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Spandau Ballet are a British band formed in London in the late 1970s. They were initially inspired by, and an integral part of, the New Romantic movement, becoming one of the most successful groups to emerge during the New Romantic era.
Their debut single "To Cut a Long Story Short", which reached number five in the UK in 1980, was the first of ten occasions in the 1980s that the band reached the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. They had a UK number one single in 1983 with the song "True". They also had four albums which reached the top ten of the UK albums chartbetween 1980 and 1990. The band split acrimoniously in 1990, but reunited in 2009.
Formation and early successes[edit source | edit]Edit
The band was formed in 1976 and was originally called 'The Cut', with Gary Kemp and Steve Norman on guitar, later saxophone and percussion. Kemp and Norman were both attending Dame Alice Owen's School, Potters Bar, and were close friends, as they shared a similar interest in music and a common desire to form a band. They were joined by fellow student John Keeble, who met Norman when he stored his drum kit in the school's music room; the three met regularly at lunchtimes to practise. Keeble was followed by bass player Michael Ellison. Tony Hadley, who knew Norman, then joined as lead singer. After a few months, Richard Miller replaced Michael Ellison on bass, before Kemp's brother, Martin Kemp, finally took over the role, joining the band a couple of years later. By this time, the band had already gained some live experience. Steve Dagger, a close schoolfriend of the band members, was then asked by Steve Norman and Gary Kemp to manage them. He was to be an integral part of the band's success.
The band changed their name to the 'The Makers' in 1976 as a punk band and played at the Roxy in the early years. In 1978 they became a power pop band and changed their name to Gentry and played a small number of gigs, including at Kingsway College. They later changed their name to Spandau Ballet after a friend of the band, journalist and DJ Robert Elms, saw the name 'Spandau Ballet' scrawled on the wall of a nightclub lavatory during a visit to Berlin. This name refers to Spandau Prison and the many hangings there when the victims would twitch and jump at the end of a rope. The new Spandau Ballet, with Martin Kemp and Tony Hadley, began performing with this name and generating a positive buzz around London. Their music prior to then was in the style of the early Rolling Stones or The Kinks, but became more electronic as they began to hang out in clubs such as Billy's and Blitz, where they would listen to bands like Kraftwerk and Telex. The Blitz was regarded as the New Romanticism.
The band was involved in a major bidding war, but eventually signed to Chrysalis Records and released "To Cut a Long Story Short", produced by the electronic musician Richard James Burgess. Released just ten days after the band emerged from the studio to meet the huge demand created by the buzz they had established, "To Cut a Long Story Short" was an instant British top 5 hit in 1980. This was followed by hits with "The Freeze", "Musclebound" and the well-received and Gold-certified album Journeys to Glory in 1981. The sound of Journeys to Glory was typified by chanted vocals, a splashy snare drum sound, strongly rhythmic guitar parts and a lack of guitar solos; the hallmarks of what would become known as the New Romantic sound and the sound of the early eighties.
The follow-up album, Diamond, also produced by Burgess, was released in 1982. This album was certified Gold by the BPI and featured the funk-flavoured single "Chant No. 1". The band had Burgess remix every single from both albums for inclusion on each single's B-side and for twelve-inch club releases. These mixes were later released as a boxed set. However, times were changing. The second single from Diamond was "Paint Me Down", which broke their run of top 20 hits by stalling at No. 30, and the third single, "She Loved Like Diamond", failed to make the UK Top 40 at all.
Trevor Horn remixed the track "Instinction", which was released as the fourth single from the album. The explosive, bombastic remix, which was backed with a special dance remix of Chant No. 1 on the 12" single version was very well received, and returned the band to the UK top ten after the poor chart performance of their previous two singles. Both the 7" and 12" single featured the well crafted ballad "Gently" on the B-side, which has never appeared on any album or compilation released by the band. The group had their initial success in the US, when "Chant No 1" peaked at number seventeen on the dance charts in 1981.
International fame[edit source | edit]Edit
With a slicker, more pop sound, the band released their third album True, produced by Tony Swain and Steve Jolley, in March 1983. It was at this point that Steve Norman began playing saxophone for the band. The album topped the charts all around the world, and launched several international hit singles, such as "Gold" and the title track which reached number 1 in several countries. In 1991, P.M. Dawn sampled the song "True" in "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss", which also became a hit song.
The follow-up album, Parade, was released in June 1984 and its singles were again big successes in the charts in Europe, Oceania and Canada. The album's opening song, "Only When You Leave", also became the band's last American hit. At the end of 1984, the band performed on the Band Aid charity single and in 1985 they performed at Wembley Stadium as part of Live Aid. During this same year, Spandau Ballet achieved platinum status with the compilation, The Singles Collection, which kept the focus on the band between two studio albums and celebrated their five years of success.
In 1986, Spandau Ballet signed to WEA/Universal and CBS Records and released Through the Barricades, which saw the band trying to move away from the pop and soul influences of True and Parade and more towards rock. The album, the title track and the single "Fight For Ourselves" were big hits in Europe and Australia, but not in the United States.
Break-up[edit source | edit]Edit
After a hiatus from recording, during which the Kemps established themselves as credible actors in the gangster film The Krays, the band released Heart Like a Sky in September 1989.
The album was not widely released (not at all in the US) and was for the most part disregarded. It did, however, do well in Italy, where its singles "Raw" and "Be Free with Your Love" reached the Top 10 – and in the Netherlands.Afterwards, Spandau Ballet, from whom Gary Kemp was already feeling estranged, split up.
Later developments[edit source | edit]Edit
Martin Kemp went on to land an acting role in the UK soap opera EastEnders, while Tony Hadley tried to establish a solo career. Gary Kemp did a little more acting, appearing in a supporting role in the Whitney Houston hit The Bodyguard, and in 1995 he released his only solo album, Little Bruises.
In the 1990s, Hadley, Norman and Keeble launched an unsuccessful court case against Gary Kemp for a share of Kemp's song-writing royalties. Although initially vowing to appeal against the verdict, they later decided against this. The three non-Kemp members toured as a trio, but as they had to sell their shares in Spandau Ballet's company to Gary Kemp to pay off legal debts, and that company owned the rights to the name of Spandau Ballet, they had to tour under the moniker of 'Hadley, Norman and Keeble, ex-Spandau Ballet'.
After leaving Eastenders, Martin Kemp continued acting in various high-profile projects as well as appearing on TV in other guises. He also wrote and directed his first film, "Martin Kemp's Stalker". Gary Kemp wrote songs with Paul Stratham, who had previously written songs for Dido, continued acting on stage, in film and in television, and worked on the musicals "Begbug" and "A Terrible Beauty" with Guy Pratt. Steve Norman moved to Ibiza, where he formed a lounge band, Cloudfish, with Rafa Peletey and Shelley Preston in 2001. Tony Hadley released three studio albums, landed the lead role in the musical Chicago and won the ITV reality show Reborn in the USA. In 1999, Hadley appeared as a guest vocalist on the Alan Parsons album The Time Machine, performing lead vocals on the song "Out of the Blue".
Reunion[edit source | edit]Edit
In early 2009, there was much speculation that the band was set to perform later that year. Although the band did not initially comment on these reports, the official Spandau Ballet website encouraged fans to sign up "for an exciting announcement", fuelling rumours that a reunion was imminent. Jonathan Ross mentioned during his BBC Radio 2 programme on 21 March 2009 that the band was re-forming and that he had been invited to the reunion party.
The band eventually confirmed the rumours at a press conference held on 25 March 2009 on board HMS Belfast in London (a return to the venue of one of their first gigs) to announce their comeback tour. The band began a world tour in October 2009, starting with eight dates across Ireland and the UK, the first of which was in Dublin on 13 October 2009. The tickets for the UK and Ireland shows went on pre-sale on the official Spandau Ballet website on 25 March 2009. These then went on general release on 27 March 2009. For the general release tickets, the London O2 arena tickets sold out within 20 minutes and an extra two dates were added there because of demand. The band also announced an extra date in Birmingham and added Liverpool to the tour. They gave their "first public performance and interview anywhere in the world for 19 years" on Jonathan Ross's BBC television show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 24 April 2009.
The group released both their new album Once More, which featured two new songs plus reworked versions of their previous material, and the single of the same name on 19 October 2009.
Virgin Media awarded Spandau Ballet as the Best Comeback of 2009 in their Virgin Media Awards.
Pop culture references[edit source | edit]Edit
Academy Award-nominated actor Edward Norton appeared on the ABC sitcom Modern Family as Izzy LaFontaine, a fictional bass player/backup vocalist for Spandau Ballet ("between Richard Miller and Martin Kemp"), in the episode "Great Expectations".
Members[edit source | edit]Edit
- Current members
- Tony Hadley – lead vocals, synthesisers
- Gary Kemp – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Martin Kemp – bass
- Steve Norman – saxophone, guitar, percussion
- John Keeble – drums, backing vocals
- Early members
- Michael Ellison – bass
- Richard Miller – bass