Spandau Ballet Biography

Evolving from a school group, the Makers, these leading UK New Romantics formed in 1979 with a line-up comprising Gary Kemp (16 October 1959, Islington, London, England; guitar), his brother Martin Kemp (b. 10 October 1961, Islington, London, England; bass), Tony Hadley (b. Anthony Patrick Hadley, 2 June 1960, Islington, London, England), John Keeble (b. 6 July 1959, Islington, London, England; drums), and Steve Norman (b. 25 March 1960, Islington, London, England; rhythm guitar/saxophone/percussion). Another school colleague, Steve Dagger, became the band’s long-standing manager. Spandau Ballet originally came to prominence as part of the new romantic scene revolving around a handful of fashionable London clubs, at which the habitués would dress in outlandish clothes and make-up. Such was the interest in this unknown band that the group was offered a contract by Island Records’ proprietor Chris Blackwell. This was rejected and, instead, the band set up their label, Reformation. During early 1980, they were filmed for a television documentary and soon after licensed their label through Chrysalis Records. Their powerful debut, the harrowing ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ reached the UK Top 5. With their kilts and synthesizers, it was easy to assume that the band were just part of a passing fashion and over the next year their singles ‘The Freeze’ and ‘Musclebound’ were average rather than exceptional. The insistent ‘Chant Number 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)’ revealed a more interesting soul/funk direction, complete with added brass and a new image. The single reached the UK Top 3, but again was followed by a relatively fallow period with ‘Paint Me Down’ and ‘She Loved Like Diamond’ barely scraping into the charts. The band completed a couple of albums and employed various producers, including Trevor Horn for ‘Instinction’ and Tony Swain and Steve Jolley for ‘Communication’.

By 1983, the band had begun to pursue a more straightforward pop direction and pushed their lead singer as a junior Frank Sinatra. The new approach was demonstrated most forcibly on the irresistibly melodic ‘True’, which topped the UK charts for several weeks. The album of the same name repeated the feat, while the follow-up ‘Gold’ reached number 2. The obvious international appeal of a potential standard like ‘True’ was underlined when the song belatedly climbed into the US Top 5 the same year.

During the mid-80s, Spandau Ballet continued to chart regularly with such hits as ‘Only When You Leave’, ‘I’ll Fly For You’, ‘Highly Strung’, ‘Round And Round’, ‘Fight For Ourselves’, and ‘Through The Barricades’. A long-running legal dispute with Chrysalis forestalled the band’s progress until they signed to CBS Records in 1986. The politically conscious Through The Barricades and its attendant hit singles, ‘Fight For Yourselves’ and the title track, partly re-established their standing. Their later work, however, was overshadowed by the acting ambitions of the Kemp brothers, who appeared to considerable acclaim in the London gangster film, The Krays. Martin Kemp later found greater fame with the role of Steve Owen in the long-running UK television soap opera, EastEnders. Hadley embarked on a largely low-key solo career, and although his voice remained as strong as ever, his material has lacked any distinction. In May 1999, Hadley, Norman, and Keeble lost their fight to reclaim a share of £1 million in royalties from the band’s songwriter Gary Kemp. They continued to tour although they were unable to use the Spandau Ballet name. It was reported in 2004 that a reunion was being discussed. By spring 2007, the various sides in the legal dispute had shaken hands.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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