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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.