❚ WHY DID MUSICIAN GARY KEMP find it so “hard to write the next line” in the biggest smash hit love-song of his career? He was not hobbled by writer’s block, but was tongue-tied in admiration of a “wee Celtic pixie” who sang in a Scottish pop group and starred in the hit British romantic movie of 1981.
At exactly the moment his band Spandau Ballet were desperately trying to rescue their flagging fortunes in 1982, Gary was smitten with the pretty girl. The trouble was that she had two other rivals vying for her affections. Honour required discretion, and his love remained unspoken while the three admirers stood hopefully in line. When his beloved gave Gary a book as a gift, suddenly its “words bubbled up inside, percolating through me”, he said years later. He knew he had to send them back to her in a song “so she’d know it was about her” and for double measure added the tell-tale line “I want the truth to be said”.
Gary pretty much identified his never-to-be sweetheart in the autobiography, I Know This Much, published in 2009, where he convincingly dovetailed the one-sided romance with a sequence of other events to account for the genesis of his band’s first No 1 hit, True. In the light of which, perhaps fans can better relish the song-words, when they are re-published this week in a book titled The Lyrics of Gary Kemp.
The very keen will want to invest in the special limited edition signed personally by Kemp and available exclusively through his own website Garykemp.com. The collection represents a songwriting career that has spanned four decades.
All the lyrics from all his songs for Spandau Ballet, plus his solo album Little Bruises, make up this anthology of 60 tales of love, loss and of course London… from growing up in Soho in the 1970s (Chant No1) to the entirely autobiographical 1983 hit about unrequited love (True) through to bittersweet reflections on life (An Inexperienced Man, the solo single in a Celtic groove, released in 1995).
Kemp is widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s finest songwriters, and won this year’s prestigious BMI Multi Million Award for True after it notched up 4 million radio plays in the US — a significant achievement for a song released in the 1980s — partly because it embodied enough of “the sound of my soul” to be played on black stations too. The song was written on his bed in his parents’ north London house at the age of 22, while he competed with his mum’s vacuum cleaner. At the awards ceremony, he said he’d never imagined True going on being used in films and TV shows as different as The Simpsons, Modern Family and Ugly Betty.
“If you can write one song that’s still being played 28 years later, you’re lucky! We were playing at a time when a lot of people only bought records, they didn’t buy computer games. Music is much more important to that generation.”
The 88-page coffee-table book, The Lyrics of Gary Kemp, is presented bound in a cloth cover, and the first 250 will be personally autographed.