15
May 09

KAJAGOOGOO – “Too Shy”

FT + Popular59 comments • 4,356 views

#515, 19th February 1983

People who look back on the eighties and despair or scoff are probably thinking of hits like “Too Shy”, the very definition of flossy, flimsy, flouncy faux-funk foolishness. It’s a record so evanescent that you half-suspect it was specially created and retconned into history by a cabal of budget “Hits Of The 80s” compilers. (OK, no, that would have been “Big Apple”)

If you like this kind of pouting weightlessness – and I do, a bit – none of those are terrible things. Limahl doesn’t have a voice for the ages but he bluffs his way through a low-content lyric with some aplomb. In the half-light of the teenage disco, “too shy shy, hush hush, eye to eye” turns from idiocy into desperate meaning. As for Nick Beggs’ showy bass, it’s as evocative in its way as Limahl’s camera-ready hair. As you could have learned from the merest glance at their name, Kajagoogoo were young men chasing a trend with little in the way of thought or dignity – but that kind of group is what gives pop its texture, and I’m always ready to forgive it.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Conrad on 16 May 2009 #

    Davey, #23 the Icehouse song was “Hey Little Girl” which sounds very like a Ferry-Sylvian hybrid. Great track.

  2. 27
    DV on 16 May 2009 #

    These were a real girls’ band.

    As someone who was a bit shy, I found the very existence of this song very upsetting (see also the Narns’ ‘Shy Boy’).

  3. 28
    wichita lineman on 16 May 2009 #

    Re 23/26: More “young men chasing a trend”. I think thevisitor has brought this up already, but the ersatz (rather than the generic) often outshines the authentic. I’d rather listen to Hey Little Girl than anything by Japan. I’m not sure if Kaja were ersatz anything, though; I can’t think of any obvious precursor (Mick Karn bass aside). Even though, as Tom says, The Big Apple (post Limahl) is so archetypally “eighties” it wears 501s, an xxl Relax t-shirt, and has a Rubik cube for a face.

    Am I alone in preferring the verse of Too Shy to the chorus?

    My best buddy Pete got dragged along to a “bass clinic” once by a college colleague – it was run by Nick Beggs. This may explain why Pete has never picked up a stringed instrument since.

  4. 29
    Erithian on 17 May 2009 #

    Cadge a what?

    This was one that really puzzled me listening in from Brittany – seemed to come from nowhere. You can certainly understand why it was a hit though – that bassline is a great hook and no matter how nonsensical the lyric, the voice works well. Wasn’t there some input from Paul Gambaccini plugging the record?

    I wouldn’t have thought the reunion was in response to overwhelming demand, though!!

  5. 30
    Davey on 17 May 2009 #

    Rory #25 yes Pseudo Echo of course – who could forget ‘Listening’. That film clip says it all. Hexagonal drum alert!

    #26/28 Thanks Conrad, ‘Hey Little Girl’ was one of Icehouse’s better songs. IMHO of course … but by the time Iva Davies got to ‘Electric Blue’ and ‘Crazy’, it all began to go horribly wrong …

  6. 31
    Billy Smart on 17 May 2009 #

    Re #29 – “Some input from Paul Gambaccini in plugging the record” – He was Limahl’s boyfriend.

  7. 32
    will on 17 May 2009 #

    Re 20: Yes, this record for me was the straw that broke the new pop camel. Everything about this band, from the name to Nick Beggs´ ridiculous haircut was quite simply a step too far. It was at this point I started my retreat from pop into the world of indie and Late Night Radio One.

  8. 33
    lonepilgrim on 17 May 2009 #

    #32 The world of pop and Late Night Radio One were not so far apart – John Peel had played this band’s single when the were Art Nouveau and he would go on to play a number of acts that subsequently did well in the pop charts. Stock, Aitken and Waterman released several of their hits on their indie label PWL.

  9. 34
    Tom on 17 May 2009 #

    Well to be fair – as we’ll discuss in due time I’m sure – the main impact of PWL on ‘the world of late night radio one’ was to cause a massive bout of soul-searching over the definition of “indie”.

  10. 35

    my occasional colleague the enormously amiable and nearly-always-wrong* david stubbs has just stolen a march on me** with a book titled “fear of music“: he’s written (acc.the blurb, i haven;t seen the book yet) about the contrast between how comfy visual art modernism seems to leave the middlebrow audience, when contrasted with the allergy, by and large, to screechy modernist music — my line would have be been MUCH more on the lines of a pervasive “fear of silliness”… the music that actually puts the wind up serious-young-men-in-grey*** is NOT earnestly horrible-noisy stuff (cf peel etc) but the twittering ghosts of their own goofy bubblegum fandoms when they were younger (they’re frightened of being seen as not as robustly grown-up as they wish to be seen)

    *pro forma declaration of professional rivalry
    **ie he stole this title before *i* got round to stealing it, tho i’ve had my eye on it for YEARS, bah grrr
    ***reader yes i was one of these young grey men once also sorta kinda — in a sense i think the problem with New Pop is that it ended up formalising silliness as a genre and a taste; provides it with a resumé of justifications which defangs exactly the thing that’s good about it

  11. 36
    ace inhibitor on 18 May 2009 #

    occasionally my 1st response to a no.1 is ‘nobody’s got anything to say about this, surely?’ but that just highlights my own poverty of imagination. I particularly enjoyed (re#6) the notion of Under Pressure – with Mercury and Bowie on vocals – being released anonymously, and (re#25) the mere, glorious existence of a band called ‘Pseudo Echo’. I had to wiki them to check you weren’t having me on, rory. possibly the greatest band name ever. (of course if they are some sort of spinal tap style pisstake and everyone else kno that I’m looking slightly foolish here)

  12. 37
    pinkchampale on 18 May 2009 #

    #28 yes, i prefer the verses too. (in my head at least) they’re not a million miles from avalon-era roxy music.

  13. 38
    lonepilgrim on 18 May 2009 #

    #35 I agree about the fear of silliness – I haven’t read the book either so i may be echoing some of the author’s argument (or not) but the investment of time and thought required by (superficially) looking at art is far less than that demanded by having to pay a large amount of money to listen to challenging music in a concert hall. Audiences can saunter around Tate Modern (for example) for nothing, making comments that are either banal, informed, critical or appreciative while feeling slightly smug for being so ‘engaged’ with contemporary culture.

  14. 39
    Kat but logged out innit on 18 May 2009 #

    Kajagoogoo are one of those bands that were it not for Hits!TV and my chum Kirst’s 80s revival compilations I would never have recognised one of their songs. I would have recognised the name of course, because they were always one of the options on the Teletext Bamboozle quiz thing along with ABC and Haircut 100. I assumed they all sounded exactly the same (you could tell which was the right answer by waiting for the counter to go round then pressing blue or green and seeing if the bits at the bottom went to 145E or 145F and so on).

    I met the drummer Jez a couple of years ago as I was hiring a soundsystem off him for my Dad’s 60th birthday party. Nice chap – he pointed at my (original vinyl!) copy of Now #1 and went “oooo I’m on that!”

  15. 40
    Taylor on 18 May 2009 #

    #39 – Ha, another who figured out how to beat Bamber! What cheats we are.

  16. 41
    Mark M on 18 May 2009 #

    Re 38: Don’t think the money argument stands up: you can listen to a performance of Schoenberg or Webern for nothing on Radio 3, while actual exhibitions at the Tate/Hayward/Barbican/RA can be fairly steep (a tenner for 45 minutes’ worth of culture.

  17. 42
    Rory on 18 May 2009 #

    ace inhibitor #36 – Oh, they were for real, all right. Lasted longer than Kajagoogoo, too: their biggest hit was a cover of “Funky Town” in 1987, which spent seven weeks at number one in Oz (and hit number 8 in the UK, apparently).

  18. 43
    mike on 19 May 2009 #

    Late to the party, so I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned the Duran connection. Kajagoogoo were first announced to the world as Nick Rhodes’ Great Discovery – Rhodes making what I think was his production debut with “Too Shy” – and so initial interest came from loyal Durannies, meaning that Kajagoogoo actually got to Number One ahead of… but, no, I fear I have said Too Much.

    (Incidentally, there’s another example of this sort of thing – member of successful boy group helps to launch second successful boy group – coming up in May 1999.)

    Chalk me up as another one who prefers the verse over the chorus (and the intro over the verse, for that matter). Yes, this did feel at the time as if New Pop had jumped the shark, but “Too Shy” has worn surprisingly well. At the time, some of us were quite partial to the 12″ Construction Mix of its follow-up “Ooh To Be Ah”… but I’ve tracked it down on an MP3 blog and it’s actually not that special.

    Limahl had been working as a teeny-tiny-shorted busboy at the Embassy Club before fame (and The Great Gambo) came knocking, and I’d love to know more about the circumstances in which (as basically a pop tart bimbo on the make) he was parachuted into the studiously dull-and-worthy/jazz-funk-fusion/TSB Rock School/hi-fi-shop-demo-disc line-up of the pre-existing band. It was hardly surprising that the arranged marriage couldn’t last, but Kaja’s rise and fall was extraordinarily meteoric; the split with Limahl was deemed important enough by the readers of a German teenpop mag that I picked up the end of the year to be voted as their Biggest Musical Event of 1983, and yet three months later the band were dead in the water.

    I hold two things against them stylistically. Crime #1: that a whole generation of German teenagers followed their example and started wearing those AWFUL pastel blouson jackets. Crime #2: I had started dating a trainee hairdresser (my first ever proper boyfriend, as it happens), who thought it would be a great idea to turn me blonde. Little did I know that what he had in mind was… a “Limahl” hairdo. I nearly shrieked the house down when he showed me the mirror. (And a couple of weeks later, I dumped him. Some crimes cannot be forgiven.)

  19. 44
    Conrad on 19 May 2009 #

    “studiously dull-and-worthy/jazz-funk-fusion/TSB Rock School/hi-fi-shop-demo-disc line-up”

    That’s a great description. Do you think Limahl had anything to do with song titles like Ergonomics?!

    re Duran, I think DD’s first producer, Colin Thurston, co-produced with Nick Rhodes, so I imagine he did most of the knob twiddling, although Rhodes has gone on to produce one or two other acts (well, Dandy Warhols anyway) and the Devils album with Stephen Duffy, which I rather hoped would form the template for re-formed 2000s Duran.

  20. 45
    Brian on 19 May 2009 #

    First I had heard of them but these guys popped this long weekend past on this show :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Greatest_One_Hit_Wonders_of_the_80s

    Brian of Canada

  21. 46
    peter goodlaws on 20 May 2009 #

    One for the girlies, this one, I always thought. Thus it doesn’t register on my radar at all. The only interest for me is discovering for the first time that Kajagoogoo are apparently the sons of Duran Duran in the same way that Badfinger were the offspring of the Beatles. Needless to say the consequent suicide of the latter mentioned’s two principal members in two separate incidents was not replicated by those of the former, although since we learn that Kajagoogoo have inexplicably reformed, there is still time.

  22. 47
    Matthew H on 20 May 2009 #

    Kajagoogoo records I have owned (and still do): Too Shy, Ooh To Be Ah, Big Apple, Turn Your Back On Me, and the White Feathers album. I reckon these slabs of vinyl are the longest-dormant in my collection.

    Came back from a fortnight’s holiday in summer ’83 and bumped into my friend Steve in town. “Kajagoogoo have split up!” was the first thing he said to me. (We were 11, this was important stuff).

  23. 48
    Billy Smart on 20 May 2009 #

    Light entertainment watch: A few appearances for a group with such a short lifespan;

    C.B.T.V.: Kajagoogoo Special (1983)

    THE MAIN ATTRACTION: with Paul Daniels, Tessie O’Shea, Kajagoogoo, Les Dennis, Dustin Gee, Max Wall, The Shadows (1983)

    THE MONTREUX GOLDEN ROSE POP FESTIVAL: with Adam Ant, Bananarama, Roger Daltrey, Thomas Dolby, The Dolly Dots, Duran Duran, Kajagoogoo, Cyndi Lauper, Nena, Queen (1984)

    THE OXFORD ROAD SHOW: with Kajagoogoo, The Undertones, Vitamin Z (1983)

    THE ROCK GOSPEL SHOW: with Sheila Walsh, Jessy Dixon, Kajagoogoo, Calvery Church Of God In Christ Choir (1984)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates (Host, Except Number 11), Martin Rushent, Jimmy Gaynor, Fatal Charm, No’s 28, Campfabulous, Kajagoogoo (1983)

  24. 49
    misschillydisco on 27 May 2009 #

    i used to be quite embarrassed that i liked this lot. however, i’m over that now. this is like a bag of candyfloss – light, fluffy, fun. the chorus is a total ear worm, in fact i think i’m going to be humming it for the remainder of 2009.

  25. 50
    garax on 11 Feb 2010 #

    Great production though – you have to give it that – it just sounds so damn lush it shimmers.

  26. 51
    Brooksie on 1 Mar 2010 #

    I like this song a lot. Shame they didn’t really do anything else as good (although I actually like ‘Big Apple’ too). Limahl is more famous for ‘The Neverending Story’ than anything else.

    Kajagoogoo always seemed to me to be something like a German band trying to be Duran Duran. The only thing missing was an accent. They’re like the guys in ‘Nena’. If you’d told me in ’83 they were from Europe, I would’ve bought it completely. There was just something about them musically and looks-wise, that was just a bit… off.

  27. 52
    rosie on 2 Mar 2010 #

    Brooksie @ 51: But they were from Europe.

  28. 53
    Brooksie on 19 Sep 2012 #

    rosie @ 52: But they were from Europe.

    Yes, but not continental Europe, which up to and including most of the 80’s had a very noticeable and slightly goofy fashion lag, which was my point. Naff, would probably be the word of the time.

  29. 54
    Cumbrian on 13 Feb 2013 #

    This might interest some here. On the 30th anniversary of publication, this guy is uploading an edition of Smash Hits to his blog and flickr.

    http://www.likepunkneverhappened.blogspot.co.uk/

    Apologies if you either a) already know about this or b) it has already been linked somewhere around these parts.

    This one has Neil Tennant writing about Aztec Camera if that’s your sort of thing.

  30. 55
    punctum on 14 Feb 2013 #

    “Ooh To Be Ah.” What a bloody weird record to make the top ten, when you think about it.

  31. 56
    Mark G on 14 Feb 2013 #

    Shame it didn’t get to number one, it could have been the ‘Baby Jump’ of the eighties..

  32. 57
    DanH on 4 Aug 2013 #

    This made #5 here in the U.S. I wasn’t around then, but I’m guessing it was an MTV-boom thing, since Duran Duran opened the floodgates for groups like these guys to chart high here.

  33. 58
    Mark M on 4 Aug 2013 #

    Re 57: Very much so – I remember it being almost constantly on MTV at the time.

  34. 59
    hectorthebat on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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