An Art Nouveau Interview with Bob Brown from Angel Cards
Back to the Beginning with Art Nouveau – an interview with Bob Brown.
Bob Brown is a retired printer and former manager of the Angel Card factory in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
He gave a group of local lads and their band ‘Art Nouveau’ their first rehearsal space – and along the way helped create Kajagoogoo.
KajaFax caught up with Mr Brown to find out more.
So Mr Brown, how did you first meet the guys?
Jez Strode, who was the drummer, worked for me as a driver. He was a quiet, reliable lad who’d been with the company for a couple of years when he asked if his band – which was then called Art Nouveau – could use our place for rehearsals. He explained that they’d been playing in his Dad’s garage, which they had tried to soundproof with egg boxes! That hadn’t been very successful and there were complaints from the neighbours.
That must have been an unusual request. Were you OK with that?
Yes. I said that would be fine and even offered them use of a company van to drive their equipment to gigs. I used to let the lads practise at the factory I managed, out of hours when the place was empty. I suppose it could have been seen as a bit of a risk to let four kids loose in a deserted factory, but I’ve always felt you should trust your instincts with people, and Jez struck me as someone who wouldn’t let you down…and I was right. They always left the place tidy and locked up properly – you wouldn’t have known they’d been in.
So, at that time, how did you actually rate the band?
Well, I would hear them rehearse if I was working weekends, but I can’t say I noticed any signs of star quality…though to be fair, I was in my early forties at the time so not really part of their target audience!
What was the turning point as you saw it? What changes did you see from those early ‘Art Nouveau’ days?
I guess it was around 1981 really. This lad they called ‘Limahl’ came down from Wigan to an audition at the factory. His hair was dyed in black and white layers and he was wearing face paint, which would have looked quite unusual in Leighton Buzzard at the time.
They took him on as their singer and changed their name to Kajagoogoo.
What changes did Limahl bring to the line-up?
I’d only ever seen them in jeans and baggy jumpers, but Limahl had obviously given them all some fashion lessons. They looked very different from how I’d always seen them before! It was about then that they decided to move down to London and really try to make a go of the band.
I wished them all the best but was sorry to see Jez go as he’d always been very strong and such a good worker.
How did it feel when you first realised that they had made the big time?
I’d initially helped them out because I think you should always give young people a chance to achieve their ambitions, but to be honest I’d never thought it would go much beyond playing local clubs and bars. When my wife and I first saw Kajagoogoo on Top of the Pops in 1983 playing their number one single ‘Too Shy’, I was gobsmacked. I was delighted to see they’d done so well.
As things turned out, I really admire the way they made something of themselves. And I’m very pleased that I played a small part in it.
Here is a clip of one of those Art Nouveau rehearsal sessions in that very factory, uploaded for us by Kajagoogoo’s very own Jez Strode: