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KajaFax Revisited: Kajagoogoo – The Paul Gambaccini Connection

February 23, 2013


Paul Gambaccini, The Great Gambo as he was later known, started broadcasting on BBC Radio 1 in 1973 as a music reporter.  By 1974, he got his first job as a presenter with the show ‘All American Heroes’, a series showcasing US talent.  By September 1975, Paul began the show he was to front for the next 11 years, highlighting the weeks’ US chart music.  He stayed at BBC Radio 1 for 15 years, presenting the US chart show, broadcast every Saturday Afternoon for much of that time


He is world renowned for his music and chart knowledge of both the USA and UK music industry, and in 1982 he helped launch the career of the UK pop group Kajagoogoo.  Gambaccini had championed the group from its earliest beginnings.  He recalls of those days:

“I was given a cassette of the strangely named quintet in May 1982 by a mutual friend in a club long after midnight”

What was the track? You would naturally assume it to be Too Shy, but it was something quite different, as Paul explains:

“There are times in my life when I get the feeling, a state of excitement and bliss so intense it possesses me………the feeling strikes instantly and without warning when I hear a song I love that I know is going to be a smash”

That song was Ooh to be Ah‘.

Having listened to the demo tape, Paul undertook a pilgrimage (of sorts) to a flat in Lancaster Gate, London, to meet the band.

Here is his account of that ‘pilgrimage’, as written by Gambaccini himself:

“I waited in the sitting room while the subject of my enthusiasm prepared himself for our meeting. What was he readying, I found myself wondering. A new hairstyle? A new surname? When he entered, I realised that I had made a false assumption. Customarily the lead singer of a group stands front row centre in any publicity picture. The man in the middle of the Kajagoogoo photo had been the tallest in the band. This one was the shortest. The tall one was drummer Jez Strode: Limahl was in contrast, well under six feet. It is very strange to talk face-to-face with a person one has never met and babble on about how wonderful something they have done is. Limahl graciously accepted my enthusiasm and then explained the history of the band….how after placing an advert in Melody Maker, he had auditioned for and joined a four piece band called Art Nouveau. He related how he had obtained his mysterious moniker by re-arranging the letters of his surname”

Following visits to Hammersmith to watch the band rehearse, Gambaccini tells of his memories of the first gig at the Embassy club, a clip from which can be viewed here:

Video courtesy of zodieweeny

“At the Embassy, a coterie from Leighton Buzzard who seemed as loyal as Lassie balanced out raving regulars who just happened to be in the club that night and viewed the proceedings with glazed expressions of wonder. Two record company representatives were there from EMI and Phonogram to sign Kajagoogoo. He didn’t. I hope he still has his job”


Amazingly, Gambo wasn’t the only high profile fan of the ‘Goo, as he explains:

“In the summer of 1982, Kajagoogoo recorded three tracks with co-producers Colin Thurston and Nick Rhodes at Chipping Norton Studios. Sensitive of being over-associated with Duran Duran, they changed the double-barrelled title ‘Shy Shy’ to ‘Too Shy’. When EMI scheduled the release of this debut single for 10 January 1983, I became aware of a coincidence as great as that of Limahl living down the street from my flat; the first show in my Channel 4 series ‘The Other Side of the Tracks’ was due to be transmitted on 8th January, a Saturday. ‘Too Shy’ would be out the next shopping day. I suggested to my producer that we devote the last third of that first show to the launch of Kajagoogoo, following the group for two months prior to the programme. I had no doubts about their ultimate success, and there is nothing more satisfying than to be seen publicly to have been right about new talent”

Gambaccini’s TV show ‘The Other Side of The Tracks’ played a major role in launching the band, with Paul remarking publically that he “hadn’t been so excited about a single since Don’t You Want Me‘…”.   Praise indeed.

Not everybody was as confident though, none more so than the band themselves. Nick Beggs thought, when interviewed back in 1983, that the song may go “top 40 at most”, with Stuart Croxford-Neale adding “this has been nothing like we expected….we did expect…through the timing of the programmes on TV we’ve had, the airplay and everything, and the contacts, to do so well…but it’s just been unbelievable”

Video courtesy of zodieweeny

Gambaccini was gratified in his belief in the band by presenting the guys with their first silver discs back in early 1983, broadcast on his Channel 4 show and awarded in honour of sales in excess of 250,000 for debut track ‘Too Shy’. The song would go on to sell many, many more!

Back in 1983, Gambaccini commented “My friendship with Kajagoogoo has grown since the release of ‘Too Shy…”

Forward on a little over 25 years; destination Wavendon, Milton Keynes , 2008:


From all of the fans, a huge “Thank You“, Paul.

2011/2013 KajaFax

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