Ranking Spandau Ballet’s UK top forty singles

The New Romantic era had no shortage of sartorial eloquence; then there was Spandau Ballet. These by all accounts straight boys dressed as if Sears sold a wardrobe combining Evelyn Waugh’s fashion sense and Sir Francis Drake’s. Their music sounded like it too. Garish, overripe, often functionally illiterate as songs, the Spand’s material encompassed etiolated funk, decent electro funk, post-Avalon balladry, and James Ingram — this much is true. This is a band whose lead singer Tony Hadley injected, “Loving makes the cream taste nice” with the conviction of a cafeteria worker demanding students stand in line.

These ponces were barely adequate as New Romantics, recording the great “To Cut a Long Story Short” and “The Freeze” as if “hamfisted” were a universally desired virtue; they had vaguely fascist homoerotic leanings, as if they hoped Fassbinder would cast them in one of his postwar period pieces. Then they realized Roxy Music recorded an album called Avalon. The result was “True,” home to a few decent tunes that weren’t “True,” which exists for the sake of PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” to sample. They kept it up for one more album before recording a bizarre British equivalent of sophisti-pop heavy metal called Through the Barricades, responsible for the title track, their only successful ballad. Then they disintegrated. Gary and Martin Kemp played murderous glamour boys in The Krays (Gary went on to play Whitney Houston’s unscrupulous manager in The Bodyguard); the rest waited for the inevitable reunion and documentary, although Hadley got a leg up by espousing Tory MP positions about incarceration. Beautiful and clean indeed.

The Hague

True
Fight For Ourselves

Meh

I’ll Fly For You
Round and Round
Musclebound
Highly Strung
Paint Me Down
How Many Lies

Sound, Solid

Communication
Through the Barricades
Gold
The Freeze
Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)
Instinction

Good to Great

To Cut a Long Story Short
Lifeline
Only When You Leave

6 thoughts on “Ranking Spandau Ballet’s UK top forty singles

  1. Jukebox

    No.
    “It’s kind of funny that a band originally known for dance music would score their biggest hit (and a deathless adult contemporary radio classic) with a slow-as-molasses ballad, but there’s little argument that “True” is Gary Kemp’s pinnacle as a songwriter. The piano chords are so deliberately spaced and glacially paced that it’s difficult to think of them as forming a melody, leaving the tick-tock two-stroke guitar riff as the song’s primary musical motif. Tony Hadley’s tendency towards vocal histrionics is kept in check here, except for the elongated fade-out where his familiar keening is finally let loose; for the first three or four minutes, however, he delivers the most nuanced and emotional performance of his career. Similarly, Steve Norman’s saxophone is finally, for almost the only time in the band’s entire career, put to good use on his melodic and well-placed solo. “True” is complete chart fodder, of course, but it’s really, really good chart fodder. ”
    Stewart Mason- AllMusic

    It belongs in Sade’s camp. not Ferry’s. Which is best.

    Reply
  2. postpunkmonk

    Scandalized that their apex, “Chant No. 1 [I Don’t Need This Pressure On]” only made 2nd tier here! The radical ambient jazz “Glide Mix” of “I’ll Fly For You” was also top drawer stuff, but the LP/7″ version was definitely Meh material. And I think that “Barricades” belongs with our Dutch friends, or maybe a new level of crimes against humanity. “True” towered over that one and I don’t like “True!”

    Reply

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