In the music and the lights, Imagination had body talk, or was that just an illusion…?
British Disco trio Imagination – Errol Kennedy (b.1953), Leee John (b.1957) and Ashley Ingram (b.1960) – formed in their home town of London in 1981 and quickly signed to R&B Records. Working with then rising producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain (later to achieve success with Bananarama) they named themselves after the John Lennon song “Imagination”. Their debut single, “Body Talk”, came in May 1981 and would peak at No.4 on the UK singles chart and go top twenty throughout much of Europe.
A follow up, “In And Out Of Love”, didn’t do so well and got as far as No.16, which preceded the release of their first album, “Body Talk”, that October. The album gained a Gold certification at home and made the top twenty, while in France it topped the chart and also charted on the US R&B chart. Just one further top twenty hit was released at the end of 1981, “Flashback” (UK No.16) before the trio moved on to something new. 1982 would prove to be their biggest year with no less than six singles released and a second album, the biggest of these coming in February with “Just An Illusion”, which would be a smash hit all over the world, topping the chart in Italy and making the top five virtually everywhere else. It would become their biggest hit in the UK reaching No.2 and made No.15 on the US Dance chart.
Flushed with the success of “Just An Illusion”, Imagination went on a big promotional tour of The States and took “Burning Up” from the “Body Talk” album to No.6 on the US Dance chart that Spring, while the rest of the world were treated to “Music And Lights”, another new track, in June. The song would go to No.1 in France and Italy and No.5 in the UK, while “In The Heat Of The Night” made it to No.22 in September, before the album of the same name launched the following month. “In The Heat Of The Night” would go top ten in the UK again gaining a Gold sales certification while a Platinum disc would come from France, where the group achieved their second number one album. A fourth single, “Changes”, would give Imagination a fourth US R&B chart hit and a top 40 hit in the UK.
1983 saw the trio release a remix album, “Night Dubbing” (UK No.9) as they recorded their third studio album, releasing the single “Looking At Midnight” that Autumn with the album itself, “Scandalous”, following in November. This again achieved a Gold certification in the UK, although the album itself charted much lower, as did the singles with only “Looking At Midnight” making it as far as the top 40. “New Dimension” was a minor hit in Belgium and Italy while “This Means War (Shoo Be Doo Da Dabba Doobee)” got as far as No.22 on the US Dance chart. Imagination took a break before their next album, making a comeback at the end of 1984 with “Thank You My Love”, taking the song to No.22 in the UK, their best chart position since late 1982. “Thank You My Love” would feature on their fourth album, “Trilogy”, that would not emerge until 1986.
Five singles were lifted from the album through 1985 and into 1986 itself, although only two of these – “Found My Girl” and “Last Days Of Summer” – would achieve a top 100 placing in the UK. “Thank You My Love” would ultimately become their final top 40 hit single at home. The trio signed to RCA Records in early 1987, but the subsequent album, “Closer”, and the singles “The Last Time” and “Instinctual”, did nothing commercially and at the end of the year Errol and Ashley left the group. Leee John continued with the Imagination name with two new members, Nat Augustin and Peter Royer, releasing a greatest hits album in 1989, making a return to the French top ten with a “Megamix” of all their hits and recording and releasing a new album, The Fascination Of The Physical”, in 1992, before calling it a day.
Leee John has continued the Imagination name on his own, recording a new album, “Retropia”, in 2016 and releasing two singles from it. He tours 80’s festivals performing Imagination favourites still. Errol John became a successful writer and producer, working with the likes of Shalamar, Jamiroquai and Arthur Baker. In 2009, he reunited with Leee John and they toured as a duo into 2011. Ashley Ingram also went into songwriting and production. He produced three of singer Des’ree‘s studio albums from “Mind Adventures” in 1992, which included the hit “Feels So High”, “I Ain’t Movin'” in 1994, which featured the song “You Gotta Be”, and “Supernatural” in 1998, featuring the hits “Life” and “What’s Your Sign?”.
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