Tag Archives: Chant No 1

➤ Soul Boys Spandau rise like a phoenix from the flames of their film premiere

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau Ballet: smart-casual on the red carpet

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau live at the Albert Hall: All six members of the band reunited, the sixth being manager Steve Dagger in the wings

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Royal Albert Hall: full house for Spandau’s premiere

◼︎ 6,000 PEOPLE WERE UP FOR an emotional roller-coaster ride at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday – hundreds more watched simulcasts in cinemas across the land. Today Rolling Stone has called it “the biggest home-movie party in British pop history”. We sped through yards of breathlessly cut vintage footage even the band hadn’t seen before, showing how five glammed-up school friends adopted the preposterous name Spandau Ballet and effectively rewrote the rules of a moribund pop industry to rocket into the charts and become one of Britain’s six supergroups of the New Romantic 80s…

We saw how their friendships turned nasty and imploded in a law court… and how they’ve agreed to make this film 20 years later in which each tells his own version “warts and all”, soul boys baring their souls in a cathartic process of reconciliation and redemption. Why, they’d even titled their home movie, Soul Boys of the Western World, ironically referencing one of theatre’s tragic morality tales about human failings, the greater irony being that the band themselves were actually shocked to hear each other’s words at the first screening. They were the film’s only narrators, recorded separately talking one-to-one with the director and telling the tale with more “crashing and burning” than tact.

Tuesday’s audience picked up these cues in pantomime tradition. We were bearing witness just as the penitent members of Spandau Ballet were hoping. We oohed and aahed at some really tear-jerky best bits. We howled at odd Spinal Tap daftness. We heckled the cocky Cockney TV presenter. We laughed at our quaint mullets and hilarious teenage pretensions four decades ago. Then when the screen froze in a silent moment of grim truth, the whole Albert Hall groaned “Ohhhh no!” One hero had been damned, but a succession of jaw-dropping out-takes from pop-idol interviews hanged the others in turn. Icicles formed in the air, Steve Norman’s voice told us “You can see on our faces Spandau Ballet has just come to an end” and we shared their pain. At times the spoken bluntness came too near the knuckle and between last spring’s hair-shirt trailer and this autumn premiere a couple of killer icicles have been chopped.

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Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, the yarn rattled along as a fascinating piece of social history, to a soundtrack deftly clipped from 22 Spandau numbers and a host of others that shaped the 80s. Tuesday’s melodrama came in three acts and we confessors gave the film a standing ovation, took a quick break to share our own shock at the band’s courage, and then rose to our feet again as the 6,000 to welcome onstage the happy smiling band of brothers, plus their equally glamorous film director, George Hencken, who had brought a woman’s instincts to handling the boys’ emotional baggage.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World,

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by NME

Act 2 heard the team answer those burning questions live onstage, among them Gary Kemp saying “Yes, I’m the baddie”, and his brother Martin admitting disappointment in himself when young, while Tony Hadley said all the bitterness had weighed heavy on their families. There was plenty of humour too. When asked what he’d missed most since the great days, John Keeble said “the cheeseboard” (a reference to a backstage luxury specified in the band’s touring contract). Drummers, eh?

Act 3 was the equal of all that had come before. We rose to greet Spandau’s live set of six copper-bottomed hits, kicking off with their hymn of defiance, Through the Barricades, then sprinting into To Cut a Long Story Short. By Chant No 1 all six tiers of the Albert Hall were on their feet and cheering the dancefloor anthem that just missed being the chart No 1 in the riotous summer of 1981. Martin looked reassuringly relaxed powering its funky bassline, and Steve’s sax breaks were definitely dirtier than of old. In Only When You Leave Tony’s big balladeering vowels confirmed what a magnificent bel canto baritone he has become. And of course the last two classics, True and Gold, were inevitably hijacked by the choir filling the hall.

In words of the Eurovision winner, Spandau Ballet have risen from their ashes like a phoenix (fortunately without beards or frocks). We turn to our philosopher-drummer Keeble for the last word: “The film is a three-act play: guys have success, the wheels come off, then there’s some redemption. This now feels like fun and games – with love in it.” Gulp.

Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Spandau film premiere: Rock god Keeble photographed by Dave Hogan


Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, premiere

Soul Boys oWW reviewed by Empire magazine

“More than a typical rock doc … the biggest home-movie party in British pop history” – David Fricke, Rolling Stone

“I found it gripping. Despite having never understood the appeal of the New Romantics, I enjoyed the hell out of Soul Boys of the Western World” – Observer film critic Mark Kermode on BBC-tv … “The mark of a really good rock documentary is that it makes you care about a band who played music that you were never a fan of” – Kermode again, on BBC News channel, picking his DVD of the week 24 Oct

“A funny, absorbing, trivia-filled portrait of friendship, the 80s music biz and bad hair” – Ian Freer, Empire Online

“The muscular musicianship of the band suggested that this latest stage of their reunion is more than just a nostalgia-wallow” – James Hall, Daily Telegraph

➢ Soul Boys of the Western World goes on general release 3 October, plus w/b Oct 20 screenings at Rome Film Festival and cinemas across Italy, Belgium’s Film Fest Gent… from Oct 27 Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Pamplona… Plus, Nov 15 Spandau’s first public appearance in New York since 1983.

➢ Oct 20: tickets on sale today! Auckland NZ Nov 2, Melbourne Nov 5 and Sydney Nov 7 for special Q&A screenings of SBWW – Spandau Ballet are heading Down Under where the Melbourne screening will include a 20-minute live performance by the band.

➢ Plus Oct 24: Spandau’s first European tour dates announced: Amsterdam 21 March, Luxembourg live 22 March and a five-date Italian tour 24–30 March


1981 ➤ Chant No 1: Spandau revive the rumble of funk while hard times loom

❚ ON THIS DAY IN 1981 Spandau Ballet, spearhead band of the New Romantic movement, were flying off to Spain and Portugal by way of a working holiday with sun and sand — a brief tour of principal cities to establish their first European fan base, which remains strong today. Most significantly, on Ibiza, the island which young British sunseekers were starting to make their own, Spandau played at the then spanking new Ku club, as one of the first fashion bands whose visits were to make Ku one of the Mediterranean’s destination nightspots.

Spandau Ballet, Ibiza, 1981

Spandau Ballet in 1981: a quick sprint to the Iberian peninsular as well as a hot date at Ibiza’s Ku club

But the day before their departure, Spandau had lit the fuse to a musical bombshell. They changed their sound to outflank the emergent slipstream of new image bands invading the British charts with synth-pop.

That Thursday they had taken over Le Beat Route in Soho, a mythical Mod club during the 60s, now fronted by Ollie O’Donnell, a suited but laid-back young crimper from Keith-at-Smile’s cool salon in Knightsbridge. The downstairs hideaway in Soho was the current Friday-night HQ of London’s nightlife leaders whose jackets and printed ties were hastily shaking off the New Romantic tag even as Duran Duran’s second single revelled in it. The bamboo decor helped: hints of a tropical holiday-camp with baskets for lampshades. South Seas tongue-in-cheek, maybe. Glamorous it was  not. The ethos for new one-nighters was never to be smart, always gently ironic.

Here before an invited audience of Friday regulars the innovative Russell Mulcahy directed Spandau’s promotional video for their fourth single, Chant No 1. The bombshell was a surprise change of direction, announced by rat-a-tat congas and a burst of brass. The new tune, Gary Kemp said, had been inspired directly by the dissonant brass on the disco-funk track Wheel Me Out, the debut 12-inch dance single on Ze from US new-wave group Was (Not Was). The eerie sound had been introduced to keen Brit ears during the Axiom fashion show that had preceeded Spandau’s set in New York that May, during the first Blitz Invasion.

Chant No 1 was a blue-eyed funk mover that echoed the band’s teen years on the soul circuit, musically fresh while the lyrics seeped a certain seedy paranoia. There on-camera was a black trio of brass instrumentalists, Beggar & Co, who were the horn section for the British funksters Light of the World, and who’d already had their own hit with Somebody Help me Out.

Gone were the artsy settings and OTT costumes of Spandau’s early videos. This razor-sharp musical documentary intercuts Soho streetlife with a live club  performance by Spandau. “Down, down, down, pass the Talk of the Town” urges the deejay’s Chandleresque rap as Tony Hadley sweeps past The Talk, the cobwebbed Mecca of international cabaret from the Judy Garland era. Inside the steamy Beat Route itself we take in the stylish ambience where the “mobile knives” now live to dance, as well as dress up in a distinctly more boy-meets-girl way than the incessant camperie of the Blitz, the long-gone poser-paradise. We glimpse the deejay Steve Lewis before his portrait of Lenin, in a season when Soviet button badges are also de rigueur, and it’s evident that, yes, things are different here.

Stephen Jones, Graham Smith, Ollie O’Donnell, Robert Elms

Three hats and a quiff: Stephen Jones, Graham Smith, Robert Elms and at centre Beat Route host Ollie O’Donnell, during the shooting of the Chant No1 video in 1981. Photography © Shapersofthe80s

The video emphatically makes the point that clubland rules. Spandau drummer John Keeble spoke with only slight exaggeration when he said: “For the next couple of years, no new band played live on a stage.” What he meant was that rock venues as the source for original music had been superseded by nightclubs. White socks and hedonism were the key: girls in swirling party frocks with hair cropped like chives, and boys wearing braces and rolled-up sleeves soon walked the streets of every town. Ha! Why, even the NME finally conceded by introducing a “Dance Chart” alongside their lists of Indie garage bands.

Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp, Chant No 1, video, Beat Route, clubbing

Chant No 1: Gary Kemp with one of Beggar & Co’s brass section at front

Once released on July 6, Chant No 1 rocketed straight up the charts to reach No 3 on August 1 (the NME chart actually placed it at No 1). Simultaneously remixed by Richard Burgess as a B-side and as an extended twelve-incher for clubs, the track immediately became an upbeat dance anthem for the school-leavers who were discovering what economic “hard times” were going to mean.

“I Don’t Need This Pressure On” ran Spandau’s chorus as a timely slogan for that summer when Britain went into shellshock from the rare experience of repeated race riots on the streets of London, Manchester and Liverpool. The fashion-conscious band who had been dismissed by the rockist press as fascists and dandies hit back with supreme optimism. This vibrant tune pressed the pop button with fans as well as rival bands who envied the chemistry of Spandau plus Beat Route. It announced a new brand: Team Soho. For ten weeks in the charts, Chant No 1 confirmed its rhythm as the sound of the new pop: once-and-for-all the dominance of the rock guitar was shifting to the supremacy of bass and drum for pop generations to come.

Ironies were everywhere. Not only did the crepe-shoed rocker Shakin’ Stevens occupy the No 1 spot for four consecutive weeks with Green Door, a comforting throwback to 50s nostalgia. By contrast, the cool young band who also held Chant off the top spot for another three consecutive weeks were The Specials, whose haunting single Ghost Town (where “all the clubs have been closed down”) became a poignant epitaph for the inner-city angst starting to erupt among the ranks of the hard-pressed in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. The times were changing, not entirely for the better.

Beat Route, nightclubbing, Soho, Spandau Ballet, video,Chant No 1,

The legend that became Le Beat Route: a little light romancing, a lot of heavy drinking. Photography © Shapersofthe80s


➢ 1980, Spandau fire the starting gun for British clubland’s pop hopefuls: dada didi daaa!
➢ 1980, The day Spandau signed on the line and changed the sound of British pop

How many people dID it take to launch an electro-diskow band?

Waldorf Hotel, Spandau Ballet, Covent Garden, Blitz club, New Romantics, youth culture,youth movement, Blitz Kids , To Cut a Long Story Short, London, UK, singles chart, aged 20, club-hosts, DJs, Herbie Knott

Waldorf Hotel 1980: seated at centre, Spandau Ballet, house band of Covent Garden’s Tuesday-night Blitz Club, home of the New Romantics movement, plus support team of Blitz Kids who helped put their first single To Cut a Long Story Short into the UK singles chart at No 5, on Dec 6, 1980. Average age 20, everyone had a specific role to play in staging and promoting the band: seven musicians, six designers, three media and management, three club-hosts, two DJs, one crimper and 22 egos. Photographed for the Evening Standard © by Herbie Knott


➤ Gary Kemp puts his neck on the block — Spandau ‘the best live British band of the Eighties’

Gary Kemp, interview, Mail on Sunday, Spandau Ballet
“I’m going to stick my neck out and say that we were the best live British band of the Eighties. Spandau Ballet’s records are an important part of the evolution of British pop music, and I’m enormously proud of them. We were part of the golden age of pop. We were a gang who made records.”
— Gary Kemp on Spandau Ballet in their heyday
➢ Read today’s bold interview with Spandau’s songwriter Gary Kemp in the Mail on Sunday … In the zoot-suited shadows of Le Beat Route club, student journalist Dylan Jones — today the editor of GQ magazine — watched Kemp shoot the video that would launch Spandau Ballet to stardom. Thirty years later, they meet again

Jones writes:
Kemp’s band was more than just timely – the music they made was genuinely groundbreaking. No, the critics were not kind, painting them as dim, inner-city mannequins, yet their songs resonated with a generation of young men and women who were determined to explore social mobility in much the same way that their parents did in the 60s. Their most important record from this early period was Chant No 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On), a song that mirrored Ghost Town by the Specials.

“Chant No 1 was all about urban paranoia,” says Kemp. “I wanted to make a Soho film-noir song, something that was evocative of an urban experience. Dark shadows, dark corners. A fear of living on the edge in an urban environment as a young man. The early 80s were rough for most people, and I wanted to reflect that in the song. It’s a very dark track and one that mirrored the economic plight of the time.”