My 80s Playlist: Imagination’s Leee John reveals his favourite 80s tunes from Sade to Spandau Ballet

Virgin Radio

3 Oct 2023, 16:01

Steve Denyer with Leee John at Virgin Radio Studios

Singer and actor Leee John, best known as the lead singer of soul group Imagination, has shared his very favourite 80s tunes for My 80s Playlist. 

Starting his career as a backing singer, Leee formed the famous three-piece band with Ashley Ingram and Errol Kennedy early in the decade. 

Imagination had a top five hit with Body Talkin 1981, and continued to climb high in the charts with In and Out of Love and Flashback. Their 1982 track, Just an Illusion, went to number two.

As well as a talented musician, Leee also has an impressive telly CV, appearing in the likes of Doctor Who, Reborn in the US and The Adam and Joe Show. 

While on Virgin Radio 80s Plus, Leee sat down with host Steve Denyer to chat all about the songs that made the decade, including huge hits from Eurythmics, Sade and Grace Jones. 

For Leee John’s full My 80s Playlist, check out the video below: 

Imagination - Flashback 

Leee kicked off his My 80s Playlist with a look back at one of Imagination’s first hits, Flashback, released in 1981. 

The single went to number 16, and according to the singer, he completed the full song in one take. 

Leee explained: “I did all the choruses and then basically the intro I wanted, I didn't want to drum beat on things. So at that time it was analogue tape. Normally nowadays everything has a click track…but I had no click track. So I had one take to get it right.”

Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) - Eurythmics 

Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart won major props with their new wave single from the 1983 album of the same name - Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

The track became their breakthrough hit worldwide, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 and the charts in Canada and France. 

Discussing his adoration for the track, Leee said: “It sends you back into an era I think. There's synthesisers especially in Sweet Dreams, you can hear it, it sends you into the zone.  It was its own entity, musically in its own entity. It was synthesised but at the same time it had this sort of androgynous… it had that kind of feeling, so she was like a white Grace Jones. That's how I kind of saw Annie.”

Slave to the Rhythm - Grace Jones

Speaking of Grace Jones, 1985 R&B anthem Slave to the Rhythm was released in 1985, and became one of her most successful singles, often being considered one of her signature songs. 

The track was originally intended for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, but was soon handed over to Jones, who then incorporated eight different versions of the same song on the album of the same name. 

“She's iconic. She truly is,” Leee shared. “I think that she pushed and pulled at the envelope. I say Pull Up to the Bumper, baby. Everything. I mean, Grace is flawless. She can be very real, very down to earth.”

No Ordinary Love - Sade

Haunting hit No Ordinary Love by Sade appeared on the band’s Love Deluxe album in 1992. 

It became a huge hit across Europe, reaching high chart positions in Italy, France and the UK. 

Speaking of the record No Ordinary Love came from, Leee explained: “I love this album. I played it to death. I think I was in Bali and I played this album on the beach on a rotation. It just took me and I thought, I want to work with the producer of this track, because it's just so good.”

True - Spandau Ballet

New wave giants Spandau Ballet released their seminal hit, True, in 1983. It as written by guitarist and songwriter Gary Kemp, reportedly inspired by his feelings for Altered Images singer Clare Grogan. 

It landed at number one in the UK, and became a signature track for the band. 

For Leee, True has a rather familiar feel to it, as he explained to Steve: “[Tony] Swain and [Steve] Jolly, my producers, said Spandau Ballet really loved Body Talk and all the Imagination tracks, so they wanted to work with them. What people don't realise is there's certain riffs that everybody does. Every artist does, like Michael would do something or what have you. Mine was always [hushed] “huh, huh, huh, huh, huh,” like that's my riff. 

“They wanted to have that kind of sound, you know, because there was that breathiness with it that we had in Body Talk and stuff. So it's cool. I mean, Tony [Hadley] didn't even know. I said, You stole my riff, but we're great!”

You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and on smart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.