Christopher Hamill, aka Limahl, is the voice of the timeless hit The NeverEnding Story which soundtracked the movie of the same name in 1984 and is still loved and treasured all around the world, even though the country that produced the film, West Germany, doesn’t exist anymore.
The formerly divided nation is definitely not the only thing that has split in this story; Limahl’s first band has not been around for decades either. In fact, from 1981 until The NeverEnding Story, Chris had been the lead singer of the new wave musical group Kajagoogoo. He was then kicked out of the band brutally and unceremoniously even though he had been the leading vocalist of their belter Too Shy which had entered the top 10 charts in 17 countries in 1983.
What’s still here thankfully, is his great voice and how it perfectly portrays the film’s magical and adventurous atmosphere, with loads of people still considering the tune an all-time favourite.
The original song for The Neverending Story was written in 1984 by three-time Oscar winner Italian composer and producer Giorgio Moroder who also made Take My Breath Away for Top Gun in 1986; many years on, Limahl’s ballad suddenly saw a sudden explosion of interest, fortune and online downloads thanks to Netflix series Stranger Things which featured the two leading actors Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo singing the piece acapella in the season three final episode in 2019.
Such as an unusual and unexpected comeback of his most famous piece of work gave the man new energy and inspiration to record something new after an 8-year break from music; the release of the 2020 single Still In Love offered the opportunity to arrange this interview with Limahl.
Chris, how do you feel when you hear The NeverEnding Story playing on the radio?
Well, it’s very special. It’s very special to me because, first of all, it was important for me to prove myself as a solo artist. After Kajagoogoo fired me in a phone call, it was a blessing to meet Italian composer and producer Giorgio Moroder in Japan in 1984. You know, he then asked me to fly to Munich to try my voice on the song, and of course, it went to number one all over the world. And of course, I’ve got many great memories. What keeps it fresh for me is people’s reaction: I know that people have memories, important memories attached to this song. They think of their first kiss or their first holiday, or their first dance at a wedding – I’ve been told all this. So it just keeps ticking the boxes of good things and I have nothing but respect for the song. And so here I am, more than 35 years later, and the song is having this resurgence because of Netflix’s Stranger Things: Spotify streams when went up from 300,000 downloads each month to 1.5 million, and so I was tempted to dip my toes back in the water and I thought that people might be interested in some new music. In life, opportunities don’t come very often, and as the Americans would say “Grab it by the balls, kid!” So I just thought I had to try because writing songs and taking something out of your head and from your heart and collaborating creatively is something you never forget. It’s like riding a bicycle or learning to swim: once you learn it, once you’ve been through that process you never forget it, and it’s very easy. In a way, it’s like putting on a comfortable old pair of slippers when you go back into the studio.
Do you think there might be room for a renaissance of new wave music today?
Well, um, you know, nothing is more out of fashion than when it’s just out of fashion. So, in the 1990s nobody was interested in the 1980s. Everybody was interested in the 1990s, down music DJ sampling, and the artist almost became less important. Around 1998, the whole interest in the 1980s started again and, in many ways, I feel like I’m like an old piece of Murano glass: I have gained more value with age, and this is the same. Look, I have some Murano glass here I’ll show you. I bought it in Venice, and we’ve both gained more value! 1980s music is being valued again today, they’re using it in important TV shows and they encourage radio stations to keep playing it. And of course, we see 1980s events happening all over the world at festivals and shows on radio stations, and 8190s-themed parties for a corporate event or something – all these things I get asked to go to today, so I’m not complaining… I’m happy!
What was your dream job as a child?
You know, I was born in the North of the UK, in between, equally between Liverpool and Manchester, just in the middle, in a small town called Wigan. Do you know who else is from Wigan? The actor Ian McKellen from The Lord of the Rings and X-Men. And we had a very big black and white British movie star in the 1940s and 1950s – and also 1930s, actually: George Formby, you can look him up on Wikipedia, he was the highest-paid entertainer in the UK at the time. And in Wigan, they have a statue of him. Also from Wigan is The Verve. Anyway, from the age of 10, really, I just became obsessed with music. My parents had no money and I was raised in government housing, I had two brothers and one sister. My mother, my crazy mother, had three children by the time she was 21, but no money. And then she had four kids by the time she was 22. I find it very funny when I now hear her saying to her grandchildren: “Don’t get pregnant when you’re too young!”. So, I worked, I did gardening for local people, I would deliver bread, I would deliver newspapers, and I would save my money to take the whole day to make enough to buy one single vinyl record at the local record shop. My dad thought I was crazy. I was the music nerd really, you know, even though the word “nerd” didn’t really exist, back then. Today, most people who are called a nerd are related to computers or computer games. But I was really a music nerd. On Tuesdays and Thursdays nights, I would go to my youth club, my local youth club. It was for 13 to 16-year-olds only. And we would play pool and darts and card games and we would play music, we would dance, we would interact. And I always took the records, I was the DJ! I loved the idea of arriving at the youth club with something that was current in the pop charts or on the radio. It was almost like a fashion statement, it was my trophy, like “Hey, I’ve got the latest!” You know, people choose to spend their money on all kinds of things – it’s sports, cinema, holidays, cars; for me, it was music. And when I arrived at the youth club with my music, it said something about me, that’s what I thought. The records I bought were in the charts, and I liked Motown Records, a recording company from Detroit which published Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5… you know, their list of hits was incredible. And it was kind of R&B pop.
Did you have a plan B? What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Did I have a plan B? No, of course not! If I was sensible, of course, I would have had a plan B. And so I did what actors do in Hollywood: I worked in bars. I worked in cafes and restaurants – but actually, that worked for me because I was working in a very fashionable nightclub in Old Bond Street in London, called the Embassy Club, and that’s where I met the keyboard player from Duran Duran, Nick Rhodes. The nightclub work helped me, it gave me some money and then it gave me an opportunity, as well. But I don’t know, to be honest – If I hadn’t done music I’ve no idea what I would be doing right now. I did hear some people say “Yes, I was going to be a doctor” or something else, but that would never happen to me. My family just didn’t have that background. And I’ve never been asked that question before. Did I have a plan B? Really. Never been asked this question in my life. But yes, it’s a good idea. I should have had one and I would recommend a plan B but I didn’t have one!
How did you come up with Limahl as an anagram of your surname Hamill?
I like my name: Christopher is nice – my mother calls me Christopher still, but everybody else calls me Chris. But I thought that for a pop star maybe something a little bit more unusual or different would be good. I liked Sting, I thought “That’s a cool name, no one is called Sting!” And then I was an ABBA fan, of course, we were all massive ABBA fans, and I remember reading about how they got their name from Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny, and I started looking at the letters of my real name, Hamill, and then I just switched them around. And hey, presto!
Where did you get your hairstyle inspiration from?
I love fashion but really, the hair came about because I got a job as a singer and actor in a theatre show called Godspell. It’s quite a famous show from the 1970s. There were two hit songs from that show, and the writer is actually the same writer of today’s hit show called Wicked, Stephen Schwartz. He wrote Godspell which was kind of a biblical story. There were six boys and six girls, and all the girls had different hair: a redhead, a blonde, a brunette, wavy hair, and straight hair. The boys all had dark brown, slightly wavy, exactly the same. So I went to the director and I said: “We all look the same!”. I said that I really, really would like to try to play around with my hair, and I quite liked Rod Stewart’s blonde hair. So I went to the local hair salon in this little town called Westcliff-on-Sea in the East of the UK – it was a small salon and they did a good job! And that’s really where “the hair” has started. Yeah!
What kind of music do you listen to?
Can I get my list? Because I wrote a list of some of the things I’m enjoying at the moment, I have a playlist on Spotify at the moment, and it’s called Current. Spotify is fantastic because you can have a playlist for the evening, a playlist for your workout in the gym, a playlist for your morning or whatever. I’m going to say the song titles because I don’t like all the songs by these artists; for me, it is always about the song. So I’m listening to Bust This Town by Stereophonics – that guy’s voice is just magic! Mother by Charlie Puth – he’s American, I think. Counting Stars by OneRepublic. No Roots by Alice Merton. Strong by Mark Kingswood. Nice To Meet Ya by Niall Horan – he’s from Ireland, I think. Colors by Black Pumas. Candlelight by Jack Savoretti. Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa, of course – I’m sure you know that one! And it’s not finished yet. There are also two songs from Michael Kiwanuka, Rolling and Hero: fantastic kind of 1960s vibes – almost like a little bit of Led Zeppelin with the guitar. Do It So Well, a dance track by Example. Tongue Tied by Earl, she’s a girl from the Netherlands, it’s a little bit swingy and really, really nice. Circles by Post Malone – oh my God, I love that song, he’s an American artist. I love a song by Chaka Khan which is called Like Sugar and Giant by Rag’n’Bone Man and Calvin, of course, is fantastic!
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Boy, oh, boy. I think if I collaborated, it would be really fun to do something with other 1980s artists. Because the radio seems obsessed with all the youth which makes me a little bit angry because we’re still valid, we’re still creative, and some of us still feel like we have a lot to give. So that would be really exciting if I could put out a project like that together, basically calling all my old mates, my old friends that I’ve worked with over the years!
Unless stated otherwise, pictures were provided from Limahl’s private collection © belongs to their respective owners
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