Limahl, an anagram of Chris Hamill’s surname, has the rare distinction in the U.S. as a two-time one-hit wonder, first with Kajagoogoo’s “Too Shy” in 1983 and his solo hit “Never Ending Story” in 1985, which we discuss along with more of his music.
GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine. The weekend after my daughter Brianna was born in 1983, I recorded Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 show and a song you co-wrote debuted at No. 30, “Too Shy” from your Kajagoogoo days. It would ultimately reach No. 5 here in America.
LIMAHL: It was very exciting for me to hear our music on the radio. Before we signed with the EMI record company in 1982, we entered a radio competition in our little town of Leighton Buzzard, north of London. We all huddled around the radio when they played our demo of “White Feathers” on the air, which later became the title of our first album containing “Too Shy.” It was exciting for us. Even now if I hear “Too Shy” on the radio I get excited, because it was something that we created out of thin air, like being an inventor. You mentioned your child in our conversation. That’s really what a song is like, your child, and you hope for great things for it and are so proud of it.
GM: Then when Brianna was two years old, the fantasy film The NeverEnding Story was released, and you were back on in the U.S. Top 40 in 1985 with the title song from the movie. I often listened to that single with her and now it is a big hit again with her friends due to a recent resurgence through the Netflix series Stranger Things.
L: You can have all the right ingredients with a recording of a song but still need that little bit of luck or serendipity. I think “Never Ending Story” has had a bit of that. It was such a big hit around the world the first time and has continued to receive airplay and I know that because I have thankfully continued to receive its royalties for decades. With Stranger Things using it, I was surprised because “Never Ending Story” was not as big of a hit in America, where it reached No. 17. In the rest of the world, it hit No. 1 in five countries and in the Top 10 in thirteen countries. I am just so grateful that the people from Stranger Things decided to use it and give it renewed popularity. It obviously meant something to someone, like how Dolly Parton’s composition “I Will Always Love You” was used in the film The Bodyguard, sung by Whitney Houston. It was just one of Kevin Costner’s favorite songs, so he chose it for that film, and it became Whitney Houston’s biggest hit.
GM: Speaking about movie songs, your 1986 single “Love in Your Eyes” sounds like something which would have fit on John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles soundtrack.
L: It is kind of an undiscovered song. The Colour All My Days album, produced by Giorgio Moroder, didn’t do as well as we hoped. It was a natural choice to do a full album with him after the success with the “Never Ending Story” single. There were changes at the record company at the time, so it didn’t receive much promotion. I think there were some good tracks on that album. I would like to revisit some of my old songs from my catalog. I have been talking with a producer about creating updated recordings. It would be a lot of fun. My voice and energy are different now and so is production. “Love in Your Eyes” could be one of the choices to feature as that is such a great song.
GM: I have listened to a lot of re-recordings during the pandemic with new acoustic versions to full orchestral interpretations of songs and it has enabled some artists to give some of their lesser known material a second chance.
L: A lot of people are doing that, aren’t they? Perhaps at some point I will receive an invitation to do orchestral versions of my pop hits. I did a television show in Poland and that is exactly what they did. They took all these pop acts and had an orchestra night at an anniversary of a famous venue. There are no prizes for guessing what two songs they chose for me to perform. It was, of course, “Too Shy” and “Never Ending Story.” Bonnie Tyler was there too, singing “Total Eclipse of The Heart” with the orchestra. Without those songs the doors just don’t open for you, and when they do, it is great to be able to do a longer set to introduce the audience to more of your music.
GM: Another one of your other songs that I enjoy is “Love Will Tear the Soul,” the flip side of “Love in Your Eyes.” It has a steady tempo and a wonderful saxophone accent as part of Giorgio’s production.
L: That is another strong song. It was such a thrill to work with Giorgio in Munich. He sent me some of the tracks and I had put down melodies and lyrics in my head, on paper and on demo recordings. When I arrived in Germany, we sifted through what we liked and didn’t like, and made additions and changes. It was a very special time. I was young, just a kid from a poor background. My family had no money, and I had the world at my fingertips. Miraculously, I made something for myself. I am very proud of that. It has given me a great journey, which I am still on.
Flip side: Love Will Tear the Soul
A side: Love in Your Eyes
U.K. debut: May 1986
Peak position: No. 80
GM: You certainly are. Your single “Still in Love” was in my Fabulous Songs of 2020 list. The 3/4 time number is moody and atmospheric. I hope it received airplay in the U.K.
L: Well, we have a big problem with mainstream radio in the U.K., with a target audience of 35 and under for the advertisers. BBC has Radio One for the young people and when you get a bit older, you move on to Radio Two, who play heritage acts and older hits, but now there are a lot of younger artists creeping into Radio Two where it is becoming like “Radio One-and-a-half” which squeezes out exposure for older artists with new music. There is a newer radio station called United DJs, staffed with old pros, and they played “Still in Love” and the response was great. People have gone bonkers when they have discovered it and it still has a slow build in popularity. I continue to have high hopes for it. Maybe this one will be used in a movie or television show someday. I co-wrote the song with Miro Markus from Germany who sent me the verse as an instrumental and I was immediately pulled into the atmosphere. You can be an amazing musician but if you don’t have the imagination and creativity, you will not be a songwriter. I’m not an amazing musician, but fortunately I have the other skills, or at least I think I have. Lyrics and melodies just come naturally to me.
GM: Plus, you certainly still sing so well. You have redone your song “London for Christmas” now as “One Wish for Christmas,” which we will get on the radio as part of a “12 Songs of Christmas” special. It is a very pretty song.
L: That makes me smile. It has been a lifelong goal to pen a great Christmas song. Every Christmas I hear these beautiful Christmas songs. I have a few favorites like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “White Christmas.” I also have always wanted to write a song about London because I love it. I have lived in London for forty years. I was introduced to a pianist and singer at The Savoy, a famous hotel in London, Jon Nickoll. He lived quite close to me and we got together in a summer a few years ago and wrote a Christmas song in July. He plays all the standards so I thought that working with him might be a very interesting starting point for the style that I wanted. The verse came first, and we combined the idea of a Christmas song and London. Songwriters are like people on the beach with metal detectors digging around for treasures. I always wanted to create a new holiday standard. We were able to tap into lyrics not used elsewhere. The new updated recording as “One Wish for Christmas” has extra vocals, percussion, drums and guitar, which were not on the original recording a few years back. With a Christmas song, it has a new validity each season, which is so exciting.
GM: Our family has many favorite Christmas songs and favorite musicals including one you that have been in, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
L: That is where I started. I met a female singer when I was eighteen and had just moved to London. She introduced me to a theater agent. I had never been to a theater, as there were none in my small hometown. My parents didn’t go to the theater. No one who I knew went to live theater performances. The agent offered me a part in a Christmas show as a chorus boy and I danced a bit, too. It got me my equity card, which allows you to be part of the actor’s union and perform on stage. Following that I got cast in a tour of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat playing Benjamin, the youngest brother, because I looked so young, and did it again in Plymouth, in the south of the U.K., for three months. It is a difficult show, because even if you don’t have a lead part, all the brothers sing in almost every song. The choral work and the discipline to sing eight shows a week was a great way to learn my vocal instrument, and what upsets it and what is OK. I got so used to performing in front of other people that it helped later on to build my confidence with Kajagoogoo and beyond, including what I do today. Thank you for getting “One Wish for Christmas” on the radio this season. I think the lyrics have even more social relevance today and are even more poignant because it highlights all the things people have missed during the pandemic like going to the theater or a boat trip on the Thames, so the value of those moments we took granted have gone up immensely. Thank you and Goldmine for helping me spread the word about my music. This is great! All the best to you, your family and your readers.
Hear Limahl’s “One Wish for Christmas” on “12 Songs of Christmas” Saturday, December 18 from 8-10 a.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time as part of Moments to Remember on wvcr.com or on iHeart.com (search for WVCR). “December is that time of year when memories become souvenirs” - Limahl, from "One Wish for Christmas"