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Nick Beggs Kajagoogoo

 

 

 

Digger talks to Nick Beggs, founder of Kajagoogoo, the band who hit the dizzy heights in 1983 with their synth pop with hits like 'Too Shy'. What has Nick got to do with Spandau Ballet's saxophonist Steve Norman's bottom? Are dwarves safe when Nick is around? Who is this John Lemon chap who keeps getting inside Nick's head and filling it with songs? Why is Digger on Nick's hit-list and what is Nick's reaction to Digger's incessant, continuous, relentless, never-ending and remorseless interrogation? Some answers to some of these questions can be found somewhere within the following article. Read on, if you dare. 


 

 



Nick Beggs


The early 80s; The Falklands War between Britain and Argentina, sixties British musician Billy Fury and seventies American musician Karen Carpenter both die tragically young, America is under the reigns of Ronald Regan with his 'special relationship' with Britain's 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher. The first case of AIDS is diagnosed in Australia, The Jam split up and Henry VIII's flagship The Mary Rose is lifted from the deep after hundreds of years. The Internet is but a dream, mobile phones are anything but mobile and the size and weight of a housebrick. Punk is on the wane and the New Romantics have been in the ascendant. Culture Club, The Police, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran top the charts. Electro-pop rules......

 

Leighton Buzzard 


Leighton Buzzard is a pretty market town nestling in the Chiltern hills. The town centre is relatively unspoilt and contains some fine examples of architecture from previous centuries, and, at Christmastime is a picture reminiscent of something from Dickens. Four friends, Nick Beggs, Steve Askew, Stuart Neale and Jez Strode, grow up and form a band together in this unremarkable but pleasant town and call themselves 'Art Nouveau'. They play the local circuit for a couple of years. As many bands have done before, they advertise for a singer in Melody Maker and attract ex-actor and solo performer, the anagrammatically-renamed and exotically titled Limahl (formerly Chris Hamill). The new line-up secures a gig at the prestigious Embassy Club in London. They get attention from several record companies and manage to land a contract with the mighty EMI. The renamed Kajagoogoo, under the production skills of Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, hit immediate, immense and international success with their first self-penned single 'Too Shy' which goes to Number One and within 24 hours propels the members of the band into pop star status in Britain, Europe and Japan and with a top five place in the charts in America.

Every pop and teen magazine cover features the band. Merchandise - such as stickers, patches, badges, souvenir books and picture discs proliferate.

 

    

Kajagoogoo on the cover of a teen mag in 1983

 

Limahl becomes a teen heart-throb, Nick Beggs, with his foppish hairstyles and dangly beady earrings, becomes something of a trademark.

But unlike many other pop and teen bands, this band write their own material and the band are now riding, rather uncomfortably perhaps, the wave of the relentless pop publicity machine. Two further singles chart in the mid-teens in Britain - 'Ooh to Be Ah’ and ‘Hang on Now’, but the cracks are already starting to appear. The four original members of the band and Limahl reveal tensions and the classic 'musical differences' - he wants to pursue the pop line and the rest of the band want to move on musically and 'grow up with their audience'. Probably more likely was the fact that their arguments were based on financial remuneration and recognition for the songwriting. In any event the sparks start to fly. The inevitable acrimonious split occurred and by 1984 Limahl was gone, banished to a solo career once more, and Nick Beggs returned to the lead singer position. The band continues, renamed as 'Kaja' in an attempt almost to herald the new direction of the band. The band are pleased with the resultant album 'Islands' and it gains a lot of plaudits and admiration from the fans. The band continued until 1985 with an attempt to infiltrate further the American market but it seems that 'synth pop', as it had been labelled, has had its day.........

In 2003 the band were reunited for a music TV programme and, amazingly, all five original members agreed to meet-up twenty years on and to bury their differences. The now more mature members of the band show great strength of character with their openness to meet-up and discuss, to hug and cry over lost relationships and opportunities. But this reconciliation is short-lived - offers for new tours and work come in, but major differences in approach and aims still exist and a permanent reunion is unlikely. 

These days, Nick, Steve and Stuart are still as close as ever and continue to fly the Kajagoogoo flag and to work together. Nick very kindly agreed to answer some questions for www.retrosellers.com

 




Digger:  Who were your musical influences?

Nick: My earliest influences were YES and any of the progressive rock bands of the 70s. In my opinion, they are still the most important musical movement ever.


Digger:  If you could create a supergroup of musicians, living or dead, from America and Britain, who would be in it and why?

Nick: I'd have Jaco Pastorious on wash board. Chris Squire on swanie whistle. Pat Metheny on stylophone. Chester Thompson on spoons. Keith Emerson on hair and make up.

Digger:  What albums are you listening to at the moment?

Nick: The new Daft punk album 'Human after all.' Everything by Imogen Heap. And John Mayer.

Digger:  Who are your favourite songwriters?

Nick: Imogen Heap. Bono. Oh and Nik Kershaw is writing the best stuff he's ever done right now.


Digger:  Being very young at the time, how did you cope with being recognised everywhere you went and with the incessant publicity in the early 80s?

Nick: I ran very fast. No one could ever catch up with my spindly legs. I can even out run the tax office officials.


Digger:  How have you and the guys changed in the last 25 years?

Nick: Well, we all have more grey hair but at least we have hair. I'm certainly more laid back than I was. And Stuart is more wealthy than he's even been due to his hard work. As for Steve. He underwent a full sex change and likes to be referred to as Stephanie now.

Digger:  Where did the name Kajagoogoo come from?

Nick: From the depths of my twisted mind.

Digger:  When composing, how does it work for you? Is there a light bulb in your head? Do the words come first? Or the title? Or the subject? Or the melody? Do you have to work hard at it? Be in the right mood? In the right environment? Or do songs come form anywhere at any time in many ways?

Nick: Inspiration is very hard to find it's true, so I've resorted to ripping off other peoples' ideas. Also for extra lyrical depth I've been taking the help of an ancient spirit guide named John Lemon. Through various séances John has imparted a plethora of songs into my subconsciousness. As for what comes first really depends on Johns' frame of mind at the time. At the moment I'm working on a new tune called Captain Paprickas' dispossessed primary aortic valve club group.

Digger:  What are your happiest memories from the early eighties?

 

Kajagoogoo still on the cover of a teen mag in 1983

 



Nick: Well eating Boy George's' eye liner pencil ranks quite high in the happy memory ratings. And then there's the time that Spandau Ballet and I had tattoos done. Did you know that Steve Norman had my face on his arse?

Digger:  Do you have any regrets regarding Kajagoogoo and their huge short-term success compared to their enduring success with the die-hard and new fans?

Nick: I never regret anything other than being born.


Digger: With touring and performing, recording and writing, how do you juggle the different disciplines?

Nick: Mainly drugs. Oh and group sex. I find dwarves most accommodating and highly agreeable before a taxing schedule. It seems to give me the focus I need.

Digger:  What are the highlights and low-lights of touring for you?

Nick: Well? It's quite hard to find dwarves. But the sex and drugs are ten a penny.

Digger:  Are there regional and country variations in your reception?

Nick: Yes. But swearing seems to be pretty much the same the world over.

 
Digger: Do you tailor your act for America or Europe or Japan?

Nick: I have no dressmaking experience. Though my father once starched his hat.

Digger:  How would you describe your friendship and musical alliances with the other members of the band?

Nick: Well Steve farts a lot and Stuart has a big nose............... Quite close really.

Digger:  How do your wife and children deal with you and your musical profile?

Nick: The counseling bills are quite high. But I feel it's all worth it now we've managed to stop the boys setting fire to their hair at bed time.

Digger:  What do you consider your biggest achievements and what would you still like to accomplish?

Nick: Honestly speaking just having two sons who don't set their hair a light last thing at night would be a personal triumph.


Digger:  How do you consider the state of British music today when compared to the sixties and seventies and eighties?

Nick: The 60s was about self awareness, breaking wind and flowers. The 70s were about drugs, sex and accessorising. The 80s were about hair and synthesizers. And that's about it really. I hope I didn't leave anything out.

Digger: Do you think technology and computers help or stifle musical creativity and ability?

Nick: They are an amazing help. But the secret is to remember to turn them on.

Digger:  Who are your favourite musicians?

Nick: Ronald Regan did a great album during his time as president. But by far my favourite coupling was the Thatcher/Regan Box Set album. I think it sums up the spirit of the 80s as only a box set album can do.

 

Kajagoogoo - Nick, Stuart, Jez, Limahl and Steve

 

 

Digger:  Who have been your biggest inspirations in life? Your heroes and heroines in any walk of life.

Nick: Oh the endless questions! Will they never end? They hem me in like the voices in my head. What must I do to be free of the endless questions?

Digger:  What makes you laugh, what makes you sad and what makes you angry?

Nick: There you go again! Don't you think I've had enough of the puerile twoddle? No one ever asks me questions about things I'm interested in. I'm a sexual pervert with an I.Q. of a million and you want to know what makes me angry? Ok! OOk! I'll play it your way. When my wife says, " No sex tonight. That makes me really angry! I'm still angry. I can feel the anger coursing through my......!"

Digger:  If you hadn't been a musician, what would you have been?

Nick: A Gynecologist! Or a Minister. I've always felt a great kindredness to both professions. They are not as different as you might think my son.

Digger:  Do you consider yourself nostalgic or do you usually look ahead?

Nick: No! And only when I'm driving!

Digger:  Do youngsters often come to your gigs and approach you, knowledgeable and appreciative
of your work?

Nick: Yes but that doesn't make me a bad person!


Digger:  Steve Priest of Sweet, Dave Hill of Slade, Rob Davis of Mud all wore outrageous clothes and jewellery.
Were any, or all, of these responsible for influencing your showy image in the band?

Nick: I hold everyone personally accountable for my life and you have just been added to the top of the list.

Digger:  What are your current projects and what do you have lined-up for the future?

Nick: I'm working on a model of all 5 members of Kajagoogoo, made out of match sticks. Once all the gluing is complete I'll move onto the sanding and then the painting. Would you like to see it? You seem to understand.

Digger:  Please choose ten words or short phrases to describe yourself.

Nick: Trowel, acquiescent, Tintagel, Velociraptor. I'm a good little doggie! Woof! Woof! x


 

 
 

Nick in quiet, thoughtful mood

 

 

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I would like to thank Nick for his time and cooperation with this interview. For more information on Nick and his work, please visit:

www.nickbeggs.co.uk

www.kajagoogoo.com

 

 


Nick Beggs.

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