The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spandau Ballet

12-20-07 Spandau Ballet

(re-run from Aug. ’02)


GENRE: Early 80’s British New Romantic synth pop with hair tonic

This is my favorite Spandau Ballet record. That is it their debut 45 is somewhat telling – as far as I am concerned, it was all downhill after this. The LP it ended up on was a bit of a disappointment (“Journeys To Glory”)…they made a few more good singles, but…never anything as good as this ever again. The vocals are over-dramatic – but the sequenced synth was catchy, the programmed drums were full-on…didn’t they wear togas or something? They didn’t put their picture on the picture sleeve of this single (maybe only on the Australian issue or something).

Remember the “New Romantics”? This was that. Or one of ‘em anyway. It wasn’t punk rock.

This single didn’t even have a B-Side! The B-Side was a ‘version’ (i.e. dub mix). Even the 12” didn’t have a B-Side – just longer versions of the one song.

Because they weren’t going to be touring for the foreseeable future, when the debut LP came out, the record company (Chrysalis/Reformation) decided to ‘tour’ their videos in nightclubs! What? You want me to pay money to go into a nightclub and watch music videos? I think I’m busy that night…

Kind of like watching Harry Connick Jr. portray a serial murderer (I forget the name of the movie), I enjoyed seeing the Kemp brother portray the evil British hoodlums “The Kray Twins” in the film of the same name. As far as I know, they didn’t star in any other films.

Their 2nd album (“Diamond”) was issued as a box set of 12” singles – the first time that kind of thing was done, I think.

I still have UK LP’s for the first 4 x Spandau Ballet full-length releases, and a few 7” singles (“Paint Me Down”, “Diamond”, “Chant No. 1”)…but I never had any use for songs like “True”. Also in the vault is a video (or three) of live shows from the 80’s.

I am still amused by this single – but, when placed next to some of it’s contemporaries, it has a poise, a style, a certain smugness…I have a bit of a hard time taking it too seriously.

…to cut a long story short I lost my mind!

2007 Addendum: Pictured is "Journeys To Glory", their debut album.


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Aaah yes. Spandex Ballet. I heard about the first album. Allegedly "New Romantic." Well I liked that effete, synthy stuff! Bought it when it came out Stateside. HATED it. I actually sported a homemade "Nuke Spandau Ballet" button a few times. The embossed cover was "classy" though. But the flat paper picked up fingerprints like you wouldn't believe!

The second album found them jumping on the brief UK Latin/Salsa/Funk bandwagon. I heard tracks like the dismal "Paint Me Down" played a LOT on "hip" college radio of 1982. 1982 - the year of whitefunk and Ze Records following on from tedious hardcore. I paid little attention to these guys.

Then in 1983 I saw the video for "Lifeline" from "True" on MTV. Say, that singer has The Vegas in 'em! I actually liked the single. I bought the US 12" and enjoyed it. Then MTV showed a live "True" concert and it actually made me a fan! Tony Hadley was Pure Vegas schlock just DYING to happen! Please tell me he HAS played Vegas by now! The PURE "This Business Called Show" delivery! The MIKE TECHNIQUE! Snot nosed punks in 1983 DIDN'T HAVE mike technique back then!!

I then became a fan just in time to see the band corrupted by their success and issue a further series of 3 albums which continued to plow the "True" furrow until it was barren!

I am now in possession of a complete Spandau Ballet collection, which will see its way onto a BSOG sometime next year, following my Mari Wilson project. May god have mercy on my soul!

"Diamond" is my favorite of their albums - mostly because it is quixotic and schizophrenic beyond belief! Side 1 is latin funk. "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" is a tune I can't get enough of 25 years later! I have it in many mixes - the longer the better! Nice horns and the funky jazz flute makes the song for me! "Instinction" was radically remixed into 3 minutes of godhead perfection by Trevor C. Horn! For THAT track, the shorter the better! Even the 12" is 3 min. long! My fave rave SB cut. Like Trev's work on ABC, it sounds "superhuman." By the way, this single has SB's ONLY B-side, the cringingly awful ballad "Gently!"

Side 2 of the album on LP is barren, pretentious art rock of an unbelievable stripe! What more can be said than simply to repeat the title "Innocence and Science?" But the beginning of side 2 is a cut, "She Loved Like Diamond," that presages their whitesoul breakthrough on "True." Again, pure lounge schlock on tap courtesy of Mr. Hadley! Deep down, you just know he admired Sammy! My lounge singing alter ego, Del Chaz, has "covered" this tune, slathered with reverb, courtesy of an instrumental b-side!

"True," though I wont blame any one for never wanting to hear the omnipresent ballad again, is a breezy, approachable whitesoul album with the usual howler lyrics of writer Gary Kemp ensconced in a vastly different setting from the arid and distant first two albums. Hadley's "dramatic" singing has found its home here! Kind of a Jack Jones vibe.

The following album, Parade" is diminishing returns from "True," in tried-and-true "milk it for what it's worth" fashion. The high point was the "Glide Mix" of "I'll Fly For You." This radical, ambient mix was actually my favorite remix of 1984!

Album 5 happened after they sued their label Chrysalis for NOT PROMOTING THEM ENOUGH and left the label! Not coincidentally, their career begins its death dive here. "Through The Barricades" still features sappy, maudlin ballads [hey it worked before!] but a lot of the tunes actually ROCK OUT for the first time ever for this effete band! Righteous!

Album six, the bloodless "Heart Like A Sky" has a really nice cover by their artist David Band, who designed the "True" and "Parade" albums.

I treasure my Japanese laserdisc laser of "The Singles Collection." I have several live LDs and even a live DVD! The live DVD has all of the post-Chrysalis videos as bonus material! Woah! The BSOG will now have a definitive video collection to accompany it!

Any takers? This may prove to be the least popular Revo issue ever. Usually 1-2 pals balk at any given project. This time, It may be made for an audience of one!

7:33 AM  

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