While we have had our head stuck down the OMD rabbit hole for many months, the world has not ceased spinning on its axis. Last July, Tony Hadley beat what seemed like a hasty exit from Spandau Ballet after nine years back in the fold when the band surprisingly reunited in 2009 after nearly 20 years of vituperative acrimony of the worst kind. Quite frankly, with what went down in the 90s with that band, I was beyond shocked that they regrouped at all.
When the band split in the early 90s in the face of an indifferent audience, the members who were not the Kemp Brothers sued Gary Kemp for songwriting royalties and lost. This meant they they had to sell their shares in the band to pay for their legal costs. Leaving them in a diminished capacity as compared to before the lawsuit. Every Spandau Ballet song with the exception of “Motivator,” which was written by Steve Norman [nice work, Steve], was the handiwork of Gary Kemp, so naturally he reaped the [not insignificant] publishing income. But Spandau Ballet worked in all other ways as a collective. All other income [concerts, merchandise, artist royalties] were split evenly by all five members in 20% shares. Most of the band were Labor voters so this largely worked. John Keeble and Steve Norman recognized that collectively, no one member was bigger than Spandau Ballet.
The fly in the ointment was The Velvet Foghorn himself; Mr. Tony Hadley. Hadley was the lone Tory amongst them. That alone framed a rift that was always present and when Hadley split from the group, I’m surmising that he was getting a little tired of the five way split. After all, he was the lead singer, right? Lead singers can always go solo since they usually front the band. This much is true, but in Hadley’s case he remained primarily a singer, not a writer. His solo output [many more albums than Spandau managed] has from what I can see, about one and a half albums worth of tunes he wrote or co-wrote. For the most part he sings standards … and Diane Warren type stuff. Not our kind.
Therefore, when he recorded a solo album from 1992-2008, he will never reap the wild publishing income in the way that, let’s say… Jim Kerr could with his solo project that he co-wrote with his fellow writers. Kerr was canny enough to make sure he put in his share of the writing effort by writing his lyrics, whether it’s for a Simple Minds release or his lone solo album. Comparatively speaking, Tony earns his crust by putting bottoms in seats. Also by selling albums, as the artist, but few people are doing that any more, so he earns his income by singing for his supper. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does put him at a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Spandau have moved onward. A few weeks ago the band played an intimate club gig at Subterrania. It was probably the first time any of them had seen the inside of a club from the stage in 35 years! Not coincidentally. Spandau’s new singer isn’t even that old. They have robbed the cradle to find their new singer, a gent who sang the Elvis role in a stage musical that Martin Kemp was playing the Scotty Moore role in. Ross William Wild is just 30, making him almost half the mean age of the rest of the band. He’s from a musical theater background with lots of acting and singing. A sample of his album on his website reveals some theatrical melodrama that would not be out of place on Spandau cuts, even as the material itself was more intimate than the typical “slay at 30 places” bluster of Hadley unleashed.
Presumably, Wild could bring the vitality of youth to reenergize the band, whom I have not paid much attention to since their reformation. Spandau ended for me by the mid eighties. Most of their output since then has been in the MOR vein of mega hit “True.” I preferred their clubbing days. By far. Holy mackerel, I just looked and found that there was a video for the Trevor Horn produced track “Steal” from their 2014 compilation “The Story.” They salted that one with three new Horn-produced tracks as I mentioned years ago, but I had not even bothered investigating in that time. Looks like my instincts bore that strategy out. “Steal” was yet another soporific Spandau track aiming for the middle of the road.
Okay, then. Maybe with this Wild child singing, they might let their hair down for a change. I retain a shred of optimism, in any case. We shall see. In the meantime. Tony Hadley has already recorded and released the album that has rekindled his solo career. He ran a Pledge Music campaign to pre-sell it, but I didn’t investigate. It was called “Talking To The Moon” and was released on June 6th of this year. As I suspected, bombast cheek-by-jowel with MOR ballads. I never bothered with either Gary Kemp or Hadley’s solo career and it looked like my strategy was correct. Hadley seems to have been caught up in a label that has strong ties to Go West and even his producer Gary Stevenson looks to have had a finger in every Go West release ever! I always felt that Go West were the type of band that Spandau would have been without Gary Kemp’s batty songwriting or their solid rhythm section. That is to say, missable.
If I wasn’t moved to check out any of the releases like “Once More” or “The Story,” which actually had three new songs produced by Trevor Horn, that Hadley made with Spandau Ballet, what are the chances that I would be motivated to hear him singing just any old songs? The only Hadley solo performance that sounded remotely interesting to me was when commenter Tim [as I recall] mentioned the fact that Hadley had covered Duran Duran’s “Rio” some years back. That showed cheek! So when and if Spandau make new music with Wild, I will cock an ear and see if it bears investigating, but 30 years of slack Spandau releases put them at a disadvantage. Let’s adopt a wait-and-see posture on this one.
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