In the few minutes of spare time I’ve had since my last day of work, I’ve kept up with posts in a Spandau Ballet Facebook group. Just as Duran Duran fans sometimes find themselves embroiled in debate, Spandau fans are currently going a similar, yet far more intense deliberation. The subject, is of course, the new lead singer. His name is Ross William Wild, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue or my keyboard quite so easily yet. He’s young, good-looking, and most importantly, at least to Spandau fans—he is not Tony Hadley.
Whether or not that is a problem, depends upon with whom you’re chatting. Ross performed at his first Spandau Ballet gig last week. Social media went wild, no pun intended. There were many who felt as though he has the potential to re-energize the band. Some felt strongly that Spandau needed to hang it up. Still others have taken to calling the band nothing more than a “tribute” at this point. (That last one is an “ouch” for sure!) It would appear that either you are “for” Tony and therefore hate everything about this new frontman and the existing members, or you are “for” the newest reincarnation of Spandau and therefore cannot possibly still love Tony. There is simply no in-between. Choose a side and get on with it…or so may seem.
I bring this seemingly un-related issue up here on a Duran Duran-dedicated fan blog purely because it has been both fascinating and heart wrenching to watch the debate unfold. The issues are vaguely similar, yet incredibly different, to some of the things we ourselves have debated. It has been enlightening to witness the passionate outcry, and it reminds me that fandom is driven completely by emotion. Barely containable under the best of circumstances, fans struggle with change. Emotions run high. Choices are taken on an incredible, personal level.
This claim can be substantiated by recalling the heated debates in our own fandom over guitar players or even changes in musical direction from one album to the next. The fact is, fans are entangled tightly around the heart of Duran Duran. Like it or not, sometimes it is forgotten that we fans are not the band. Many times over the past week I have read posts from fans proclaiming, “had it not been for the fans, the band would never be here”. We’ve grown up as fans, entered adulthood as fans, we are skipping down the path of middle-age as fans, and it can be very difficult to separate our own lives from the career of the band. Decisions made by the band, are taken as a direct hit to fans. It makes no difference how pragmatic, practical or business-oriented those choices may be. Fans take each one to heart.
Fans are so personally involved at this point—twenty, thirty or even forty years in, there’s just no way to ignore what a serious change like a lead singer leaving (regardless of the backstory, which still seems to be in question) would do to any fan base. I don’t envy Spandau, they have quite a rebuilding process ahead. It is painful to see fans, completely torn by loyalty—to whom is very much the point of contention here—say that they’ve enjoyed their time with Spandau but they cannot continue on, citing that the band is not the same with Ross, or that he’s not good enough. It is heartbreaking to read posts pointing blame, or completely discounting the work of one young man purely because he dared to step into a spot previously owned by another. The arguments of why Tony left, or who is to blame, will not doubt continue.
I feel for Ross. Like someone else I know, he is the one most likely to “pay” in this situation. He cannot win. Even if he is every bit the singer that Tony is, the reality is that he is not Tony Hadley. He is Ross William Wild. That alone is a sin far greater than any bum note he may ever hit. He will never sing “Through the Barricades” like Hadley, even if he sings it note for note. The same can be said for “True”, “Gold”, and pretty much any other song in their catalog. I have already seen the words “hired gun”, “stand-in” and my favorite, “hack studio-singer” used to describe Ross. Unfair? Definitely, although I know I’ve read most of those words before somewhere…. He’s in an impossible situation because while many have and will embrace him, just as many (if not more original SB fans) will not. Many will openly (and loudly) proclaim him to be nothing more than a stand-in. It is most assuredly a no-win situation.
Tony Hadley tours with his own band as a solo artist, and still sings many of the same songs Spandau will also continue to sing with Wild at the helm. How on earth can anyone move forward under these circumstances? I am not sure.
While undertones of this debate seem very familiar, the truth is— what we’ve dealt with as Duran fans is likely 1/10 of the agony and turmoil Spandau fans have felt, particularly lately. It is painful to watch, particularly since I have some limited sense of what it feels like. Spandau Ballet as we once knew it ceases to exist. While the band has stood at the crossroad and decided to take a new direction, fans must decide for themselves. I do not envy them.