite until 20 years later. Limahl in a sense had the last laugh, scoring a hit single for a hit film while Kaja, the band's new name, would sink into near-obscurity.

In 1984 the remaining members of Kajagoogoo, Nick Beggs, Jez Strode, Stuart Neale, and Steve Askew, formed a four piece called "Kaja", obviously a condensed version of Kajagoogoo (note: in 1984 they were still called Kajagoogoo in the U.K.). The charismatic Nick Beggs took over the lead singer duties, and they released an album called "Islands" which sported the non-hit singles "Big Apple", "The Lions Mouth", and "Turn Your Back on Me" (all are featured on the Kajagoogoo/Kaja/Limahl 'Best of' compilation CD "Too Shy"). Kaja's singles, in actuality, weren't bad at all, but Limahl was missed. In '86, Kaja was to release their swan song LP called "Extra Play", which featured the single "Shouldn't Do That". Due to lack of commercial success, Kaja parted paths.

Limahl, in my opinion, had a better go at a career than Kaja. In fact, Limahl as a solo artist should have had a better career than he did, because his songs were actually very good. Solo-Limahl is best-known for his sweeping hit single "The Neverending Story" from the fantasy film of the same name. It seemed like in 1984, right after he left Kajagoogoo, Limahl was poised for a chart-topping tenure as a solo artist. Not quite so, although I stress his career was tainted by his "teeny-bopper" image; so in a way Nick Beggs was right to a point. "The Neverending Story" appeared on the film's soundtrack, as well as Limahl's 1984 solo LP "Don't Suppose" which featured more minor singles: "Only for Love" and "Too Much Trouble".

Limahl followed "Don't Suppose" with another solo LP in 1986 entitled "Colour All My Days", which was did not meet the record company's expectations. The singles from the album were quite good: "Love in Your Eyes" (which I have seen the rare video for) and "Inside to Outside"; both are featured on the aforementioned 'Best of' CD. The lack of hit singles from this LP, and the fact that New Wave was becoming unfashionable in the wicked late 1980's, set Limahl's career back a bit, but in time Limahl would prove to be a hard-working performer who still longed for his mega-successful days with his original band.

Throughout the '90s, Limahl recorded more music and lent his own to various "Best of" compilations of both himself and Kajagoogoo. His best-known '90s song was no doubt a re-recording of "Too Shy" (without any original members of Kajagoogoo) he did back in 1992, which was an excellent interpretation. Also in '92 he released a full-length CD called "Love is Blind". Though fans embraced the new work, the mainstream public proved to be indifferent. Later, Limahl continued to tour as a solo artist around England/Europe, even performing Kajagoogoo songs, keeping the memory of the band alive. The other members of Kajagoogoo went on to various other careers in their adulthood: Nick Beggs became a record producer; Steve Askew remained a guitarist; Stuart Neale is a software salesman; and Jez Strode rents musical gear.

Two decades have passed with bad blood still seething. Will Kajagoogoo re-unite after all this time? It would be very exciting to find out!

The Reunion
VH1 had it easy this time around, realizing that all 5 original members still lived remarkably close to each other in England. The three friends from Leighton Buzzard (love the name of that town!) still live within walking distance of each other. VH1's first victim was to have been Steve Askew, who wasn't home at the time, so the runner-up was the still handsome and youthful-looking Nick Beggs who lived just down the block from Askew. In true Bands Reunited fashion, the camera crew invaded Nick's yard, causing his wife to be taken aback with concern of who these people were. They quickly gained her trust, however, and dug in when they found out Beggs was returning shortly by car.

Within minutes Beggs drove up, completely surprised by the cameras. The host introduced himself and got to the point: would you participate in a Kajagoogoo reunion? Beggs was quick to say "yes". In a follow up interview Beggs explained what happened with the sacking of Limahl, and in retrospect he knew it was not the right decision. Beggs, still good friends with Askew and Neale, assisted VH1 in persuading them to regroup.

Next on the list was Steve Askew. Beggs escorted the VH1 crew to Askew's back yard, where they surprised the ex-guitarist. Put on the spot, the good-looking Askew was reluctant to agree to a reunion, but with Nick's help he finally agreed. The third task was to get Stuart Neale on board, which they would try to do at his favorite pub.

Askew and Beggs met Neale at the pub, who was instantly agreeable. VH1 asked where they could find ex-drummer Jez Strode, who was in a nearby town where he rents and sets up musical equipment. VH1 played a gag on Strode when they posed as a mock band who needed equipment. Strode showed up and started chatting with them, having no idea who they were, and the host mentioned that the band Strode was setting up for was called Kajagoogoo. What was really funny was that Strode played it for straight and acted like he didn't know who Kajagoogoo was. After the joke ran its course, the host came clean and Strode, definitely surprised, chuckled, then agreed to sign up for the reunion. Four on board, one biggie to go.

VH1 caught up with venerable lead singer Limahl before a London gig. Limahl had been a solo artist for two nearly two decades, performing both his songs and Kajagoogoo's. He still has somewhat of a small but very loyal fan base as a solo singer. He was only too happy to sit down with VH1 in the green room, where the conversation quickly diverted to Kajagoogoo, specifically his sacking by the band. Despite the still-festering feelings, Limahl agreed to participate.

In the following days, the band was brought together in a rehearsal hall where VH1 can tape the reactions as they reunite one-by-one. First to arrive was Nick Beggs, looking great in his '40s (still New Wave) who quickly got busy setting up his amps. Following were Steve, Jez, and Stuart, which due to the fact they were on good terms with each other, was non-eventful. At long last the camera followed a nervous Limahl, down a hallway and into the hall. The reunion was surprisingly tender. Beggs greeted Limahl with a huge smile and big hug (Limahl extended his hand for a shake, but got that instead). I noticed the other band members shook his hand in lieu of a group hug. That's to be expected. After the formalities, the hot topic of Limahl's sacking of course arose, and all band members agreed that decision was a wrong one. My wife noticed upon viewing that she thought Limahl really needed to hear this in person from his bandmates. It seemed to give 'closure' to the entire situation. Whatever bad feelings remained, they were put on the backburner so the band could concentrate on the most important thing of all: pleasing their fans by reuniting and putting on a hell of a show.

Most of the band, Limahl, Beggs, Neale, and Askew, are still accomplished singers/musicians and were prepared for an eventual performance. The surprising exception was Jez Strode, who hadn't 'picked up sticks' since the mid-'80s. Despite Strode having to 're-learn' how to play, the rebirth of Kajagoogoo went on, with the band patiently supporting Strode while he played catch up.

Soon, the big night came - their reunion performance in London to a sold-out crowd of die-hard Kaja-Heads. One-by-one the band walked on stage, to eruptions of thunderous, long-overdue applause. The fab five all looked great, perfectly New Wave despite the years that have passed. The band looked fit & prepared and dressed well (Beggs, in true New Wave gender-bending fashion, sported a black skirt and at one point mooned the camera!). In the whole VH1 "Bands Reunited" series, Kajagoogoo looked the best without a doubt.

Unfortunately there was not enough time in the show to showcase the entire concert, but luckily the viewer got the opportunity to hear a few strains of "Too Shy" and "Hang on Now". I'm curious as to what other songs they performed. "The Neverending Story" maybe? Hopefully VH1 will make these "Reunited" concerts available to the public. I thought it was nice that several of the band members (Beggs included) commented on how good Limahl was. In the tidbits I saw of the performance, Limahl sounded absolutely superb, and had the audience in the palm in his hands. At one point he broke down in tears, savoring this all-too-brief moment of what the man obviously waited decades for. The band sounded marvelous as well, with Beggs playing the familiar "Too Shy" bass line, with Neale's synth in the background.

Once again, VH1 has done the New Wave fanatic an extreme service by reuniting a band that most thought was lost forever. Can't wait for the second season! Hint: The Thompson Twins and Naked Eyes might be next!!!

The Alarm/Squeeze Reunited
I would be remiss had I not at least mentioned two more New Wave bands that VH1 tried to get together; one a failure the other a success. The Welsh band The Alarm was featured on a Reunited show, in which all the band members agreed to get together to perform. The last time they performed together was at the pinnacle of their popularity in 1992 when singer Mike Peters announced this was his last song with The Alarm at a huge music festival. The audience - and the band - were stunned. They must have played that clip at least six times during the program.

VH1 managed to persuade them to get back together, which proved to be not-too-difficult. It looks like they put on one hell of a show that night. I couldn't believe how into it the crowd was. Their sing-along nearly drowned out the band. Good job, boys!

Unrelated to the reunion, at one point Mike Peters was being groomed by Big Country fans to team up with the surviving band members (Tony Butler, Mark Brezicki, and Bruce Watson) to metaphorically take the great Stuart Adamson's place on tour. To my knowledge, this never happened, but I do feel Peters would be a decent choice; he does resemble Stuart Adamson.

Squeeze, like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, would not reunite. You can go to www.vh1.com to sign a petition for the original members of the band to reunite.


"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner, and all mini-banners from this issue, are creations of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.