gary kemp
Thursday, 28 June 2012

'Perhaps The Lady could inspire a comeback'

As Spandau Ballet’s first four albums are re-released, Melonie Clarke talks to Gary Kemp about that era of great music – the 1980s

Written by Melonie Clarke
I may not have been around to experience the hype of Spandau Ballet in the 1980s but, thanks to my lovely father, who plays Spandau in his car 99 per cent of the time, I have come not just to appreciate Spandau, but also to love them.

So, knowing I was on my way to meet Gary Kemp, the man behind the hits, recent winner of an Ivor Novello award and whose Gold album I have on a loop (and sing along to) in my car, made me weak at the knees.

The 1980s was a time of leg warmers, big hair and people shouting into big phones, but it was also an era of great music – and Spandau Ballet was responsible for much of it.

So, given that Gary penned all of the band's hits, it's no surprise that he feels rather proud of himself. 'The legacy is strong,' he says. 'I'm fascinated by pop history and I think the main era, the golden age of pop, is over. But to look back and see that you were one of the key elements of that decade is something to be extremely proud of.'

One of Gary's fondest memories is reaching No1 with True. 'It was very hard to get to No1 then,' he explains. 'David Bowie's Starman took two months to even get on Top Of The Pops! We were in Nottingham when our manager rang me, and I ran between the bedrooms and we all ended up bouncing on Tony Hadley's bed. But he was rather tall, so had to be careful of the ceiling.' Spandau's success has never faded since that first No1 in 1983. Their comeback tour in 2009 was, in Gary's words, 'the most successful live tour we ever did in Britain. The noise was phenomenal. I don't think we ever really assumed, guessed, that would be the case.'

Gary goes on to say of the comeback, 'We are a band that has been through ups and downs' – most memorably, in 1999, when Kemp's fellow band members, Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble, launched an unsuccessful court case against him for a share of songwriting royalties.

'But we go back to school days, and we are very close,' says Kemp. 'We went through amazing stuff together as teenagers and in our 20s. It was a wonderful feeling that, even after all the fights, we could still be close.'

Gary has recently received the Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Song Collection, which goes to show that, even today, the hits of Spandau are still much loved. 'It's a great, great honour and it's about time I got one, because all my mates have got them,' jokes Gary, as he tells me that one of his friends actually has 10. 'For songwriters, it's the ultimate award. To win a Grammy is great, but this is an award given to you by your peers.'

As an unashamed Spandau fan, I'm hard pushed to choose my favourite track, but does Gary have one? 'It moves around because when you play them live, that's when you can really hear them. I'm very proud of To Cut A Long Story Short because it was the first single. As a songwriter, I would probably say Through The Barricades. But my personal favourite is True – as a man and boy who grew up loving soul music and black music, to have written a song that gets played and covered by black artists and gets on black radio in America, that's been something to be proud of.'

Off the back of the re-release of Spandau Ballet's first four albums and Gary's prestigious Ivor Novello award, could a Spandau comeback be on the cards? 'There are no plans now, but from my side, there's hope. Maybe you could bring us all back together.'

Could The Lady truly be the catalyst behind the return of Spandau? Well, if I've got anything to do with it, it's very much 'challenge accepted'.



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