To those overseas, the name Spandau Ballet is essentially new romantic royalty right alongside Duran Duran and Culture Club, though for more casual American listeners, merely the band that sang “True.” Nonetheless, the ’80s favorites are now finding an increasingly fervent Stateside following, as evidenced by a packed South By Southwest Festival airing of the group’s 2014 documentary “Soul Boys Of The Western World,” followed by a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” performance of songs from the new CD “The Story: The Very Best Of Spandau Ballet.”
Given the groundswell of momentum (which technically started in 2009 when the band embarked on a sold out arena outing across Europe), the 25 million album sellers are finally coming to this side of the pond for a full-fledged tour for the first time since 1985. Here’s more from front man Tony Hadley (interviewed during his recent solo stint between these two massive Spandau reconvenings) about what it was like to first get back together, the main tune everyone wants to hear and what went wrong on these shores the first time around.
“America’s a country where you have to tour and tour and tour to prove yourself and we didn’t do that. For whatever reason, whether it was management, thinking we were clever or whatever, we just didn’t play it right. I love playing live, and the thing is now I want to prove myself in America.”
CCR: What was it like getting back together?
Tony Hadley: It wasn’t easy being away from each other for 20 years, being involved in various court cases [over songwriting royalties] and not talking to each other. Getting together was somewhat difficult, but John [Keeble], who’s the drummer in Spandau and in my solo band, was really instrumental in slowly piecing the bits of the band together. The final meeting was between myself and [guitarist] Gary [Kemp]. We had a very nice conversation about the fact that [we were] all approaching 50 now and seeing if we could make it work. It wasn’t easy, but after a couple pints of beer, we realized we could be friends again.
From your perspective, what was the band’s role in defining the new wave/new romantic movements?
Hadley: We became part of new romantic scene that was very avant-garde, but also good fun. It was post punk, though we thought punk was fantastic, and very flamboyant. By chance, we kind of became musical presidents of that kind of era in London, with Duran Duran [in Birmingham] and Depeche Mode [in Essex]. It was a great time for music and probably the last decade where music and fashion were intricately linked.
How do you feel when younger bands cite you as an influence?
Hadley: I think it’s a compliment. I remember when P.M. Dawn sampled “True” and I thought it was brilliant. People like Bowie, Roxy Music and Queen were influences on bands like Spandau and Duran Duran and it’s always been about taking influences from the past and making [them] new today. I think that’s good and I’m a massive fan of bands like The Killers and My Chemical Romance.
What would you say to more casual fans in the States that only know the softer side of Spandau Ballet?
Hadley: In America, Spandau really cocked it up unfortunately. America’s a country where you have to tour and tour and tour to prove yourself and we didn’t do that. For whatever reason, whether it was management, thinking we were clever or whatever, we just didn’t play it right. I love playing live, and the thing is now I want to prove myself in America. I think some people will think “this guy sang that sweet little song ‘True,'” but when they see us live, they might be surprised that it’s a lot heavier than they imagined.
Do you ever get tired of singing “True” after all these years?
Hadley: No, I don’t get tired of it because of the crowd reaction. I know Adam Sandler did it in “The Wedding Singer,” but it’s actually become a song people get married to and make love to, so I never get tired of singing it, though the audience sings most of it by this point. When we come to America, the worst thing any artist could do is not acknowledge their hits. You’ve got to give people what they want and leave them entertained.
*NOTE: The Spandau Ballet concert has been rescheduled from January 30 to Saturday, April 25. All original tickets will be honored on the new date.