“For 24 hours a day, for 10 years, all I thought about was being in a band. That’s all I did. I had no other social life. I don’t want my life to be like that now. I’ve spent the past 10 years having a real life as well. But Spandau Ballet is such a difficult shadow to outrun.” -Gary Kemp
My age is showing liking this band but I don’t care! I remember an Aussie friend asking me how I knew all those brit acts of the 80’s, he seemed to be in awe that new wave music travel across the world and picked it up by a group of islands in the pacific and groove on it. It’s not enough reason to say I’m an 80’s child ‘cause I could have picked up crap from whatever is floating in that era. So I should say, I’m an 80’s child with teenager brothers that played new wave music – lots of it!
From all the artists back then I have a special liking for this group – Spandau Ballet mostly because of their music and apart from it they are all neat and tidy and slick dresser. The group started from as a nightclub scene in London and Birmingham at the beginning of the 80’s. The founding members Gary Kemp and Steve Norman attended the same high school with the rest of the members and this is how the group formed as they shared a similar interest in music and a common desire to form a band. The band’s name evolved from The Cut in 1976, became The Makers in 1976, and Gentry in 1978 until a friend of the band saw the phrase ‘Spandau Ballet’ doodled on the wall of a club’s toilet during a visit in Berlin. ‘Spandau’ as per Dictionary.com means a district of Berlin, in East Germany: site of prison for Nazi war criminals. Spandau Prison in Europe housed many prisoners including World War II Nazi prisoners. When these prisoners were hanged the swinging of the dead body was called the ’Spandau Ballet’ – chilling and creepy really!
They released their third album, True, in March 1983 and hit major success with No. 1 single with the song “True”, a No. 2 single “Gold” and a No. 3 single “Only When You Leave” as the band’s last American hit. Around this time, US is experiencing British invasion because 30% of the US record sales were UK acts. They released a couple of albums until 1989 but nothing surpass the True Album in terms of popularity and sales. The last hit I have known of them was ‘Through the Barricades’ and then silence that succumb to the band’s to hiatus following a spiteful breakup that ended up in court in 1990.
If 1980 has its own soundtrack that would be Spandau Ballet’s True –I first heard it on John Hughes’ ‘Sixteen Candles’ (1984) If you are, have been or ever will be a teenager, you will able to relate to his work, and his movies derived much of their power from their soundtracks – where the script was sometimes lacking, a song could fill in the gaps. It will be heard in 4 Drew Barrymore films; ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘The Wedding Singer’, ‘Duplex’ and ‘50 First Dates’. Sampled by PM Dawn in 1991 to create ‘Set adrift On Memory Bliss’ which became no. 1.
According to Wiki: The song came about from the group leader Gary Kemp who composed the song at his parents’ house in Islington. A slow pop-ballad love song that in part pays tribute to the Motown artist Marvin Gaye, who is mentioned in the lyrics. The song was also partly inspired by Kemp’s crush on Altered Images singer and Gregory’s Girl star Clare Grogan: “I was infatuated with Clare Grogan,” he told The Guardian. “I met her on Top of the Pops and, at one point, travelled up to Scotland to have tea with her and her mum and dad. Although my feelings were unrequited and the relationship was platonic, it was enough to trigger a song,” Some phrases in the lyrics were adapted from the novel Lolita, a copy of which Clare Grogan had given Gary Kemp. “The lyrics are full of coded messages to Clare,” Kemp told The Guardian. “I’m still berated for the line ‘Take your seaside arms’ but it’s straight out of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which she had given me as a present – although in the book, it’s ‘seaside limbs. The line ‘With a thrill in my head and a pill on my tongue’ is also a bastardisation of Nabokov.”
Beyond the timeless lyrics and a melody that mixed power ballad, techno, rock, and jazzy sax, Kemp was spot on uttering these words to sum about what true is all about “… It became a song about trying to write a love song to someone who didn’t know your true thoughts, but how difficult it is to spell out your feelings without seeming too foolish.”
Yes, they are not as young, they are not as flamboyant but of course Tony Hadley is as formal wearing his blazer on stage (I’m used to seeing artists on shirt nowadays) . I have waited to see them perform live and when I finally did I was not disappointed … they are as awesome as ever!