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|B i o g r a p h y|
is a British band formed in London in the late 1970s. Initially
inspired by the New Romantic fashion, their music has featured a
mixture of funk, jazz, soul and synthpop. They were one of the most
successful bands of the 1980s, achieving ten Top Ten singles and four
Top Ten albums in the UK between 1980 and 1990. The band split
acrimoniously in 1990 but announced their reunion in March 2009,
complete with a tour that began in October 2009.
Formation and first successes
The band was formed in 1976 and was originally called 'The Cut', with Gary Kemp as singer/songwriter and Steve Norman on guitar, later saxophone and percussion. Kemp and Norman were both attending Dame Alice Owen's School, Hertfordshire, and were close friends, as they shared a similar interest in music and a common desire to form a band. They were joined by fellow student John Keeble, who had met Norman through storing his drum kit in the school's music room and would regularly meet at lunchtimes to practice. John was followed by bass player Michael Ellison. Tony Hadley, who knew Norman, then joined as lead singer. After a few months, Richard Miller replaced Michael Ellison on bass, before Kemp's brother, Martin Kemp, finally took over the role, joining the band a couple of years later. By this time, the band had already gained some live experience. Steve Dagger, a friend of the band members, was then asked by Steve Norman and Gary Kemp to manage them. He was to be an integral part of the band's initial and continuing success. The band was called 'The Makers' in the early years, but profess to having changed their name after a friend of the band, journalist and DJ Robert Elms, saw the name scrawled on the wall of a nightclub lavatory during a visit to Berlin(It has also been said that the name Spandau Ballet came from a nickname for a popular form of suicide at Germany's Spandau Prison; specifically, hanging oneself). The new Spandau Ballet, with Martin Kemp and Tony Hadley, began performing with this name and generating a positive buzz around London. Their music prior to then was in the style of the early Rolling Stones or The Kinks, but became more electronic as they began to hang out in clubs such as Sally's and Blitz, where they would listen to bands like Kraftwerk and Telex. The Blitz was regarded as the birthplace of a new 1980s music and fashion phenomenon called New Romanticism. The band was involved in a major bidding war, but eventually signed to Chrysalis Records and released "To Cut a Long Story Short", produced by the electronic musician Richard James Burgess. Released just ten days after the band emerged from the studio in order to meet the huge demand created by the buzz they had established, "To Cut a Long Story Short" was an instant British top 5 hit in 1980. This was followed by hits with "The Freeze", "Musclebound" and the well-received and Gold-certified album Journeys to Glory in 1981. The sound of Journeys to Glory was typified by chanted vocals, a splashy snare drum sound, strongly rhythmic guitar parts and a lack of guitar solos; the hallmarks of what would become known as the New Romantic sound and the sound of the early eighties. The follow-up album, Diamond, also produced by Burgess, was released in 1982. This album was certified Gold by the BPI and featured the funk-flavoured single "Chant No. 1". The band had Burgess remix every single from both albums for inclusion on each single's B-side and for twelve-inch club releases. These mixes were later released as a boxed set. However, times were changing. The second single from Diamond was "Paint Me Down", which broke their run of top 20 hits by stalling at #30, and the third single, "She Loved Like Diamond", failed to make the UK Top 40 at all. Trevor Horn remixed the track "Instinction", which was released as the fourth single from the album. This returned the band to the UK top ten after the poor chart performance of their previous two singles and of the Diamond album in general, which had peaked at #15.
With a slicker, more soulful sound, the band released their third album True, produced by Tony Swain and Steve Jolley, in March 1983. It was at this point that Steve Norman began playing saxophone for the band. The album topped the charts all around the world, and launched several international hit singles, such as "Gold" and the aforementioned title track which reached number 1 in several countries. In 1991, P.M. Dawn sampled the song "True" in "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss", which also became a hit song. The follow-up album, Parade, was released in June 1984 and its singles were again big successes in the charts in Europe, Australia and Canada. The album's opening song, "Only When You Leave", also became the band's last American hit. At the end of 1984, the band performed on the Band Aid charity single and in 1985 they performed at Wembley Stadium as part of Live Aid. During this same year, Spandau Ballet achieved platinum status with the compilation, The Singles Collection, which kept the focus on the band between two studio albums and celebrated their five years of success. In 1986, Spandau Ballet signed to WEA/Universal and CBS Records and released Through the Barricades, which saw the band trying to move away from the pop and soul influences of True and Parade and more towards rock. The album, the title track and the single "Fight For Ourselves" were big hits in Europe and Australia, but not in the United States.
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 September 1989. The album was not widely released (not at all in the US) and was for the most part disregarded. It did, however, do well in Italy. Afterwards, 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 tried to establish a solo career. Gary Kemp did a little more acting, appearing in a supporting role in the Whitney Houston hit The Bodyguard, and in 1995 he released his first and only solo album, Little Bruises. In the 1990s, Hadley, Norman and Keeble launched a failed court case against Gary Kemp for a share of Kemp's song-writing royalties. Although initially vowing to appeal the verdict, they later decided against this. The three non-Kemp members toured as a trio, but as they had to sell their shares in Spandau Ballet's company to Gary Kemp to pay off legal debts, and that company owned the rights to the name of Spandau Ballet, they had to tour under the moniker of 'Hadley, Norman and Keeble, ex-Spandau Ballet'. After leaving Eastenders, Martin Kemp became the face of SCS sofa stores and continued acting. Gary Kemp wrote songs with Paul Stratham, who had previously written songs for Dido, continued acting on stage, in film and in television, and worked on the musicals "Begbug" and "A Terrible Beauty" with Guy Pratt. Steve Norman moved to Ibiza, where he formed a lounge band, Cloudfish, with Rafa Peletey and Shelley Preston in 2001. Tony Hadley released three studio albums, landed the lead role in the musical Chicago and won the ITV reality show Reborn in the USA. In 1999, Hadley appeared as a guest vocalist on the Alan Parsons album The Time Machine, performing lead vocals on the song "Out Of The Blue".
In early 2009, there was much speculation that the band was set to reform later that year. Although the band did not initially comment on these reports, the official Spandau Ballet website encouraged fans to sign up "for an exciting announcement", fuelling rumours that a reunion was imminent. Jonathan Ross also mentioned during his BBC Radio 2 programme on 21 March 2009 that he was aware that the band were re-forming and had been invited to the band's reunion party. The band eventually confirmed the rumours at a press conference held on 25 March 2009 on board HMS Belfast in London (a return to the venue of one of their first ever gigs) to announce their comeback tour. The band began a world tour in October 2009, starting with eight dates across Ireland and the UK, the first of which was in Dublin on 13 October 2009. The tickets for the UK and Ireland shows went on pre-sale on the official Spandau Ballet website on 25 March 2009. These then went on general release on 27 March 2009. For the general release tickets, the London O2 arena tickets sold out within 20 minutes and an extra two dates were added there because of demand. The band also announced an extra date in Birmingham and added Liverpool to the tour. They gave their "first public performance and interview anywhere in the world for 19 years" on Jonathan Ross's BBC television show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 24 April 2009. The group released both their new album Once More, which featured reworked versions of their previous material, and the single of the same name on 19 October 2009.
Official Homepage: www.spandauballet.com
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