Spandau Ballet frontman traipses down memory lane
The last time global hitmakers Spandau Ballet toured Japan, the group’s role as fashion leaders did not sit well with lead singer Tony Hadley. Arriving in Japan in 1985, he recalls the shock of encountering Tokyo’s infamous summer heat.
“Do you remember the Live Aid suit?” the 52-year-old asked Metropolis over the phone from his home in Buckinghamshire, England last month. “It was a double-hemmed leather suit,” he says. “I remember the humidity when we were there last time and it was bloody awful.”
Twenty-seven years on, humidity should not be a problem for Hadley when he plays shows in Tokyo and Osaka next week, and he is looking forward to finally returning to Japan.
“We had a great time there, the fans were pretty crazy. There was a real ‘teen scream’ thing going on, and Japan was just completely different from anywhere else,” he recalls.
For his first visit to Japan as a solo artist, Hadley will be showcasing some new numbers but, more to the point for middle-aged fans of Spandau Ballet who saw them back in the ’80s, he will be playing the old favorites.
“We’re going to do a couple of new songs and do all the hits that people know and, hopefully, still love,” he promises, adding that he’s not ready to mellow out too much just yet. “It’s a pretty raunchy set, actually. We’re not tippy-toed musicians—we play loud.”
Raunchy and loud are not words you would associate with the New Romantic movement that Spandau Ballet helped to launch in the early ’80s, until Hadley reels off an unexpected list of songwriting influences.
“I’ve always been a massive Queen fan. I think they’re fantastic writers. Tom Petty—super writer, Bruce Springsteen—great, love him. Darryl Hall and John Oates—brilliant, David Bowie—great, Roxy [Music], Kaiser Chiefs—brilliant, The Killers—brilliant, the late Robert Palmer—brilliant. If you’re into music, you listen to different types,” he says, adding that a cover of a song by New Jersey’s most famous son has made it onto his set list.
“We’ve covered ‘Girls in Their Summer Clothes,’ off the Magic album, by Bruce Springsteen. We’ve done it at a few festivals. I think, ‘I really wish I’d written that,’ but you do what you do and, hopefully, people will like it.”
One look at the Spandau Ballet discography quickly tells you that, with almost every song written by guitarist Gary Kemp, any thoughts Hadley may have had of penning the occasional tune remained on hold. But he is in no doubt about his musical priorities.
“I’ve always considered myself first a singer and, second, a songwriter. I get a big kick out of singing,” he explains. The Londoner is not averse to covering songs by one of his fellow travelers from the decade of shoulder pads and mullets.
“I did a cover of [Duran Duran’s] ‘Save a Prayer’ on an album a few years ago, and Simon Le Bon came and did some backing vocals. Some of the fans thought it was a bit strange, but I quite like it. I haven’t done that one [live] for a long, long time, but we do [Duran Duran’s] ‘Rio,’ which went down a storm at festivals.”
Whatever Hadley may say about his singer-songwriter priorities, his next album will be a landmark for him. “For the first time, we’re doing a completely original album, completely written or co-written by me, which sound like it’s a “me-me” album, but it’s not—I’ve got fantastic musicians around me.
“It’s pop-rock, but pop-rock with heavier guitars and some sequence sections. I’m a big fan of The Killers, who are obviously influenced by quite a lot by ’80s stuff. I quite like that hybrid of rocky sound with heavy synth style,” he says, adding that its release date has become something of a moveable feast.
“It should have been out about two years ago,” he laughs. “Hopefully, sometime next year, late spring I would imagine. The working title is Heroes and Lovers, which is a song that myself and Phil [Taylor], the keyboard player, have written. It’s a very different kind of song, and I thought, ‘That’s a great title for an album—Heroes and Lovers.’
As for Hadley’s other singing gig, Spandau Ballet’s Reformation Tour in 2009-10 was one of the more surprising of the recent spate of ’80s band reunions.
“It’s been well documented that we had a massive falling out and ended up in the High Court, all sorts of stuff,” he says, “so our relationship was, to say the least, pretty fragmented, if there was any relationship at all, and I did say at a certain time that I would never, ever tour with those guys again.”
“It took six months of soul searching before we finally sat down and had a pint together, and it was really [drummer] John Keeble who was instrumental in getting the band back together,” Hadley recalls. He jibes that the experience shored up much more than a few bank accounts.
“I suppose, in a lot of ways, and I think everybody said this, it was a release, to get rid of all that anger that we had between us, and that was a nice thing. Stuff happens and you think, ‘Life is too short,’ so we went from a position of hating each other to going back on an even keel again.”
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