Pop star Limahl says the biggest money mistake he ever made was accepting too small a share of the royalties from hits such as Too Shy with band Kajagoogoo after he was sacked in 1983.
Now 61, Limahl, whose real name is Christopher Hamill, spoke to DONNA FERGUSON from Hertfordshire where he lives with his partner Steve.
His latest single, Still In Love, is out now.
Paydays: Limahl, in his 1980s heyday, says Kajagoogoo hits are his pension
What did your parents teach you about money?
That we had none. I was raised on a council estate in Lancashire. My crazy mother had four kids by the time she was 22. My dad worked in the mines and my mum had various manual jobs – she worked in a pub, factory and supermarket.
We were working class and had little money, but I don’t ever remember going hungry. We used to get fish and chips on a Friday – that was a big treat.
My parents worked hard and saved up so we could go on wonderful holidays to Cornwall. But I always knew money was tight.
Did you ever struggle to make ends meet?
No, but cashflow was tight from 1990 through to 1996 because I got few royalties from my music. No one cared about the 1980s in the early 1990s. There was no live work, and even compilation albums of 80s music – which are now incredibly popular – didn’t exist until 1997.
So money was tight, especially after interest rates surged to 15 per cent. That’s when things got tough because I had bought a flat in North London with a mortgage.
I got my head down, let out one of the rooms and kept on writing and recording music, mainly for other artists. I thought that would be my future career – like a footballer who goes on to become a manager.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, in the late 1990s. A friend was working on a TV commercial in a studio in London. He called me up and said: ‘Our session singer hasn’t turned up – I need a vocal and we’ve only got two hours booked in the studio. Can you come over? We’ll pay you £100 – but if the commercial gets used, you’ll get a fee each time it is aired.’
I cycled over, did the vocals in half an hour – and over the next 12 months I earned £9,000. That was a lot of money in the 1990s for half an hour’s work. It was a commercial for tinned meat Spam. They were doing a spoof vocal of the ‘Go West’ song, but instead of singing ‘Go West’ I had to sing ‘Spam up’.
The funny thing was that I was vegetarian at the time.
Limahl said he earned around £9,000 during the 12 months after he recorded the vocals for a TV commercial about tinned meat Spam
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 1984. Too Shy was No 1 all over the world, as was Neverending Story. That was the year I signed with a new manager and got a cheque for £60,000 as an advance. I can remember opening the envelope and feeling so rich. You could buy a flat for £60,000 back then – and I was only 24 years old.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was an 18-carat gold Cartier watch. It was called Panthère and it was beautiful. I bought it in 1984 for £6,000 which would be like spending £20,000 on a watch today. I blame the social pressure of hanging out with Elton John’s clan. Everyone in the ‘clan’ had this watch, so I got one, too.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Accepting a lower royalty percentage when Kajagoogoo fired me in a phone-call in 1983. There were five of us in the band, but until 2008, instead of receiving 20 per cent of royalties, I was only getting 6 per cent.
At the time of being fired, my lawyer advised me to accept the deal that was on the table, and I was too young and naive to question it. I probably lost somewhere in the region of £50,000 as a result.
But I got it all back in 2008. By then, the band had approached me twice for a reunion. Every time, I stipulated that I must receive an equal share of the royalties. Finally, on the third approach in 2008, they agreed. So I can now sleep at night.
The best money decision you have made?
Increasing my royalty rate. The amount I get changes every year, but over my lifetime I have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds. The two big hits Too Shy and Neverending Story are my pension for life.
They are fantastic earners and I feel lucky, blessed and grateful. This year, when I’ve had to take a massive cut in the income I make from live gigs, I feel particularly thankful.
Do you save in a pension or invest in shares?
Prudent: Limahl would invest in the stock market, but as he’s 61, thinks it’s too late
No. I’ve seen horrible headlines about pension schemes going bust or savers being ripped off.
That has put me off pensions. I’d like to invest in the stock market, but I think it’s too late. I’m 61.
Do you own any property?
Yes, I own two. I live in a beautiful, three-bedroom Victorian house in Hertfordshire. My partner Steve and I bought it six years ago and spent eight months doing it up. It’s doubled in value since then.
We also own a one-bedroom investment flat near Windsor that provides us with extra income. Luckily, our tenants are a couple of doctors, so there haven’t been any problems with them paying the rent in lockdown.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would increase pay for nurses and other low-paid workers in the NHS – and build more affordable homes for key workers.
It goes without saying that the NHS is an amazing institution, but it’s got a lot of bureaucracy and red tape, and you hear about managers earning a fortune. I’ve always felt nurses are underpaid while the pandemic has highlighted that people doing menial jobs in the NHS are incredibly important.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes. I strongly believe in supporting charities. When I was a child, my father drank a lot and often became both physically and mentally abusive towards me, my mother and my siblings. Life was hard.
At one stage, Mum threatened to call the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and it actually made a difference. In fact, I’m sure the NSPCC came to visit us and it really helped. So I donate both time and money to charities.
What is your number one financial priority?
To have financial security and peace of mind. I’ll keep working for as long as I can because I love my job. But if I can’t work I want to know I have the savings to be able to stop.