“Leslie McGregor John1, known as Leee John, singer with the British soul group Imagination. Born 23/6/57 of St Lucian parents in Hackney, London. In 1968 went to New York with his father, attending St Francis Of Assisi School, Brooklyn. Back in England in ’73, he formed his first group with a schoolfriend, Russ and Leee, releasing one single on EMI2. Did clerical jobs, sold shoes in Carnaby St3, studied drama at Anna Scher’s Children’s theatre, worked as a singing waiter, had small acting jobs and played with a variety of reggae, soul, funk groups. Teamed up with Ashley Ingram in the late ‘70s, playing back-up for visiting American groups. The pair found drummer Errol Kennedy in soul group Midnight Express and recruited him to form Imagination in early ’81 4. Their debut single Body Talk5 established them as an original, distinctive soul-disco group. Through talent and hard work they’ve since had a string of hits in 28 different countries. John is also still acting6. Spring ’83 saw him in ‘Doctor Who’7. Assured, aware, unbelievably talkative. “People say we’re just glitter and glamour, but I’ve been through the mill8 and know what it’s all about.”
1 When he appeared in the regular Smash Hits column Personal File in 1985, he also gave the second middle name Kermichael.
2 This project isn’t mentioned on John’s official website.
3 Carnaby Street was the location of the Smash Hits offices.
4 Imagination named themselves in honour of John Lennon, who had recently been killed. His song Imagine went to #1 in the weeks following his death, while the group was being formed.
5 Produced by Jolley & Swain and issued on R&B Records, as were most of the early Imagination singles.
6 “The politics I’m fighting for is more multi-racial TV and radio,” he told Smash Hits (31 January 1985).
7 This was the serial Enlightenment, filmed in 1982 and broadcast in four parts from 1 – 9 March 1983.
8 He was pragmatic about showbusiness: “I’m happy as long as I’m earning a living. I admire those that are pleased at being good musicians, not seeking fame. If I get to 50 and I’m still doing this, I’ll be pleased.” Now nearly 60, he still is.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 10
SPANDAU BALLET Chant No. 1 (Reformation CHS2528)
IMAGINATION (Leee John) Love’s Taking Over (RCA PB42659)
DEAD OR ALIVE Come Home With Me Baby (Epic BURNS5)