Spandau Ballet

From Academic Kids

Spandau Ballet was a popular band of the 1980s. Initially inspired by a mixture of funk, synthpop and New Romantic, they eventually mellowed into a mainstream AOR pop act. As with their poppier rivals Duran Duran they 'broke America', albeit briefly.

Guitarist and songwriter Gary Kemp and his brother, bassist Martin Kemp formed the band in 1979, with drummer John Keeble, lead vocalist Tony Hadley and Steve Norman, who initially played guitar but later switched to saxophone when the band changed musical direction.

The band were initially called 'The Makers', but changed their name after a visit to Berlin, the inspiration from graffiti on the walls of Spandau Prison. Ironically, the term Spandau Ballet was used by Nazi soldiers to describe the death convulsions of Jewish prisoners as they writhed from exposure of toxic Zyklon-B in concentration camp gas chambers. The band began performing and generating positive buzz around London as the house band at the Blitz nightclub, which became regarded as the birthplace of a new 1980s music and fashion phenomenon called New Romanticism.

The band eventually signed to Island Records and released "To Cut a Long Story Short", a British hit in 1980. This was followed by "The Freeze" and "Musclebound" and the well-received album Journeys to Glory.

The followup album Diamond performed poorly, despite a big hit with "Chant No.1", and the band met with veteran producer Trevor Horn, who advised them on how to revamp their image and sound. Horn also took the Diamond album track "Instinction" and gave it a bombastic dance remix that sounded not unlike the work he would later do for Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It was a massive hit.

With newfound confidence and a cleaner, radio-friendly sound, Spandau Ballet finally broke into the mainstream with True (1983), an album whose title cut was a six-minute opus paying tribute to the Motown sound (and in some respects, Marvin Gaye). The image changed too - the cossack outfits and make-up of New Romanticism (which was dying as a fad in 1983 anyway) had been replaced by smart suits and well-scrubbed faces. It was at this point that Norman became the band's sax player.

The album topped the charts on the both sides of the Atlantic and launched several hit singles such as "Gold" and the aforementioned title cut. But the followup, Parade (1984), was critically drubbed for failing to move the band's sound forward. Its opening single "Only When You Leave" became their last American hit. At the end of 1984, the band performed on the Band Aid charity single, with Hadley taking a prominent lead vocal role; and in 1985, they performed at the Wembley end of Live Aid.

In 1986 Spandau Ballet signed to Epic Records and released Through the Barricades, which saw the band trying to move away from the pop/soul influences of True and Parade and more towards rock. The title track was a big hit in the UK, but the album did nothing in America. 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 1989. The album bombed and Spandau Ballet — from whom Gary Kemp was already feeling estranged — split up for good.

Martin Kemp went on to land an acting role in the UK soap opera Eastenders, while Tony Hadley floundered trying to establish a solo career. Gary Kemp did a little more acting, appearing in a supporting role in the Kevin Costner hit The Bodyguard, and in 1996 released a critically praised solo album, Little Bruises.

In the 1990s, Hadley, Keeble and Norman launched a failed court case against Gary Kemp for a share of royalties which they claimed they were due. As a result, Hadley in particular was left very short of money, and he ended up entertaining troops and taking part in the reality show Reborn in the USA.

The three non-Kemp members toured as a trio, but as Gary Kemp owned the rights to the name of Spandau Ballet, they had to go under the less-than-catchy moniker of 'Hadley, Keeble and Norman, ex-Spandau Ballet'.

Recently, the band have managed to put their differences behind them and a reunion tour has been mentioned; however, the success of Martin Kemp's acting career means that plans remain on hold.

Discography

U.S. studio albums

Journeys to Glory (1981)

Diamond (1982)

True (1983)

Parade (1984)

Through the Barricades (1986)

Heart like a Sky (1989)

External links


de:Spandau Ballet

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