Understanding Kajagoogoo


Too Shy

By Kajagoogoo 1983

An interpretation of the song and video by Jonty Yorke author of 'Yuppies, Nuclear Fallout Shelters and Loadsamoney for some'.

It is, without doubt, an apocalyptic song about Thatcherism and getting girls to move in a bit closer. Inspired by a short story by J.G Ballard about a character, who wore pastel everything with hair far too big and canary yellow for everyday life. He was hidden away inside a lift in Richard Roger's Lloyd's Building. Which should really have seen the lyrics suggest people move a little further away, rather than closer. Nobody knows how many persons comfortably fit inside the lifts at Lloyd's but some doctors have suggested that it would be less today than in the 1980s when people, generally, took up less space.

A little known fact about the song is that it was written in a nuclear fallout shelter in Woking which many of the pop acts of the time owned. The shelters were well stocked with tins of  Bangers ‘n’ Beans and bottles and bottles of Holsten Pils. Toyah, JoBoxers and The Spands all had shelters next door to each other. There have been reports that Toyah’s shelter may have been somewhere else in suburbia, or even in the mountains. The exact whereabouts still remains a mystery, oh, it’s mystery. I like to imagine Toyah  stepping outside her shelter some 30 years after a nuclear war and bumping into JoBoxers. They talk about the old days and then decide to work on a song together. One that would give hope to the human race, which now - due to the nuclear holocaust some 30 years previous -   is made up mainly of 1980s pops stars. Great news for Butlin’s but less so for any other survivors of such a horrible tragedy. Eating rats and making up a new language would be more than enough to bear without Modern Romance suddenly appearing from behind an upturned Sinclair C5 singing ‘Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey’.

A lot has been written about the video for Too Shy. Some have said it helps you to understand the song others have condensed its meaning,

'The video for Too Shy cast model Carolyn Espley (later wife of Dennis Miller) as a waitress cleaning up a nightclub at the end of the night. As the band performs the song on the club stage, she has visions of dancers from different eras populating the dance floor' Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s version of events, I think, tends to simplify what is a highly complex video. My own interpretation of the video is that it was filmed in a Village Hall. Mainly because it was cheap and an old Village Hall works perfectly for time travel because few things change within it, regardless of how many years pass by. Some soldiers return home. We know this because a sign 'Welcome Home Boys' hangs above the stage and we see some soldiers. It is unlikely - even in days long before the 1980s - that such a welcoming would have been given for some boys who just returned from pushing three wheelbarrows full of horse manure to a neighbouring village then wandering back again. Even though that would constitute hard graft in itself.

Carolyn (the female lead), although we don't know what she is called in the video, picks up things from here and there but also, and interestingly, she is part of the production team too. She makes an adjustment to the lighting as the band are on stage. In the 1980s multi-tasking and getting people in to do more than one person’s work to save money was almost unheard of. Usually, a young kid from a housing estate with seemingly few prospects wedged in to a YTS scheme on £25 per week would have been roped in to do it. The Too Shy video looks into the future as well as travelling back in time and lingering for quite a while in 1983. Carolyn is trapped inside the hall in a kind of Goodnight Sweetheart - pop video meets TV Situation Comedy - mash up. Although the video was made 10 years before the TV show. This has caused some, well me really, to think that the Nicholas Lyndhurst time travel sitcom was inspired by Kajagoogoo.

The video ends with Carolyn staying well back while the band pack up after the song. Completely ignoring calls ‘hey girl move a little closer’. Which is an important moment for Carolyn, and shows that although in the beginning she was being exploited, by the end of the video, she has freed herself from her additional tasks as a technician for the band. She wanders outside the hall and jumps into a waiting VW Golf and heads straight to a neon lit cocktail bar far away from the dingy hall and away from Kajagoogoo. Perhaps, being 'Too shy’ all along.




All opinions are those of Jonty Yorke and not my own. Although I do often agree with his take on things.




A flash fiction story 

Denis, Denis

The youth club was just what Michael and Ian had been waiting for. Usually there was nothing to do in the village but now, on a Monday evening, they had somewhere they could go. Music, table tennis and time away from their parents.

It was 1977 but more important than the Queen’s Jubilee to them both was Blondie. With Michael’s new purchase held tightly in his hand they made their way to the record player which stood on a wobbly decorator’s table next to the stage. They patiently waited for the dreary Emerson, Lake and Palmer album to finish its run. It seemed like they had stood in the same spot for days when, finally, it came to its climax. They seized their moment. Onto the turntable went Blondie. ‘Denis, Denis’ belted out across the hall. Michael and Ian leaped up and down pogoing to the song. Causing it to jump a number of times.  They moved a little further away from the record player and continued leaping frenetically into the air.

They must have played it at least six times. The happy thirteen year olds loved the song. Tonight would go down as one of the most exciting that they had ever known. Although they had been warned not to play the song one more time by a small group of angry, bigger and much older Emerson, Lake and Palmer fans they just didn’t care. On it went again and once again they pogoed with gay abandon.

From the other side of the hall the group of ELP fans came rushing towards Michael and Ian. A big mass of long, angry hair was about to grab them and do their worst. They scooped up Ian and bundled him into the Gent’s toilet. They lowered his head down into the toilet bowl and flushed it. This was no baptism and smacked of injustice. Ian was unsure why he had been the chosen one and not Michael? It was Michael’s record, after all. Ian was left to wander back into the hall his hair dripping wet. Although a little shaken, Ian walked up to the record player. The ELP fans looked and laughed. Ian placed the needle on the record one final time and ran for his life out into the night. Michael was waiting for him outside. They both decided to head for home. As they wandered along the dimly lit path that lead to their homes Ian knew that he had, that night, taken a brave stand against Prog-rock.  


Things To Help You Cope With Being Unemployed


Thinking back to when you were young, perhaps a teenager, can help you through a boring old day job hunting. Today I chose to go back to when I was an almost teen to 1977. What albums meant something to me then that I could rediscover? One obvious album comes to mind Never Mind The Bollocks. It's never really gone away though so I started to think about other albums of 1977 that were important to a 12 year old me. Ian Dury's New Boots and Panties was probably the second most important album of that year for me.

I bought New Boots and Panties from Woolworths in Wantage. Took a 4 mile bus journey home with it. Once I got home I probably ran to my bedroom to play it. Put it on the record player. It was brilliant but…  My excitement was turned to disappointment when it jumped and in more than one place. I took it back to exchange it for another one but discovered when I got it home that it too had a few jumps on it. I got a third version - after being told there was a bad batch of them -  that still jumped a few times. I decided to live with that version. I think my Mum gave it away to the jumble when I left home.

Woolworths is reflected in window on the album cover. It may have been a sign in more ways than one.

I'm still looking out for it in Charity Shops and wonder, if when I get it home, it will jump like it did back in 1977 on the versions I once owned? These days it would probably have a sticker on it for the swear words it contains but back then my parents may have been just too busy to notice.

Note: There are a couple of versions of it on Spotify. One has the original songs and the other a deluxe version with many added tracks which include some demos. The original still sounds great to me.




A Short Story: The Fur Coat 

This is a short story that was inspired by a woman sitting on the tube in a fur coat. I looked over at her for a while and started to think about what would happen if the coat were to come back to life and take over the woman.  I wrote a few words in my notebook to come back to at a later stage which read:

'Fur coat

Chinchilla, Fox or Rabbit'

From those words came the following short story. I liked the concept very much but I wasn't entirely happy with my execution of the tale. It was for a competition that I decided to do it. So time wasn't on my side.

The Fur Coat

For such a long time now Emily had been looking forward to her day off. Her first in two months. Her mobile rang. She delved deep into her handbag to reach it almost dropping it on to the hard pavement.

“Hello, Emily speaking”

“Hello Emily, it’s Matt from the office. Sorry to bother you” said Matt

“Look! What are you doing calling me on my day off?”

“I need a number for Jez the props guy…”

“Well look it up in your Contact List. I’m officially off today. How dare you call me on my day off. Goodbye!”. Emily terminated the call.

Matt’s intrusion into her day had angered Emily. She wouldn’t let it ruin the rest of her Friday off but she would certainly have words with him on Monday when she returned to work.

The day had been carefully planned and would comprise of some good old-fashioned pampering. Beginning with a morning waxing session; followed by a manicure and then, later on in the early evening, she had arranged to meet her friends Sara and Charlotte for some wine and a catch up. She had a little time to kill before her waxing appointment and decided to have a look around A Vintage Year, a really cool second-hand clothes shop on the High Street. Emily spent a lot of time and money on her appearance. She believed that it was essential for her to look good and she had little time for people who didn’t care about their own appearance.

She knew the shelves and rails of A Vintage Year almost inside out but today she saw something that she hadn’t seen there before. Her gaze was drawn to a beautifully soft, grey fur coat which seemed to glow under the fluorescent lights. She walked over to it for closer inspection. She almost ripped it into pieces as she tore it from the hanger to try it on.

“Excuse me” Emily yelled to the Shop Assistant

“Yes madam”

“Is this coat Chinchilla?”

“No madam, it’s rabbit fur. Probably as many as 25 had their throats cut in order to make that coat”

“I didn’t ask you for your moral stance on fur.  Just what animal it was. It’s a rabbit. Which in my book is on the same page as a rodent. How much is it?”

“It’s £105”

“That’s an absolute bargain. I’ll take it”

“Are you sure you want to be seen wearing rabbit madam? The fur industry is such a cruel trade. Many are left bleeding to death for hours”

“I really couldn’t care less, now are you going to sell me the damn coat or do I have to speak to your superior?”

Emily thought it odd that the shop assistant didn’t seem keen to sell her the coat but decided she was probably trying to keep it for herself.

She put the coat on straight away. There was a chill in the air and her new coat would keep her warm and make her look like a million dollars. Sara and Charlotte would surely be green with envy when they saw Emily’s new coat.  As she walked along the High Street Emily seemed to glide along as if hovering above the paving slabs. She felt like a movie star. She got a longing stare from a business man, who was himself, very finely dressed. She felt fabulous. Just like a superstar. Being admired by every man she passed. Turning each and every head.

She wandered along the street near Caffè Vesuvius and smelt the beautiful aroma of fresh coffee. She went in and ordered a soya latte. It was warm and cosy inside the coffee shop. She saw a vacant seat and made her way over to it. It was far too warm to sit in her coat so she decided to take it off. As she tried to slip her arm out of the coat she began to struggle. For some reason she was unable to get her arm out. She tried the other one. It was almost as if she was stuck inside the coat. She tried again to free herself of the coat but it was stuck fast. She started to panic and ran out into the street. People were once again staring at her but this time not with the look of seeing a movie star of great beauty but a woman who seemed to be acting in a very peculiar way. She paced quickly up the street and hid herself around a corner. She reached for her mobile phone. She would have to call Sara to tell her what had happened but what could she tell her? That she had bought a fur coat that she could no longer get off. A coat that seems to have now become her own skin. Sara would think she had gone insane. She tried once more to free herself from the coat but couldn’t.

Taking very deep breaths Emily decided to take a long walk. She thought that a roam around the park would clear her head and that things would start to make perfect sense. Of course she would be able to take the coat off. What a daft idea that she couldn’t. Whoever heard of a woman that became trapped inside a coat like it was some kind of a straight-jacket? The idea was absurd. Emily walked around the park trying not to make eye contact with anybody. Staring at the ground. As she stared at gravel covered pathway, out of the corner of her eye she noticed a small Shiatsu dog. It was fixed to the spot, gazing at Emily and growling a tiny yet fearsome growl. As she looked up even further there was another dog, and another. A whole pack of dogs some 20 or so. Amongst them were; a Dalmatian, a Rottweiler, an Alsatian and a Greyhound. There wasn’t an owner in sight. Emily was terrified.

Emily was truly spooked and opted to make a run for it. She ran as fast as she could. The dogs charged after her. She would never out run them. The smaller ones perhaps but not a greyhound. That would be physically impossible to lose on flat ground. As she ran one of her heels broke and was hanging off. She didn’t stop to check the damage. She just kept on running. She soon became exhausted. The dogs would surely soon rip her to shreds. She saw a huge tree with a low hanging branch ahead of her. She found one extra spurt of energy and ran to the tree and clambered up onto the branch.

Making her way up into the tree she ripped her skirt on some holly that had grown around it. She couldn’t care less about the rip she just needed to escape the dogs. She could almost feel their heavy breath on her face. From the safety of the tree she looked down at the dogs. They just looked up at her and growled. The dogs soon gave up on Emily and walked away. Emily reached for her phone. As she did it fell from her hand and onto the ground. A passer by saw it fall and picked it up. He then looked up into the tree and saw Emily sitting there. Her hair was a mess and as the man looked more closely at her he could see her ripped skirt.

“You alright miss?” the man asked

“Yes, I am fine”

“Those dogs must have been after that fine coat you are wearing”

“Yes, they must. Can you help me down please?”

“Of course”

The man had a very kind face, silver hair and was dressed in expensive but well-worn clothes.

“I couldn’t wear fur myself. Seems such a cruel waste of life. You know they keep rabbits in small cages until they decide to slaughter them”

“Yes! Yes! I know all about the bloody fur trade thank you. It’s an individual’s personal choice what they wear. It’s only stupid rabbits. You see thousands of the dumb things crushed at the roadside. The bloody countryside is full of dead rabbit carcasses!”

“There’s no need to be quite so rude”

“Thank you for your help now please would you leave me alone?”

“If you are sure you are alright”

“Yes, I am alright. Thank you”

Emily’s day of pampering had now fallen apart. She tried once more to free herself from the coat but was still unable to. Unsure of how much time had passed she noticed that the light was fading and it would soon be dark. She started to think about the coat and wondered if she was being punished for being so rude to Matt and for showing no empathy toward rabbits and the way they are treated. She soon decided that that was stupid and that the idea of a coat being possessed by a demonic force was a preposterous one. She walked out of the park unevenly and took off both of her shoes. It was easier to walk on no heels than it was to stumble along on one. She would make her way to the wine bar to meet Sara and Charlotte. It was almost dark now so it must be time.

She walked along Queen’s Road and past the cemetery. It felt eerie and she was already a bit spooked from what had happened during the day. The more she walked the more distance she was able to put between her and the incident with the dogs in the park. She still couldn’t understand why so many dogs had decided to chase her like they did. People wear fur coats in the park all the time and are never chased within an inch of their lives by a group of marauding dogs. She just couldn’t make sense of it at all. The road seemed very quiet for early evening. Emily looked at her phone and it had just gone 5.30pm. She was half an hour late for her drinks with Sara and Charlotte. Her feet were getting very tired and the small stones on the pathway were sticking in her feet. She couldn’t wait to see her friends. She felt a terrible sense of loneliness and was unable to tell anybody what had happened for fear that they would think she had lost her mind.

Queen’s Road is a very long one and there was a section of it that seemed much like a country road. Not much street lighting and trees either side. As Emily walked along the section she noticed some bright headlights in the distance. She carried on walking towards them. She couldn’t quite tell if the car was stationary or moving. Emily tried to put some rational thoughts into her mind and had no time for spooky superstitious ideas. The coat was just a coat. It had no special powers over her.

The car seemed to be getting closer and the headlights brighter. Her thoughts continued to be perfectly rational. The dogs must have been led by one that must have been a little deranged. Her arms wouldn’t come out of the coat because the coat must just have been a little tight on her and will loosen with wear. The car was now some 20 metres from where Emily was standing. She suddenly felt the urge to run into the road and into the path of the car. A compulsion. She had had while waiting for an underground train before now. She had spoken to her friends about it and it seemed to be something that all Londoners do but only the truly suicidal actually jump. The car was now even closer and without a moments hesitation Emily dashed into the road and stood in its path.  Blinded by the headlights she was rooted to the spot. Unable to move she just stared straight ahead at the car.


By Mark Dandridge