They were too shy when they debuted, but it wasn’t long before Kajagoogoo were on top in the big apple!

Leighton Buzzard doesn’t have much to brag about. The Great Train Robbery took place outside the town in 1963 and in 1978 a new pop band, Kajagoogoo, were founded there. Unlike the train robbers, they made it to the top the clean way. Kajagoogoo came out of the band Art Nouveau, formed by Nick Beggs (b.1961), Steve Askew, Stuart Croxford-Neale and Jez Strode. They achieved limited success despite an airing on John Peel’s Radio 1 show and were not successful in being signed up. By 1981 they were advertising for a new lead singer. The man who won their attention was Lancashire lad Christopher Hamill (b.1958). Hamill used the stage name Limahl and it was at this time they renamed themselves Kajagoogoo, apparently it’s what babies say!

Kajagoogoo were signed to EMI Records the following year thanks to a chance meeting with Duran Duran‘s Nick Rhodes and it was Nick himself that would produce their own self-penned debut single, “Too Shy”. Released in January 1983, “Too Shy” became an instant smash, getting into the top ten in over a dozen countries and going all the way in the UK, Germany and Ireland. The song became one of the biggest hits of the year shifting over four million copies. The track found success Stateside also where it went to No.5. Buoyed with this start, the group pressed out “Ooh To Be Ah” in March, ahead of their debut album, and the track made No.7 at home, although it was less popular across mainland Europe. The album, “White Feathers”, came the following month and would make the top five in the UK selling 100,000 copies while it made a small dent in the US chart at No.38.

Kajagoogoo released “Hang On Now” that Summer, which peaked at No.13 in the UK and No.78 in America, but not sooner had the boys found fame, it all started to go horribly wrong. Tensions rose within the group and shortly after “Hang On Now”, Limahl was dismissed after just three singles and one album. The remaining and original members of Art Nouveau decided to continue as a foursome again and not recruit a new singer, Nick Beggs taking that duty on from Limahl, but not aware that it was Limahl who was the selling point of the band. The remaining Kajagoogo swiftly started writing and recording new material and in late 1983, they put out “Big Apple”. The song made No.8 in the UK and was a top twenty hit elsewhere. 1983 may have been Kajagoogoo’s year, but 1984 would be anything but. A new album, “Islands”, was released that Spring but failed to emulate the success of their debut.

Equally, the two following singles, “The Lion’s Mouth” and “Turn Your Back On Me” were not crowd-pleasers, although the latter made No.2 on the US dance chart, that was really it. Jez Strode departed soon after with the remaining three members, lead by Beggs, pressing on under the new name of Kaja. They recorded and released the album “Crazy Peoples Right To Speak” in 1985, but it and the lone single, “Shouldn’t Do That”, both flopped big time and Kaja was done for. Limahl was enjoying himself, however. He had picked up his solo career when it had been put on temporary hold in 1981 and hit back with the single “Only For Love” in 1983, which made No.16 in the UK and No.51 in America. Far more successful was the Giorgio Moroder produced title song from the movie ‘The NeverEnding Story’, which Limahl took to No.4 and No.17 in the US. The song was also a chart topper around Europe and enjoyed sales matching only that of “Too Shy”.

Nick Beggs would form the band Ellis, Beggs and Howard with Simon Ellis and Austin Howard. They achieved two top 100 charting singles in the UK and recorded three albums between 1987 and 1994 before disbanding. Beggs remained mostly a solo artist and songwriter after that. Limahl himself never enjoyed greater success after “The NeverEnding Story”. He released a number of singles and three solo albums, but none were huge commercial hits. His most recent was “One Wish For Christmas” and “Still In Love” in 2020. Kajagoogoo have put their differences behind them on more than one occasion, reforming in 2003, twenty years after it all went wrong. As a trio, Beggs, Askew and Neale revived the Kajagoogoo name in 2007 and recorded a brand new album, “Gone To The Moon”, while the following year saw a full reunion with Jez Strode and Limahl himself all back and all friends again. The group went on tour and released the album “Too Shy – The Best Of Kajagoogoo & Limahl”, which features two new recordings.

In 2011, the ‘boys’ released the song, “Death Defying Headlines”, as a single, their first for 28 years as a full quintet, but after two years of non-stop touring, it was time to take a rest. To date (2022), there are no plans to pick things up and do it all again. But they’ve said that before!

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