I will make no apologies for what I am about to say: I loved Spandau Ballet and I still think their albums – especially the first two – are classics of the early ’80’s. From the moment I first heard “To Cut A Long Story Short” in ’80, ’81, I was a fan. Granted, as time went by and their albums didn’t seem to have the same quality (I seemed to stop paying attention around Through The Barricades), they faded from my memory – and it seems from a lot of other peoples, as well as the charts. Certainly, aside from the success of “True” and “Gold”, they didn’t have the same star-factor as they did elsewhere. Nonetheless, as the ’80’s ended, it seemed so did Spandau. I’d heard over the years about their self-inflicted lawsuit against songwriter Gary Kemp; there were bits and pieces but no band, so they seemed to be a relic of the ’80’s.
In 2009, it was announced the band were reforming for a British tour and a new compilation album – now, six years later, they’re touring the United States for the first time since around 1985 and as well, a new documentary, Soul Boys Of The Western World has begun showing on cable pay-per-view outlets. Told by the band in their own words with some pretty fantastic footage of them as kids (especially a television appearance by Gary Kemp and his friend Phil Daniels – yes, THAT Phil Daniels! – in an acoustic group) and starting out as a late-period punk/power pop band, it’s an interesting story. Seeing the films of the very earliest “New Romantics” at London’s Blitz club and watching the band’s earliest performances – you can see the progression of Spandau Ballet as a band but you also get a very strong sense of time and place. It was all about the fashion and the attitude, but certainly Gary Kemp didn’t lose for a moment, the focus on the music.
Even with the dejected sounds of the individual members’ recollections on the lawsuit (singer Tony Hadley, drummer John Keeble and multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman versus Gary Kemp for money they believed he owed them on back publishing), there is a sense of “we let this get out of hand and it hurt our friendships”, which at the end is the happy resolution. That they patched up the differences, healed the wounds and came back as strong and successful (in England, anyway) as ever. There aren’t too many personal stories (a mention of Hadley’s first wedding; a mention of Gary Kemp’s marriage to Sadie Frost and Martin Kemp’s brain tumor are about all) which helps keep the focus on the band.
All in all, if you liked this band, you’ll love this movie. And if you’re simply curious, you’ll appreciate a good, no extraneousness documentary about a band and their rise, fall and resurrection at their own hands. If you can overlook or laugh at the extreme pretentiousness in their early period, you can enjoy this for what they were and what they are – a fine band who made some of the most lush, soulful and memorable music of the early 1980’s. A definite pleasure for me to see.
Soul Boys Of The Western World can be seen on pay-per-view outlets