Number Ones: #6

06_Kajagoogoo_Lion

  • KAJAGOOGOO The Lion’s Mouth (EMI)
  • Week Ending 24th March 1984
  • 1 week at #1

 

For an established band, losing your frontman and visual focal point is tricky enough, but for Kajagoogoo the split with Limahl had arrived just three singles into their career. Undeterred, the rest of the group carried on with a brand new track, Big Apple, signalling a notable shift in direction away from the slightly fey, wine-bar pop of Too Shy and Ooh To Be Aah.

Big Apple stormed into the Top 10 during the Autumn of 1983, enabling them to brush shoulder pads with Duran Duran and Culture Club once again, as if it were merely business as usual. The public, and Kajagoogoo’s nascent fanbase, appeared to be fine with developments; and since Limahl launched a solo career almost immediately, there was now something of a 2-for-1 appeal. Bassist and devout Christian/Vegetarian Nick Beggs – he of the “spaghetti” hair – assumed vocal duties and became the main creative force in the rejigged line-up.

This had several consequences. Besides aligning themselves as more of a Level 42-type combo (Limahl’s presence on the first album White Feathers distracted from the obvious fact the band could do muso jazz-funk like the best of them), the lyrics began to take on a more serious, philosophical and sophisticated slant.

Which brings us to The Lion’s Mouth, with its allusions to sin (the mouth of the Lion) and the wisdom of choosing to “walk along the narrow way” rather than succumbing to all the evil stuff that’s trying to distract and tempt us. Or something. This message is wrapped up in a quite fantastic and catchy pop song, bursting with horn sections and a bassline that would have had Mark King casting a jealous glance or two in Beggs’ direction. The middle eight alone is meaty enough to banish all thoughts of Kajagoogoo still being some kind of wimp-pop outfit for impressionable girls.

The Lion’s Mouth charted promisingly at first, climbing to #25 within a fortnight of release (it became my first-ever pop 7″ purchase when at #37 the previous week), but then hit the buffers.  Perhaps its sentiments didn’t fit in with a pop world in thrall to Frankie Goes To Hollywood, perhaps there were other reasons….it was a surprise nonetheless. EMI reacted by putting out another single, the energetic Turn Your Back On Me, just a few weeks later; there was a Smash Hits singles review by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan at the time where he expresses surprise at its appearance so quickly on the heels of Lion’s Mouth.

It didn’t help. Turn Your Back On Me fared even worse, and by the eventual release of the Islands album in May 1984 the new-look Kajagoogoo had come up with two absolute corking 45s in a row and yet fallen almost completely out of commercial favour.  There would sadly be no further singles from Islands, or from Kajagoogoo under that moniker.

In 1985, the GooGoo part of their name would go the way of Limahl two summers before, and a decent if unspectacular new track Shouldn’t Do That – with an inventive video – flirted with the lower reaches of the UK Top 75.

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