I first interviewed Limahl in the '80s, at the height of
Kajagoogoo mania (see those interviews on the Dark Neon site
- here and here).
When I caught up with him recently I decided to probe into a few of
his inner secrets - starting with his little known high-spending casino
addiction, as Limahl exclusively tells The 80s Empire about...
Champagne Lifestyle Gambling Hell!"
Huw: When I interviewed you before (quite a few years ago!) you told me
that you used to gamble at casinos. What was your biggest win? And your biggest
Limahl: Ah… an interesting first question, Huw...
Actually I've hardly visited a casino in the last 15 years except on the
rare occasion with my mum when she visits me in London from Wigan. In
the old days I think I was fooled or lured by their glitz and glamour and
got sucked in by it - until I finally realised they were also sucking
the money out of my bank account!
They would offer me (and as many friends as I liked) free meals in their
stunning restaurants with five star service and exquisite menus by
top chefs - but nothing in Casinos is really 'for free' and neither were
those meals baby!
Amazingly and embarrassingly my biggest win was during a long night in 1987
at Atlantic City Gambling resort (about two hours south of Manhattan). I
was playing three different boxes on Blackjack (a sort of pontoon card game)
with a $500 bet in each box. Basically I got a very lucky streak and over
a few hours I slowly notched up a twenty five thousand dollar win! My friends
who were their with me would periodically come over to my table in the exclusive
'High Rollers' section and see my pile of casino chips gradually increasing
Looking back I don't even know how it really happened but at fifteen hundred
dollars per game I suppose 25k can easily accrue. In American casinos you're
also allowed to drink at the tables and guess what - surprise, surprise!
- they're free too (or are they ?). So my heart was pounding, the adrenalin
was flowing and so were the drinks hey, hey! The thrill was awesome and I
can totally understand how people can become addicted to gambling. It's a
dangerous game but of course that's half the fun.
Eventually I decided to cash in my chips and go to eat with my friends before
taking the helicopter shuttle back to Manhattan. Unbeknown to me, the casino
inspectors and management were watching my every move, discreetly talking
on telephones behind the dealers and eavesdropping on my conversation about
our plans for the evening (I later learned this is standard practice for
big winners) and they had already dispatched the most charming member of
their PR team to "extend to me and my friends their warmest courtesy" i.e.
a top suite for the night, food in their exclusive, renowned, 'gourmet' restaurant
including champagne, tickets for the show etc., etc., all "on the house".
I was feeling so high from the whole experience and I didn't really have
a deadline to get back to Manhattan so I said “what the hell” and
hence… fell right into their trap.
|"I checked into the fabulous
top suite, enjoyed the luxury spa/jacuzzi (and sipped champagne I might
add), ate at the
restaurant, watched the cabaret show then, like an idiot, instead
of just going to bed, I went back to the gambling tables..."
Little did I know, all they wanted was their money back. That was their
sole aim. They figure, if they can just keep you on the premises you’re
more likely to gamble and, if you gamble, the odds are in the casino’s
favour and they might get back their money – hell that’s why
they’re so successful.
So here comes the embarrassing bit… I stayed, checked into the fabulous
top suite, enjoyed the luxury spa/jacuzzi (and sipped champagne I might
add – well
you gotta do it once ain’t ya), ate at the restaurant, watched the
cabaret show then, like an idiot, instead of just going to bed, I went
back to the gambling tables and slowly but surely they ground me down until
about 4am they had it all back. Ouch! I’m feeling the pain just reciting
I have since seen on TV documentaries that casinos have some of their own
specially trained dealers with very quick sleight of hand. Looking back,
I can now remember being amazed at how many ‘Blackjacks’ and
aces the dealer was pulling. It was late, I was drunk and tired and no one
was around to witness. In retrospect I think they cleaned me out!
So to answer your question: I had one big win and one big loss all in the
self same evening. Talk about intense - I don’t think my heart could
take that now.
Huw: What’s the biggest gamble you’ve ever taken in your career?
And did it pay off?
Limahl: I remember after the phenomenal worldwide success of ‘The
Neverending Story’ (Number 1 in seventeen countries) produced by Giorgio
Moroder I requested that the next album ‘Colour
All My Days’ would
at least include two self, co-produced tracks. I had co-written a great little
soul song called ‘Nothing On Earth’ in Los Angeles with Billy
Griffin (ex lead singer of Motown group The Miracles after Smokey Robinson
went solo – he also wrote and sang lead vocals on that awesome 1983
pop/soul classic ‘Hold me tighter in the rain’ which I adore).
I think it was a small gamble but I really wanted to take steps into the
world of music production. I’m still proud of those two self/co-produced
songs on the album. Both tracks were co-produced with the then Los Angeles-based
and fairly unknown producer/engineer Derek Nakamoto. The other song in question
was ‘Tonight Will Be The Night’.
So did it pay off? Well it did on a personal/professional level but commercially
the album wasn’t a big success. But it’s not always about sales,
is it? I still enjoy them very much when I listen to them.
win a million in Vegas! …run
naked through Buckingham Palace. Meet God..."
Huw: What is your greatest unfulfilled ambition in music? Do you think you
will ever achieve it?
Limahl: Hmm… not really sure, I try not to aim to high these days
then I won’t have the big emotional disappointment when or if it’s
not achieved. I’d still love to play the role of ‘Che’ in
the musical ‘Evita’. It was one of the first theatre shows I
saw in London when I was a wee wannabe from Wigan. I was completely enraptured
by the story of the legend that was or is Eva Peron. The Andrew Lloyd Webber
and Tim Rice music and lyrics were so perfect – coupled with an awesome
stage production and choreography.
Somehow it really touched me and of course it was the mainstream launch
of our fabulous first lady of theatre, Elaine Paige (I’m still a fan
to this day). What a voice! I’m a bit of a theatre junkie really -
can’t get enough. It’s one of the reasons I love London – I’m
a true ‘culture vulture’- gimme, gimme, gimme more theatre, museums,
history, arts, architecture…
Huw: And what about ambitions outside of music? What’s the one thing
above all others that you would really like to do?
Limahl: Ooh, win a million in Vegas! Dunno… run
naked through Buckingham Palace. Meet God – now that would be
God – nice to meet you. Now tell me, what the fuck is it all about,
Huw: In the ‘80s, a lot of groups put a big emphasis on a glamorous
lifestyle – everything from Steve Strange’s tailored suits to
Duran Duran’s videos in exotic locations. What kind of lifestyle did
you lead back then? Was it all Champagne and caviar? Or just Guinness and
Limahl: Are you kidding! I loved the whole glamour thing – and
still do. Come on, look at those early Limahl images. I think the whole New
Wave/New Romantic movement was the antithesis to a nasty punk era with its
spitting, swearing and general anarchy.
Although, to be fair, punk played its role in the great scheme of things
- we couldn’t have got to where we were musically and fashion-wise
without it. Every generation is influenced socially, musically and politically
by the latest technology. Look how computers and mobiles have influenced
this generation. And, back then, synthesisers were the new toys on the block
- and boy what fun we had playing with ‘em and inventing whole new
sounds. Really, it was a privilege - “Ooh what does this button do?
Wow, listen to that!”.
But, to come back to your question, I think it was glamour in a creative,
working environment. I don’t think we lived our real lives like we
appeared in our pop videos or on Top Of The Pops. For me it was probably
a little of both - Guinness and Champagne (I don’t eat caviar – although,
to be fair, I’ve never tried it).
This for me is the key to survival. I’ve seen people believe their
own hype or just feel they’re indestructible (to coin that lovely word
used in Spandau’s song ‘Gold’) and they’re no longer
with us – so you gotta get the balance right. Life, sadly, cannot
be all party, party, party! Besides, isn’t Guinness fattening?
Huw: You must have travelled a great deal in your career. What are the best
and worst things about travel?
Limahl: I hate flying especially since the ‘you know
what’ event – a
few years ago. But I decided that if I let the fear of flying get a
grip I’ll never go anywhere so I just get on with. These days travelling
is not exclusively for the ‘jet set’ – anyone can get away
from it all on flights that cost a mere quid – hey, hey! I’m
still a sucker for a duty free bargain too. I definitely prefer the
short flights though and if that bloody turbulence begins I’m the first
one to skip a heartbeat. It’s all about handing control over to someone
else, innit – in this case the captain. I’m the worst though,
wondering if they’ve checked the breaks, wheels, fuel, etc. In the
mid '90s (pre 9/11) I took my mum and dad to the Canaries for two weeks
and we had a great holiday. On the way back into Heathrow the captain
said over the tannoy in his usual voice, “cabin crew- 10 minutes to
Then about thirty minutes later I lifted my head from the paper I was
reading and thought this is a long “10 minutes”.
Suddenly the captain came back on the tannoy and said the words that made
the plane so quiet you could hear a pin drop: “Ladies and gentlemen,
this is the captain, may I have your attention please. We have detected a
possible problem with the landing gear and we are not sure if it will function
properly. It was sticking but now it seems to be ok. However, as a precaution
I have alerted the airport’s emergency services who will be on standby
as we arrive. Do not be alarmed if you see their flashing lights”.
Well you can imagine the tension. I gulped and for a brief moment thought “Bloody
hell, is this it?”.
I didn’t wanna appear scared for mum and dad so I put on a brave face.
I could see dad was quite concerned but I guess he was putting on a brave
face for mum – you know the way you do - always thinking of your loved
ones. Needless to say the landing gear, thankfully, worked fine and I lived
to sing another day. But it was the longest thirty minutes I’ve ever
known and, of course, nowadays if the landing seems to take too bloody long,
I have to suppress the flashbacks (cue Imagination’s ‘80s classic ‘Flashback’…)
called my hotel room in Sydney, back in 1984, at 7.30am and woke
me up to threaten me - the silly sod!"
Huw: What about when you arrive for a live show? I mean, do things always
go smoothly? Or have there been one or two disasters over the years?
Limahl: Well as Joan Rivers would say “Can we talk”…
A couple of years ago I was scheduled to perform with my UK band at an ‘80s
pop festival near Hamburg, Germany. I couldn’t travel with the band
for some reason so I took a later flight for the first time with the company ‘Ryanair’.
I booked to travel to Hamburg on their website but failed to notice the small
letters next to it that said ‘Lubeck’ When I arrived at the
gate I asked if we were flying to Hamburg and was politely informed (in the
way only airline staff can) that it was approximately 80 kilometres north
of the city – which is a bit like calling Stanstead airport a ‘London
airport’ when it’s actually 75 friggin miles away!
Well, wouldn’t you just know it, the gig was 80 miles south of the
city and I was already late. The flight cost about forty quid but the taxi
for the 160 miles from north to south Hamburg was over a hundred pounds.
He drove like a formula one driver through the worst weather on those ‘ever-so-safe’ German
autobahns. Every man for himself on those things – no speed limits!
It was a really hot day and incredibly humid. Suddenly a storm began and
the screen wipers couldn’t wash off the rain quick enough from the
screen. The driver could hardly see but he wasn’t slowing down much
either. I was running up exorbitant mobile call costs trying to call the
gig and advise them what was happening. I couldn’t get through at first.
But when I eventually did they told me that it was a big line up of artists – all
planned and scheduled so if I missed my slot, we would not be able to perform
and thus not get paid. Great eh…?
I somehow arrived in one piece, bolted to the dressing room and put my suitcase
down when the stage manager knocked on the door and said “Funf minuten,
bitte” (Five minutes please). I was wet, exhausted, hungry and very
stressed. I got changed and was literally still getting dressed as we walked
to the stage.
But the story gets better. As the band played the first few bars of ‘Too
Shy’ suddenly there was the most enormous lightening bolt followed
immediately by a huge thunder clap (which meant we were right in the centre
of the storm) and without further ado the main PA blew a fuse while the heavens
above opened and it instantly resembled a tropical rain forest storm. The
audience had been given shelters at each side of the stage for weather cover
and they all dispersed like a sea opening in the middle. But wait, it gets
The rain was so intense, the stage roof (a canopy) had filled with so much
water that it started pouring off the front, coming down like a huge
waterfall - dropping right onto the electronics, at which point we
were told to stop performing – ‘health and safety and all that.
Gawd! It was like a Spielberg movie but in real life. Funnily enough, five
minutes later the sun came out, there were stunning rainbows everywhere
and we came back onstage and did a stonking show. So I ask you, who’s
job is safer, mine or a steeplejack’s? Ooh, show business – don’t
you just luuuurve it…
Huw: Sometimes it can be a bit of a shock to see how some ‘80s stars
haven’t exactly weathered the years too well. You obviously have done.
What’s your secret?
Limahl: Ha, not mentioning any names Marilyn… ooh,
bitchy moi! Well, he did once call my hotel room in Sydney, back
in 1984, at 7.30am and woke me up to threaten me - the silly sod.
A journalist had quoted me in an Australian tabloid as slagging him off
but it was bollocks. Actually I found Marilyn rather interesting but
I should have known summat was amiss when he walked straight past me at the ‘Top
Of The Pops’ studio with his head in the air – completely full
of himself. Oh well. C’est la vie…
I’d love to say my secret is ‘cosmetic surgery’ but I
believe a pop star must maintain a degree of mystery and allure, so I’m
saying nowt! I dunno, l’m a vegetarian – maybe that’s it!
Huw: Why do you think music from the ‘80s has such a lasting appeal – even
for people who weren’t even born at the time?
Limahl: More and more it seems we’re moving towards a monoculture
kinda world (great recent Soft Cell song by the way – ‘Monoculture’)
and I think there was real individuality – especially during the early ‘80s
before the conglomerates took more creative and musical control. Record companies
started being run by accountants, lawyers and the marketing teams. Interestingly
though, myspace.com, Ipods, downloading and do son are now handing back that
control to us artists again – hence the recent success of Arctic Monkeys, ‘Crazy’ by
Gnarls Barclay and ‘The JCB Song’ by Nizlopi.
I think those of us who grew up and bought our first records in the early ‘80s
have those unforgettable images indelibly printed in our minds: Phil
Oakey with his lop-sided hair, stilettos and red lipstick on TOTP. Or Marc
dramatic gestures and thick eye liner as he pouted his way through ‘Say
Hello, Wave Goodbye’ (love it) or, another favourite of mine,
Grace Jones singing those gender bending lyrics “Feeling like a woman,
looking like a man” – Hey, hey, and wasn’t - isn’t – it
fun! I suppose we’re biased but my best music memories are definitely
from this period.
Huw: How do you feel about being so strongly associated with the ‘80s
pop scene? Is that something you still enjoy or would you like to put that
all behind you?
Limahl: Well if it’s a problem it’s a good
problem to have – better
than no identity. The model, Twiggy, was a ‘60s icon as were the Beatles
and The Rolling Stones. The ‘70s icons are Olivia Newton John, The
Osmonds, David Cassidy, etc. If I’m associated strongly with the ‘80s
pop scene, I’m grateful – it keeps me working. I travel the world
performing at ‘80s nights, ‘80s weekenders, ‘80s Festivals,
`80s corporate events – ah yes, it’s a hard life but someone’s
gotta do it!
I do love what I do. People make a fuss but, to me, the real heroes are
the doctors and scientists, carers of the sick and inventors - things like
that. I will never put it all behind me even if I were ever lucky enough
to have a new hit single in the future – for example with my new song ‘Tell
me why’ (plug, plug). I would always have to sing the old songs and
it’s strange but no matter how many times I perform ‘Too
Shy’ or ‘The
Neverending Story’ I never get tired because when I see those smiling
faces coming back at me from the audience and I realize that I’m playing
my own little part in this great big plan. For just a little while, I help
people to have fun, smile and perhaps forget their problems, divorce, heartbreak,
mortgage worries, careers, etc. It’s a responsibility I both respect
Huw: If you were to compare life in the ‘80s with life now, what would
be the major differences that would strike you? Which things are better these
days and which things are worse?
Limahl: I would guess things are better all round now, more or less. I certainly
can’t imagine life without a computer or the internet – it’s
almost inconceivable. And what about mobile telephones? The other day I accidentally
left home without it and I felt cut off!
Technology is moving at an exciting rate, which I like. I love my gadgets,
Digital camera, Ipod, Digital Diary. Medicine too has made great strides
and this I’m sure helped to save my mother’s life when she suffered
heart problems in Las Vegas during our holiday there two years ago.
I suppose the big downer is terrorism – that’s the main negative
and we’ve got other problems to solve or to watch out for, like global
warming, recycling and the environment. But, in my opinion, we will
never have a perfect world – overall I think we have it good. Remember,
just a wee lad from up north (Wigan) and I remember all those council
houses pumping out smoke from their coal fires (my dad was a miner) in the
Even further back, I recall the toilet was actually outside at the
end of the yard so if you took short in the middle of the night, in the throes
of winter – well, you can just imagine. Thankfully these days we only
have to imagine it. No, life ain’t bad for this generation at all…
Huw: For a while I used to edit the letters page for Number One magazine.
Every Monday morning for weeks I’d get two sacks of letters on my desk – one
sack from Duran Duran fans saying (more or less) Duran are great; Kajagoogoo’s
crap; and another sack from Kajagoogoo fans saying exactly the opposite.
Were you aware of that rivalry? If so, I wonder if you were ever afraid of
getting cornered by a crowd of hostile Duran fans?
Limahl: No, I wasn’t aware of that – in fact,
Duran fans buy Kajagoogoo records because of the Nick Rhodes connection,
anyway? Sounds like typical school playground rivalry to me… eeh,
ya can’t please everyone I suppose.
|"I keep saying I’ll put it all in
a book one day because my journey certainly has been interesting,
to say the least. But if I write that book, it has to be ‘no
Huw: I don’t know what music journalists are like these days but when
I was in that business, some of us used to do all kinds of silly things.
As you probably know, I got a bit of a telling off from your record company
who thought that my
interview with you wasn’t anything like as serious
as it should have been.
Limahl: I never knew you were told off!
Huw: Well, maybe not ‘told off’...
just say that the press office were very ‘cold’ when they phoned
me up afterwards. But anyway, are there any interviews you did that
you still particularly remember for some reason?
Limahl: Well, I wouldn’t say it was silly but I do
remember one time – the
biggest selling weekly music magazine in Germany, Bravo, flew me to
the Austrian Alps to photograph me on the ski slopes – hey, hey – like
I said, it’s a hard job but someone’s gotta do it. It was the
first time I’d ever been to a ski resort and I was shocked. I associated
snow with cold and miserable conditions - like in the city when it
brings the transport to a halt or water pipes freeze and burst. But
here it was sunny and actually warm when you are wearing all the skiing clothes.
I instantly fell in love with the whole experience.
I’ve since been skiing many times and it’s probably my most
favourite holiday (that and cycling). To anyone who has never been I’d
say “try it”. It’s one of the ‘must-do’ things
in life. When you’re sharing company with the beautiful snow-covered
mountains and the sun is shining, it’s almost a spiritual experience.
There’s a real sense of awe and you feel humbled by the natural beauty
- a real connection with the earth’s ancestry, if you like. I highly
Huw: On the subject of interviews - are there any interview questions you’ve
ever refused to answer?
Huw: OK, so now’s your chance to
spill the beans! What was the question? And what would the answer have
been – if
you had answered it…?
Limahl: Hmm - nice try Huw…
Not really… I suppose it’s difficult to maintain a degree
of privacy with today’s information technology but I do prefer to avoid
questions about my private life. I believe I am an artist, musician,
singer/songwriter and my role is to entertain and perform. I don’t
wanna be defined in any single way. As human beings, I think we’re
far more complex and interesting than just a ‘label’ even though
the media (amongst others) does like pinning them on us. I have no
secrets from my family and friends and live my life openly and honestly.
proud of who I am as a person. I keep saying I’ll put it all in a book
one day because my journey certainly has been interesting, to say the
least. But if I write that book, it has to be ‘no holds barred’ otherwise
no point in writing it. So I keep asking myself – do I really want
to wash my laundry in public? Well, the jury’s still out… watch
Huw Collingbourne was speaking to Limahl - June 2006