"Tony Hadley: Reborn and Without All That Pressure On"
He turned the kilt into a fashion accessory, sent hearts fluttering with his Sinatra-esque croon and ended up taking his mates to court in a bitter battle over royalties. Twenty years after Spandau Ballet formed, ex-frontman Tony Hadley has now put all that behind him and is touring America for the new British TV show, ‘Reborn In The USA.’
Tony Hadley was the front man of one of the most popular bands of the Eighties. With his flick-lacquered hair and his lustrous lamé suit he was the ultimate lounge lizard, a glammed-up good-time boy, a pop star you could take home to meet your mom! For the fresh-faced few who can't remember those ankle-booted, floppy-panted, heavy eye-linered days, Spandau Ballet and their rivals Duran Duran spent the early Eighties locked in a rivalry which led to the break-up of lifelong friendships, the formation of opposing gangs and the ripping out of lots of hair! As with Oasis and Blur a decade later, the music papers were rife with claim and counter-claim about which band was better. The prospect of defection would have been unthinkable.
As one of the leading New Romantic bands, Spandau Ballet racked up a number of British hits - as well as one Top Ten American hit, ’True’ - during the early Eighties and soon became one of the most successful groups to emerge during the New Wave era. Their debut album, Journeys to Glory was released in 1980 and with it came the non-LP single, ’Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On),’ which boasted a funkier beat and soulful flourishes. The group continued to pursue this direction on their subsequent singles, including the gold-selling Top Ten UK hits ’Instinction’ and ’Lifeline,’ as well as their 1982 album Diamond, but it didn't reach its commercial fruition until the 1983 album True.
True was a full-fledged white-soul album, with the title ballad reached #1 in Britain and a few months later, the single and album became a hit in America, peaking at #4 and #19 respectively. Spandau Ballet managed to hit the Top Ten once more in the UK with ’Gold,’ which peaked at #2; in the US, it reached #29. ’Communication,’ a third American single from True, fizzled in the spring of 1984. Its failure was the beginning of the band's commercial downfall. ’Only When You Leave,’ the first single from 1984's Parade, was a #3 hit in the UK, yet it only reached #34 in the US; furthermore, it was their last American hit ever. In 1985, Spandau Ballet sued Chrysalis, claiming that the label wasn't providing enough promotional support for the band, especially in the US, and thereby harming its career. The suit was settled in 1986, and the group jumped ship for CBS/Columbia (Epic here in the US), where they released Through the Barricades that same year. The title track was a Top Ten hit, but its follow-up, ’How Many Lies?,’ became the group's last Top 40 hit ever. Following the release of Heart Like A Sky in 1989, the group quietly disbanded the following year.
In 1991, a hip-hop duo revived ’True’ sampling the song for their smash ’Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’ with Hadley making an appearance in the video. By this time, Hadley had signed a solo deal with EMI and released his solo debut, The State Of Play the following year. The record featured a trio of minor singles in the UK, of which ’Lost In Your Love was the most successful. Five years later, Hadley returned to the charts with Tin Tin Out's hit ’Dance With Me’ and also released his second self-titled solo outing that very same year. This album comprised mostly covers including versions Bryan Ferry's ’Slave To Love,’ Tom Petty's ’Free Fallin',’ and even once-bitter rivals Duran Duran's ’Save A Prayer.’ ”I always loved Duran Duran. Especially after what's happened with Spandau Ballet since, I wish I had joined them in the first place! he freely, and astonishingly admits as we idly chat prior to the actual interview. ”Rio still sounds like a great album now. There were a lot of times when I wished we had done their songs ourselves."
Do you feel, in reflection, that the so-called ‘rivalry’ between you and Duran Duran was brought about by band members? “Nah, it was rubbish about the rivalry between us. I've known Simon le Bon for donkey's years. He's a good lad. Our fans might have been rivals, but we only played up to it. We didn't really mean it."
Are you still bitter about the court battle you had with the Gary Kemp? ”Forming a band is like getting married. You exchange vows and swear eternal love to each other. But people get divorced all the time and you've got to be prepared for that scenario. We weren't, but it’s all ancient history now,’ he smiles. “I don't really care what people think any more. I do whatever I want to do now and I have the freedom to do it. I have been shafted again and again and I have learned the hard way with a lot of heartache and a lot of financial cost, too. I have psychologically and financially detached myself from it all, and that’s the truth.”
Do you still think that ’True’ is the classic epitome of Spandau Ballet? ”Well, I think essentially a good song is a good song. But the way the songs were recorded and arranged back in the Eighties was very different from songs now. If ’True’ were written now it would be a great song, but it would be given a completely different arrangement. I do think it sounds dated now, yeah, especially compared to the technology you've got now and the different types of music going on today. Music from the Eighties sounds a bit old fashioned," he laughs.
How’s your solo career coming along? “I have been really successful in Italy, Germany, Spain and South East Asia, but I think the market has changed in England. I’m after a new sort of music fan now. The kind of listener who prefers ‘real’ music to sanitized pop.”
What do you think of the chart music of today? ”My personal view of pop music is that it ceased to exist after around 1982. For me, everything about being a singer was about rebellion. The idea was to shock the establishment – you didn't want your parents to like the same music as you. That would have been a nightmare! But now we have a whole generation of parents who were hippies or punks – or even New Romantics – themselves. The New Romantic era was probably the last time you would walk down the street and people would go, ‘Oh my God, look at him'. But we have all become numb to anything that's shocking any more. It's such a mish mash of music these days and I don't think there will ever be that shockability again.”
Any funny stories about the way you dressed back then and the encounters therein? “In the beginning, my Grandad refused to sit on the same carriage as me on the train, and I quite liked that really,” he laughs. ”That was what it was all about. But even by 1983 it was all coming to an end. We wore nice clothes and people were hoping I would marry their daughters. Whatever rebellion is left now is best left to 18-year-olds, although Westlife are not that radical, let's face it. But I'm over 40 now and I have been there and done that. Now I am a singer of what I classify as great songs."
Interviewed By Salandrika Chekelfski
To read our CD Review of Spandau Ballet's brand new collection, Reformation (EMI) just click here and be whisked away !
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