KajaFax Revisited: Kajagoogoo and Colin Thurston
Colin Thurston was born in Singapore in 1947. He had previously worked as a jingle writer and had also played in bands extensively across London before crossing over into audio engineering. During the course of his career, he worked with such industry greats as Tony Visconti, David Bowie, Talk Talk and The Human League to name but a few. Thurston first achieved major recognition however following his work alongside Duran Duran on their ‘Rio’ and ‘Duran Duran’ albums. John Taylor, Duran bass player, has since described him as “the major catalyst for the Eighties sound”. In short, this guy was influential!
Bring in a five piece from Leighton Buzzard, ‘EMI Records’, and a lengthy stint at their Manchester Square demo studios… Shortly after Kajagoogoo signed to EMI in 1982, they began the process of reworking the demo songs that had initially won them their contact with EMI. This included some old ‘Art Nouveau’ tracks. ‘Too Shy’ had not yet been written, but the band was frantically working on tracks such as ‘Interview Rooms’ & ‘This Car Is Fast’ to name but two. Dave Ambrose from artists and repertoire within EMI was in the house, and the tracks that eventually made it to the final cut were being slowly formulated. Step in Colin Thurston, who was very much the man in demand following his recent success with Duran, and a hot tip from Paul Gambaccini, a man whose hit radar had honed in on a track called ‘Shy Shy’…
‘I think that’s got something guys’ proclaimed Gambo, as the song was transformed following three re-writes and a change the middle section as late as the day of the final recording. Thurston, in conjunction with Nick Rhodes, had turned the track from a prospective B-side into Kajagoogoo’s first hit. The subsequent album, ‘White Feathers’, was a global smash.
Video courtesy of emimusic:
The relationship between Kajagoogoo and Thurston was no passing fancy however, as he was again to join the band again in the studio to record ‘Islands’, not only in the capacity of producer, but also as a backing vocalist (a hangover from his days as a part of a gigging band perhaps?) The dynamic of the band had of course changed by that time. Nick had taken over lead vocals and also introduced the Chapman Stick into the mix for the first time. Songs were recorded very differently too, with tracks being laid down in a number of studios often with lyrics and melody lines being written in the studio itself.
To quote Simon Aldridge from 80’s synth-pop outfit ‘Kissing the Pink’ who also worked alongside Thurston:
“He (Thurston) had a way with the band that worked allowing their experimental ideas to take shape….and recording them well…”
The leisurely pace seemed to suit the guys, who have since declared the recording process to be “leisurely and enjoyable”. Islands also incorporated a brass section and a shift towards a jazz based sound, giving the band more worldwide success. The “leisurely and enjoyable” atmosphere cultivated by Thurston had reaped its rewards.
That was however the last time that that Kajagoogoo would work with Colin Thurston, as legendary producer Ken Scott produced the next ‘Goo long player, Crazy People’s Right to Speak’. It is however important to recognize what a major part Thurston played in the creation of the Kajagoogoo sound. The band and indeed the fans owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Colin Thurston died on January 15th 2007 following a long illness.