Ah yes. Spandau Ballet. The runt of the New Romantic litter, as it were. They had nowhere near the musicianship of labelmates Ultravox or contemporaries Visage. And they long dwelled in the shadow of their rivals, Duran Duran. Hell, I’m sure Spandau Ballet wished fervently that they were the NewRo “Stones” to Duran’s “Beatles.” But viewed in the cold light of day, it was never going to happen. Not even close.
Perhaps it was the band’s reliance on guitarist Gary Kemp as the sole songwriter that was their achilles heel. Sure, sure. His lyrics were about on par with the howlers that Simon LeBon also dreamed up for Duran Duran, but they could not compete with Nick Rhodes’ keen sense of melody, nor with the tighter Duran Duran rhythm section. But, give the band credit for being first to market at least. Their debut single, “To Cut A Long Story Short” hit the charts in the tail end of 1980, a few months prior to Duran’s (superior) “Planet Earth.” This box, however, begins with something else.
Spandau Ballet: Canon 5xCD + DVD 
- Robert Elms Introduction @ Scala 1980
- To Cut A Long Story Short [demo]
- The Freeze [demo]
- To Cut A Long Story Short [version 7”]
- The Freeze [version 7”]
- To Cut A Long Story Short [mix 1 12”]
- The Freeze [special mix]
- To Cut A Long Story Short [version 12”]
- Musclebound [7“ver.]
- Glow [7” ver.]
- Musclebound [12” mix]
- Glow [12” ver.]
- Chant No. 1 [12” mix]
- Feel the Chant [7” ver.]
- Paint Me Down [12” mix]
- Man With Guitar
- Feel the Chant [12” ver.]
- Chant No. 1 [re-mix]
- Instinction [re-mix]
- Paint Me Down [re-mix]
- Coffee Club [re-mix]
- She Loved Like Diamond [12” mix]
- She Loved Like Diamond [inst.]
- Instinction [trevor horn version]
- Lifeline [12” ver.]
- Live + Let Live [7” ver.]
- Communication [edited club 7”]
- Live + Let Live [12” ver.]
- Communication [club mix]
- Lifeline [edited remix for USA]
- True [new mix by Tony Swain + Gary Kemp]
- Lifeline [US club mix 12”]
- Gold [inst.]
- Lifeline [a cappella]
- Gold [ext. ver.]
- Foundation [live ‘83]
- Lifeline [US dub ver.]
- Pleasure [live ‘83]
- Communication [razormaid mix]
- Only When You Leave [ext. mix]
- Paint Me Down [live ‘83]
- Highly Strung [version 7”]
- I’ll Fly For You [live ’84]
- Highly String [ext. ver]
- I’ll Fly For You [glide mix 12”]
- To Cut A Long Story Short [live ‘83]
- Highly Restrung
- True [live ‘83]
- Gold [live ‘83]
- Highly Strung [live ’84]
- Fight For Ourselves [ext. remix 12”]
- Fight… The Heartache
- Communication [live ‘85]
- How Many Lies [inst.]
- Through The Barricades [12” mix]
- With The Pride [live ‘85]
- Raw [ext.]
- Be Free With Your Love [dance mix edit]
- Raw [flip]
- Be Free With Your Love [dance mix]
- Raw [amnesia]
- Be Free With Your Love [dub]
- Chant No. 1 [live ’86]
- Fight For Ourselves [live ’86]
- With The Pride – Gold [live ’86]
- True [live ’86]
- How Many Lies? [live ’86]
- Through The Barricades [live ’86]
Disc 6 – DVD | Complete Music Videos
- To Cut A Long Story Short
- The Freeze
- Chant No. 1
- Paint Me Down
- She Loved Like Diamond
- Only When You Leave
- I’ll Fly For You
- Highly Strung
- Round + Round
- Fight For Ourselves
- Through The Barricades
- How Many Lies?
- Be Free With Your Love
- Crashed Into Love
- Raw [amnesia]
- The Singles Collection
- The Making Of “Fight For Ourselves”
- The Tube ‘84
This particular boxed set of god begins with a breathless recitation by one Robert Elms; former editor of The Face, among other crimes. He supplied the notorious UK liner notes to Spandau’s debut album, which were noticeably absent from worldwide copies. I’ll reproduce them here for your pleasure:
“Picture angular glimpses of sharp youth cutting strident shapes through the curling grey of 3 am. Hear the soaring joy of immaculate rhythms, the sublime glow of music for heroes driving straight to the heart of the dance. Follow the stirring vision and rousing sound on the path towards journeys to glory.”
You’re welcome. The next tracks were previously unreleased demo versions of their first two singles, “To Cut A Long Story Short” and “The Freeze.” What’s remarkable about them is how finished they sound next to the final “produced” tracks.
As produced by Landscape’s Richard James Burgess, the loftily named “Journeys to Glory” doesn’t quite live up to the title. The debut single leads it off. In a rare move for 1980, there were four mixes of “To Cut A Long Story Short.” The 7”/LP cut, a 7” version mix, a 12” mix and a 12” version mix. And the version mixes on 7” and 12” are completely different, not just long/short edits. The riff of the song will sound familiar even if you’ve never heard this track as Eurythmics copied it straightaway as the foundation to their megasmash “Sweet Dreams.” The keys, as played here by Gary Kemp, singer Tony Hadley and guitarist Steve Norman reveal a distinct fear of polyphony! I can’t remember hearing any chords from these one-finger wonders! I’ll give then the benefit of the doubt and assume they were deliberately using monosynths here. The lyrics are nothing less than their take on similar subject matter to Dee Dee Ramone’s memorable “53rd and 3rd!”
Single #2, “The Freeze” has more monophonic synth leads and lyrics that are best kept incomprehensible. Again, there is a 12” mix and a 7” version mix in addition to the 7” and LP cuts. If the pose of the song strikes one a ludicrous, you must admit that the infamous stentorian pomp of vocalist Tony Hadley fits it like a glove. That velvet glove got cast in iron for their third single, “Musclebound.” Here Kemp crafted a song that reveled in camp homoeroticism and fascism as if to say “top that, Bowie!” The track was a real goose stepper, but unlike The Associates “White Car In Germany,” which uses a similar marching beat to ravishing effect, the result here is leaden and boorish. The 7” mix trims off 2+ minutes from the album track and adds cimbalom for that “Old Country” touch! The 12” version does the same while avoiding the industrial welter that is the tracks’ coda on their LP. It boggles the mind to think of this track making the UK top 10, yet it did. What is most remarkable about this single is the B-side, which was the last thing anyone would have expected from this band.
“Glow” was was a tremendously atypical flip side for a Spandau Ballet single. It wasn’t a mis-named version mix of “Musclebound.” It was the furthest thing from a pseudo-Teutonic disco tracks that marked the bulk of their catalog at this point. It was a curious mixture of Latin Funk with more typical Eurosynth stylings they were most known for. A little history is in order to put this radical shift into perspective. Trends flew fast & furious in postpunk England. 1980 was all New Romantic effete club posers in 18 century dress and makeup. By 1981 it was hitting the mainstream. Hardcore clubbers were moving on from the masses. And the destination was funk.
Around this time there was also a slight UK salsa (?!) trend with groups like Modern Romance and Blue Rondo A La Turk making some noise. The Kemps were friendly with the Blue Rondos so given that connection, “Glow” is less startling in retrospect, with a little knowledge under your belt. There were still synths in the track, but the riffage was more muscular than typical for the band. The synths emulated a horn section while ex-rhythm guitarist Steve Norman went nuts on Latin percussion. Timbales and congas seasoned the mix while the music had far more taut urgency than ever heard from this band before. A beautiful mongrel, bursting with hybrid vigor, was the result. The 7” version is but a taster for the full eight minute 12” version, which had the distinction of actually being the A-side of the “Musclebound” twelve inch! Was this a one-off aberration, or the shape of things to come?
The next single was as magnificent a follow-through from “Glow” as was possible. “Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On),” existed in several forms, the longer the better. This time the synth-horn approximations get the deep six to be replaced by Beggar & Co., a hot real horn section that helped make this Spandau’s ultimate single for my ears. Richard James Burgess remained as producer and this time he gave Spandau a secret weapon that no others had at the time; Simmons Drums, of which he was the developer. The dry, plastic thwack of the SDS was utterly new at this point in time and juxtaposed with the thin, funky guitar, blaring horns and congas and percussion, it resulted in a unique brand of white funk over which the still stentorian emoting of Tony Hadley sat atop the construction not unlike a Bentley’s hood ornament. And the longer this song lasted, the better it was.
The followup single, “Paint Me Down,” continued in this vein. Like “Chant,” it sported incomprehensibly unrelated Inuit artwork (what was that all about?) but unlike “Chant,” it featured a dire riff upon which the song was built. And the lyrics lacked the blunt appeal of “I don’t need this pressure on,” repeated endlessly. At the time, I felt it was a weak offering, and it kept me from hearing the “Diamond” album for a few years. British listeners agreed and this was the first Spandau single to not hit the top 20 – shocking! Flash forward nearly 30 years later and the repetitive urgency now works for me. I find it clearly inferior to “Chant,” but it’s now ascended considerably to minor classic status with my ears. The flipside to the 7 inch single, “Man With Guitar,” was a version mix.
After this second single, the group released their sophomore album, “Diamond” in late 1982. A more quixotic, conflicted, and confused album your ears are not likely to ever hear. Side one was all Latin Funk but side two featured the single “She Loved Like Diamond” – an early taster of their lounge soul style that no one could have predicted at the time. And after that aesthetic whiplash was still ringing in the listener’s ears, the rest of side two of that album featured “soundtrack music” as in the words of the scribe, Gary Kemp, himself. It sure sounded as if Kemp had been listening to side two of “Low” or “Heroes.” Only without Bowie and Eno’s talent!! I’m sure Chrysalis UK had kittens, when the band delivered the master tapes on this puppy! Nevertheless, someone greenlighted an audacious side project that lives in infamy: The Diamond Boxed Set!
Beginning with track four and continuing through track eight on disc 2, the listener is treated to a recreation of 5/8 sides of this release. The band released the album as a set of four 12” singles (take that, P.I.L.!) – each remixed differently to any other previous single mixes. That meant a truly glorious eight minute re-mix of “Chant No. 1” kicked the proceedings off! The funky, Herbie Mann-esque flute got plenty of space near the end of the track and the horns are particularly highlighted in the remix. This was followed by the re-mix of the LP version of “Instinction,” which wouldn’t get released as a single until some time later, and in a radically different form. The “Paint Me Down” re-mix is nothing like any of the previous 7” or 12” mixes. Finally the excellent “Coffee Club” was remixed and extended here for the only time. Pity, as it would have been a much better single choice than “Paint Me Down” or “She Loved Like Diamond.” The track actually sounds more Latin than anything else on “Diamond” with the rhumba beat contrasting mightily with the Simmons kit playing it! But it was Steve Norman’s acoustic percussion and the horns that took it all home to Jesus.
The last re-mixed track from the “Diamond” boxed set was the next single release from the album, “She Loved Like Diamond.” Here was where singer Tony Hadley first let the Vegas in his soul free! The 12” featured the same 30-second extended intro as the version in the boxed set and both the 7” and 12” feature the same instrumental LP version. Hey! It’s karaoke time!! The style of the track really didn’t fit in with the Spandau styles previously on display. It’s more of a lounge number and as such, prompted head scratching for anyone who heard it at the time. And that number was few as it fared even more poorly in the charts than the previous single, “Paint Me Down.” Clearly, some stronger measures were in order to resurrect their rapidly dwindling career.
In 1982, no measure was stronger than producer Trevor Horn. After his success as half of The Buggles, he began to hit the charts with his production of Dollar singles. Then Martin Fry thought he was the man to make the dream of “The Lexicon Of Love” flesh. Overnight, the mantle of de-riguer UK producer went from Martin Rushent, still resting on his Human League laurels, to the upstart Horn. TCH dramatically remixed the fourth single, “Instinction.” Words almost pale in describing just how superhuman he managed to make the song sound. It’s the weak track on side one of “Diamond,” but there’s nothing weak about this re-imagining of it. In fact, to hear it is to be devastated sonically, as if Horn managed to get the Space Shuttle hangar to record the reverb in. A single dry Simmons “thwack” has been pumped full of sonic steroids to occupy 1/50th of the track’s running time! The five minute track was compressed into a hyperthyroid three minutes on seven inch. If you bought the 12” single you were treated to exactly the same mix, because the listeners would have burst into flames had he extended the remix any!!! Instead, the 12” listeners were treated to the godlike eight minute “Chant No. 1 (re-mix)” from the “Diamond” boxed set.
I would be remiss if I did not at this time mention the non-LP B-side to this single, supreme in every way but this. “Gently” is an acoustic guitar ballad and one of the most cringeworthy songs in Spandau Ballet’s entire canon. No more need be said on the matter.
Fortunes restored, Spandau shifted gears to their blue-eyed soul salad days with their next single, “Lifeline.” When I heard this song I could hardly believe it was the same group behind the first two albums. I had “Journeys To Glory” but wasn’t overly enamored of it. What I had heard from “Diamond” had appalled me at the time. I was not prepared for the relaxed Vegas vibe of “Lifeline.” Amazingly, I went out on my weekly record buying jaunt and picked up the US 12″ single, which sported 3 different mixes of the song to the UK singles. The sea-change in their style was symbolized by Steve Norman’s move to sax as well as percussion, from here on out. The UK 7″ and 12″ singles, acquired later, feature differing mixes. “Lifeline” had a great vibe and I was primed for more.
The next single was the excellent “Communication.” The single mixes are pretty chintzy in the grand scheme of things. There exists a Club Mix, which actually sounds more like what I’d call a dub version as it loses most of the actual song for stuttering dub effects. It’s very short at under five minutes. The 7″ flipside was a brutally short 2:45 edit of the Club Mix. The LP version is still the acme of this single. Too bad they didn’t have a straight extended version of this release, since the song is so good. There exists a Razormaid version of “Communication” that is also included, but this is not an official release; being released only to Razormaid’s DJ pool.
The third single from “True” was the title cut. Snipped of 45 seconds for the 7″ mix; it was still over 5:30 long! Nevertheless, it sold like proverbial hotcakes the world over, and finally took Spandau up to the level of international stars. I still find it soporific. The UK 7″ had an edit of the US “Lifeline” 12″ remix on the flip. The “True” 12″ had the full length US “Lifeline” club mix on the flipside and the a cappella “Lifeline” also from the US “Lifeline” 12 inch. This made the US Dub Version of “Lifeline” as the only track from the US 12″ that remained unique to America. Included here instead of the 7″ edit of “True” was a 2002 mix included in the “Reformation” boxed set. It added back a wistful instrumental intro to the song which was edited out initially that puts a bit of a new spin on this tired dog of a cut.
The fourth single from “True” was one of their best. Gary Kemp stated that “Gold” was his attempt at a Bond theme. And a cracking one it is. Truthfully, it smokes most official Bond themes for breakfast! I’d rate only “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and maybe “You Only Live Twice” as better. Spandau managed to make Duran Duran’s official Bond theme of 1984 sound pretty impoverished next to this puppy. This was possibly the only time Duran didn’t get the better of their rivals. The 12″ version was truly sumptuous, making every extra second added to the song count.
On that single, Spandau began their practice of including live cuts as B-sides. That’s highly ironic considering that for their first two years of existence, they barely played concerts! Over the next handful of singles, these live tracks were taken from a concert recorded for home video: Live Over Britain. That concert from Mayday, 1983 at Sadler’s Wells (broadcast on MTV in America) is as much as anything is why I finally became a Spandau Ballet fan. It featured most of the “True” album in a lively, crisp setting with hot arrangements of older material as added bonus. The flipside of the “Gold” single featured the fantastic “Foundation” live. There was a fifth single from “True” that was only released in Germany. “Pleasure” was released there with the live take on the flipside. No remixes were issued on the 12″ format, so only the live version was included here.
Spandau heralded their fourth album as superstars with the tepid “Only When You Leave.” The 12″ mix excised the instrumental middle eight, which was one of the things I liked about the song. Much better was the intense live “Paint Me Down” on the flip from their Sadler’s Wells concert. Their subsequent single was the best one from the far too MOR “Parade” album. “Highly Strung” actually has a serious pulse and the 12″ featured a dynamic remix as well as a more traditional extended version. Both were good versions of a great song. The 7″ of “Highly Strung” featured a version dub mix that was unique to that single.
Disc four begins with what I find to be Spandau’s very best remix of post-”True” material. The glide mix of “I’ll Fly For You,” managed to take a fairly lame, MOR ballad and invest it with some dramatic and abstract jazz leanings. I’d almost call them ambient jazz leanings. In place of the sturdy Tony Hadley crooning on display elsewhere, this dramatic re-arrangement of the tune had Hadley reciting the lyrics breathlessly instead. It is the quintessence of smoky late night listening and it was one of my very favorite remixes of 1984.
The last single from “Parade” was the mellow “Round & Round” and there were no remixes. Instead the single is represented by more live cuts from the ’83 concert. “Parade” was very much cut from the same cloth as “True” and it proved that Spandau Ballet weren’t going to keep reinventing themselves as they had done over the course of their first three, very different albums. “Parade” was the sound of a group playing it safe and milking the cow until it cried uncle. Half of the songs sound like they were trying for another “True” and that’s sad. Almost any cut from “True” trumped the songs on this album. Only “Highly Strung” had the spark of the earlier material. What happened next was a bit unusual to say the least.
Spandau then sat out all of 1985 and most of 1986, suing their label Chrysalis for not promoting them enough! Yeah, they had worldwide hits and sold millions of records (even in America, the former colony curiously resistant to their previous recordings) and that was clearly a breach of faith on the part of Chrysalis in their eyes! Give me a break! After suing Chrysalis they signed with CBS and their downward spiral began. Not releasing records for almost two years when you are at the top of your sales game is a form of commercial suicide.
When they re-emerged in late ’86 with the ludicrous “Fight For Ourselves” as their first single in almost two years, the band had decided to “rock!” The album “Through The Barricades” was a queasy blend of more attempts to mine another “True” joined together with ham-fisted, lighter-waving arena rock. Like almost every other band I liked through the early 80s, they lost their mooring in the horrifying mid-80s. Needless to say, the sight of Tony Hadley in a mullet was dispiriting to say the least. The 12″ remix of “Fight For Ourselves” featured crowd noise run through a Fairlight for a truly repulsive feel. Far better was the almost ambient dub take of the track on the single flipside known as “Fight… The Heartache.”
The next single wasn’t much better. “Through The Barricades” was yet another lighter-waving ballad. At least the extended version wasn’t pumped full of ersatz crowd excitement. It sounded like it was pumped full of sleeping pills instead. The final single from this album was no better. “How Many Lies?” was yet another SB power ballad. It had no remixed version. If you bought the 12″ you were rewarded with an instrumental version for your personal Spandau Ballet karaoke night. Much better prospects for these last two singles could be found with the live B-sides on their flipsides. “Lies” featured the durable “Communication” but “Barricades” fared less well with “With The Pride,” a weak track from “Parade.” “Through The Barricades” would be the last Spandau Ballet album released in America for the now fading group.
Two years passed when the first single from what would be the final Spandau Ballet album was released in 1989. “Raw” was an attempt at carnal thrills that just came off as crass and thick-headed. It didn’t help that Hadley pronounced the title as if he were singing “roar.” This single was from the time where multi-format chart-rigging really became an artform in the UK.
- The 7″ featured a dub mix on the B-side.
- The 1st 12″ featured the extended version and the dub mix, “Raw (flip).”
- 1st CD single [Spandau’s first] with the contents of the 12″ plus the 7″ A-side.
- The 2nd 12″ contained the second Amnesia Mix of “Raw.”
- The 2nd CD single (a picture disc, to up the ante) also featuring the Amnesia Mix plus the Flip and 7″ A-side.
None of them are what I would call classic. It’s debatable as to whether this cut represented an improvement over the MOR fluff that now typified a Spandau single release. At least “Raw,” to its credit, was an attempt at excitement and more than what listeners would come to expect from this flagging band at this point. It merits pointing out that their bitter rivals Duran Duran were also at creative low ebb during this time period with their abhorrent “Liberty” album.
The following single was the sole bright spot in the soporific final Spandau Ballet album “Heart Like A Sky.” “Be Free With Your Love” featured the Miami sound so prevalent in the late 80s/early 90s but it was a style that worked better than anything else they tried at this time. The CD single, perversely, featured the Dance Mix edit only. To get the full monty, you had to also spring for the 12″. It’s a great percussion workout for Steve Norman if nothing else. The extended quica abuse at the end of the track was truly awe-inspiring. Spandau had two more singles in them but fortunately, you won’t hear them in this box. “Empty Spaces” and “Crashed Into Love” were both turgid ballads with no power at all! The many formats of these singles had only live B-sides to offer, and adding insult to injury, the tracks on offer were of the weakest material in the Spandau canon. Only the still excellent “Chant No. 1” offers any pleasure here. At this point, I can imagine youngsters forced to attend Spandau concerts with their elders were shocked when this still intense and exciting number appeared in their otherwise torpid setlist.
These last singles were barely scraping the UK top 100 and with that Spandau Ballet ceased to exist. The Kemp brothers by this time had starred in the much-better-than-their-last-three-albums film The Krays, to some acclaim and charted their course for Hollywood stardom. After appearing third billed in the Whitney Houston potboiler, “The Bodyguard,” Gary Kemp, settled down to a career of nothing much, really. Good thing he had the royalties. Even so, in the late 90s, ex-members of the band other than his brother (busy with a B-movie/TV career and -ouch- brain tumor surgery) unsuccessfully sued Gary for royalties denied. I can imagine them testifying in court. “You know that bit after that other bit? Well, I thought that up!” Meanwhile Gary Kemp probably brought in his notebooks and publishing demos. Case closed. Chastened by their loss in court to Kemp, they plugged along as a threesome performing the hits of Spandau Ballet without being able to use that name.
At least until the Spring of 2009, when UK news sites were abuzz with the account of Spandau Ballet’s (wait for it)… reformation! Yes, they’ve buried the hatchet for the sake of brotherhood and moving beyond the old money issues that fractioned the band violently as recently as 2007. It’s all about the music, maaaan! And only a cynic would suggest it was possibly the tanking of their retirement portfolios in the recent financial meltdown that had anything to do with this sudden and drastic change of events!
The accompanying DVD in this set features something you’ll never see officially, at least until EMI buys CBS or vice versa. The DVD has all of the Spandau Ballet music videos ever made. Conspicuously absent are clips for “Empty Spaces” (no loss there as there seems to not have been one) and I’ve not been able to discern whether a clip was made for “How Many Lies?” or if it was promoted with an excerpt from the group’s “Live At N.E.C.” home video. Playing devil’s advocate, I’ve included the Live at N.E.C. clip of “Empty Spaces” into the flow in the belief that the concert clip was the official video. Another caveat is that the ending to “I’ll Fly For You” has been removed. In it, after springing The Girl from the trial, Tony spirits her away in a sports car… that drives intentionally head-on into a semi. Come back Jonee! Also, the clip for “Highly Strung” sported an extended press conference in Hong Kong intro that’s been excised from my source copy of the clip. The Chrysalis era clips were taken from my Japanese laserdisc of the “Singles Collection” and due to the 60 minute running time of laserdisc sides, the cuts to those two clips were made in order to facilitate a single sided disc. Thanks, guys. On the other hand, the UK TV commercial for “The Singles Collection” has been added as bonus material to the LD, so one hand giveth as the other one taketh away.
I had never seen any CBS era clips until by an insane stroke of luck, a DVD of the 1986 N.E.C. concert got released domestically on DVD in 2003! The concert, which I had previously on PAL VHS was remixed for 5.1, but the DVD is a godsend for featuring the CBS era videos as bonus material. They even included the alternate clip for the annoying Amnesia mix of “Raw.” There is also a behind the scenes “making of” featurette for the cringe-inducing “Fight For Ourselves” clip. And rounding out the DVD is Spandau at the top of their form live on The Tube in 1984 with three live cuts of stronger material from “Parade.” These were digitized from the REVO analog videotape archives at great personal cost! So there you have it. Another complete BSOG® that was at least 9 years in the making, and if you’ve read this far, it’s obvious that I’m not even the biggest fan of this band. But I am driven to collect and compile, and assembling a truly canonical BSOG® is its own reward to me.
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