Tag Archives: Spandau Ballet

Symbiosis and the Duran Duran fan

The word of the day is “Symbiosis”.

I know many of you haven’t heard that word since middle school biology, so let’s do a refresher.  Symbiosis is any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc.

Something miraculous happened today – my little write-up of the Spandau Ballet show was reposted and retweeted by the band themselves!! Spandau Ballet. That’s right. They took the time and interest to repost something a mere Spandau Ballet and/or Duran Duran fan had written. Call me flabbergasted.

There are moments in life where something happens and it feels like the filter that had been there diffusing the light and creating shadows has been removed. The view of everything around you completely changes. That’s kind of what today has been like for me as a Duran Duran fan. Over and over, I have had fans, fellow Duran Duran fans, tell me that they’ve met bands and artists…The Fixx, Spandau Ballet, Rick Springfield, Bryan Adams, among many many others. The one thing each Duran Duran fan noted was their shock that these bands and artists really wanted to meet their fans, the people who support them. At one point, it dawned on me that I really don’t have any idea what that  is like.

On one hand this morning, I was overjoyed. We have never had blogs posted by a band like Spandau Ballet before. (All due respect to Rio- the Duran Duran tribute band though, because they support this blog by reposting our reviews and interviews about them, and we truly appreciate the effort!) While I maintain that we write this blog for the Duran Duran fan out there – it feels very good to be acknowledged by the people we idolize. That small acknowledgement is validation for a tremendous amount hard work, of which there is plenty – both seen and unseen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Facebook. Spandau Ballet actually reposted my article?? I dashed off a quick note to Amanda to share in my joy. I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me that another band would repost a review of ours before Duran Duran ever did. Then again, it never occurred to me that any band would acknowledge our work because I’ve been trained to expect far, far less in the 4.5 years I’ve been blogging, not to mention the decades of being a Duran Duran fan prior. It has always been our choice to write. It has always been our choice to support – we chose to do this completely on our own, without being encouraged or forced to continue. But isn’t that also the point?

I suppose it’s vaguely similar to the surprise of having one’s photo taken with the President of the United States before ever having one with Duran Duran.

I’m thrilled that Spandau Ballet thought enough to repost my review as a Duran Duran fan of their show. Of course it was a glowing review they deserved, and of course that in turn helped their cause – which is to create interest and ultimately ticket sales. The thing is, it helps OUR interest too. We are always happy to expand our reading audience and support fantastic bands that are appreciative in the process, which is something we plan to do more often. Daily Duranie is about curating and cultivating symbiotic or even cyclical relationships between bands and their fans.

Food for thought.

-R

Spandau Ballet Wiltern Theatre

I went to see Spandau Ballet at the Wiltern Theatre in LA last night. Yes, I realize this is the Daily Duranie and maybe one of the last things many of you want to read is a review on another band’s live performance.  You should probably look away….but not you, Duran Duran. No, you four…FIVE (!)…should probably read on. (I am never giving in on Dom being a member, by the way. Suck it up.)

The reason I’m writing a show review about Spandau Ballet, is because for many DD fans, the supposed rivalry between SB and DD never existed. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw a YouTube video of Spandau vs. Duran on Pop Quiz.  (Check them out if you haven’t seen them – they’re funny!!) I just loved both bands for very different reasons. My love for Spandau Ballet did not; however, begin with “True” – as it did for many other American fans. I had heard their music well before that – for me, the very essence of Spandau Ballet is “To Cut a Long Story Short”,  or “Instinction” or better yet, “Confused”.  When I listen to those songs even today – the bridge between Spandau and Duran feels solid and I can see why I love both bands.  So to me, writing about other bands that were very much a part of that time period feels natural…and damn it, if Duran Duran isn’t gonna give me anything to write about, someone else will!

When I got to the Wiltern last night just after 7pm, I was dismayed to see that the line stretched all the way around the building and down the block. This wasn’t a GA show, it was completely seated, and the only reason for the line was a lack in security people to check bags. Ridiculous, but thankfully the line moved fairly quickly. Once in the venue though, we made our way up to our loge seats. I chose loge rather than floor because while I’m sure it would have been great to be up front, I really wanted to hear the full mix of the show. I will openly admit that for me, the experience of seeing Duran Duran live has everything to do with the rush of being near the front…but for Spandau Ballet, and knowing that I probably would not have the opportunity to see them live again (hey, it’s been 30 years since they’ve toured here), I wanted to HEAR the music without my brain playing tricks on me because I was in front of Martin Kemp or seeing Steve Norman play sax in front of me. Just saying.  (Still love you, Duran Duran, but seriously – it’s been a long time!)

Our seats were fantastic with a great view of the full stage, and bonus: the Wiltern takes drink orders from your seat! We settled in, watched Richard Blade give away tickets to see Rio and a couple of other far less interesting events (yes, I really mean that – unless you’re into Morrissey, which I am not.), and waited for the show.

The band opened with Soul Boy – a new song off of their The Story, and from the opening notes it was really clear that this was not going to be an ordinary concert for me. I won’t lie or pretend I never notice backing tracks with other artists. I am very clear that for many bands today – they must have them because they record with so many tracks for each instrument, it’s impossible to replicate live. That said, I have to give Spandau credit: they are the real deal. They PLAY…and any backing used is incredibly minimal compared to many other bands. Tony Hadley has a better voice live than nearly any vocalist I’ve ever heard, and I’m sure the Jack he used for toasting the audience does nothing to hurt him, either.  I can’t really say enough about Tony’s vocal talent OR the rest of the band. Steve Norman is a sax GOD, not to mention a world-class percussionist, of course Gary and Martin Kemp are the backbone of the band along with John Keeble on drums.  After sorting through a lot of misinformation, I’m editing this blog to update that the keyboardist’s name on this tour is Toby Chapman, and he did a fantastic job last night as well.  While in my opinion Spandau comes on stage with a lot less “flash” than say…Duran Duran…they more than make up for it with incredibly solid performance, and I still can’t get over Tony Hadley’s voice. He is amazing.

My moment of the night was hearing “To Cut a Long Story Short” – which is my favorite Spandau song. I marveled at how I was standing there, at a Spandau Ballet concert – something I just never, EVER thought I would do. I had many of the same feelings surging through my veins as I did when I saw Duran Duran – The “Original” Fab Five – at the OC Fair back in 2003. I couldn’t quite make my eyes believe what my ears were hearing. I am kicking myself this morning for not taking video, but in a lot of ways I’m glad I didn’t. I took the moment for myself and soaked it in, feeling that concert rush course through my system. I’d forgotten what it was like.

This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make some commentary on the Spandau Ballet fans – many of which had been waiting thirty years to see this band. I loved being up in the balcony because I was able to see the reaction from fans – diehard Spandau Ballet fans – as they heard songs that they probably never thought they’d see done live. There was something really heartwarming as I watched fans scream with glee as Tony broke into Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) or the way the entire audience sang “True” with the band. There were so many special moments about the show I can’t even begin to name them all…and that’s just during the show.  As we waited in line outside that night, I halfway listened as the people in back of us talked about the trek they were making to follow the band on their tour across the country, and how they talked about members of the band as though they were old friends. It reminded me so much of the “relationship” Duran fans have with the band. As much as we might be different – Spandau fans and Duran fans – we’re really the same. (and quite honestly, there were quite a few Spandau fans that I recognized from Duran shows over the years!)

As I sit here, trying to formulate sentences to describe my experience, the one feeling I really want to convey is just how much the Spandau Ballet show reminded me of what I love most about going to concerts. I think I’d forgotten that concert rush – that concert high, a high I caught even while sitting in loge seats rather than in the first few rows down front.  I had forgotten just how much I love seeing bands live and fully immersing myself into the music. Hearing every single note from a sax solo. Feeling the bass drum beat, clapping my hands in rhythm and singing as loud as my voice can manage. Squealing in joy as the band plays another song through to perfection, and yes – even watching the band acknowledge fans who have loved them for thirty years. How can I honestly say I would be OK to never feel any of that again?

I can’t.

-R

Spandau Ballet US tour : Too Much Mis-information?

This is dedicated to any fan who has ever had the frustration of not knowing what is really going on…or that the “official” website is always the last to make a statement on rumor…etc.  (Basically, this means you.)

I have a fondness for 80s “alternative” bands. Unlike many Duran fans – I was blissfully ignorant of the apparent “rampant” discord between DD and Spandau Ballet. I liked both bands. Granted, Duran Duran came first in my heart and always will, but I did like Spandau. I owned more than one Spandau record, and would have loved seeing them live. When they announced a tour here in the states – I jumped at my chance for tickets and waited my four months (or however long it’s been!) for the Spandau Ballet US tour time to arrive.

Over the weekend however, it seemed as though I might miss my chance for the Spandau Ballet US tour after all. Timing is everything, and Spandau has struggled to release their movie documentary, Soul Boys of the Western World in a timely manner with their tour. As a result, some of their tour dates have been rescheduled, and for a while, it appeared that the Los Angeles and San Francisco dates were going on the chopping block altogether, as in completely canceled without a chance to reschedule the dates.

Interestingly enough, it was NOT the official Spandau website that broke the news (do I hear a collective gasp?!?), but instead a few “fan-managed” websites that grasped hold of what appeared to be a press release written by their concert promoter.  Not the band. (again, I should hear gasping)  Not only was the news not really official…or unofficial…but it was not concisely written or easily understood. Instead of explaining the situation at hand, the news was simply that the Spandau Ballet US tour dates that could be rescheduled were listed below, and that the first three dates: LA and SF dates, couldn’t be rescheduled. So were they canceled with refunds available at the point of purchase? Some sites assumed that yes, they were. Others said otherwise, and Spandau’s site?  Still not updated.  (Let’s have a slow clap for the band’s website, shall we?)

I went to bed whatever night that was figuring that I probably didn’t have a show to attend and that I’d just get a refund. As sad as this news was for me, on the scale of I’m-going-to-miss-a show up to I’ve-just-traveled-5,437-miles-to-London-only-to-have-the-band-cancel-every-show-I-have-tickets-to-attend…I felt as though I might live. If nothing else, at least Duran Duran was not going to be the only band to ever cancel on me now. I went to bed that night thinking of how I might spend my refund money. (I wish I were joking…)

That next morning though, the news was much different. Turns out that no, LA and SF dates for the Spandau Ballet US tour were still on. Where did I get that news? No, not from Spandauballet.com as you might expect, at least not right away. Nope. I got the news from Richard Blade, thankyouverymuch.  He talked to the band, got the scoop, and shared it with a good many anxious fans who were far more confused and/or angrier than I was at the time. It wasn’t until that afternoon my time that I finally began to see links to the band’s website, which posted an official statement about the Spandau Ballet US tour that makes everything completely clear….as mud…to all fans about what was really happening. What became obvious to me is that the band’s website used the same press release as what must have gone out on the wires prior, and whomever is responsible for that press release should go back to school. I don’t know why it was so difficult to clearly say that the Los Angeles and San Francisco dates were staying exactly as is, that they would not be changing…but that didn’t happen until later, after continued fan uproar… when someone from the band’s management decided to post on Facebook and Twitter to “clarify” that those dates were unaffected.

What interested me most about the entire exercise was how angry  fans were about the lack of information on the band’s website, as well as the misinformation going out about the Spandau Ballet US tour dates. We Duran fans have a nasty habit of assuming that we have it so much worse than any other fan community out there: we don’t get information in a timely manner, we hear the rumors and leaks well-before the band ever decides to respond (if ever), and when things really go wrong – like an entire tour gets canceled, or a band members decides to leave the band, it feels like light years go by before the band figures out what to say as vaguely as possible to make things as clear as…you guessed it…mud! It turns out though, we’re not alone. I would venture to guess that if you asked other fan communities, you’d hear very similar complaints.

I have to wonder…are fans just impossible to please? Far too crafty and investigative for our own good? Entirely too judgmental?? All of the above?

Absolutely.

-R

This Week in Duranland – November 10 to November 16, 2014

I figured that this week in Duranland might be kind of quiet since they had their big public appearances last week.  Yet, it turns out that the week was plenty busy!  Did you catch everything?  Did I?  Read on to find out!  As always, I checked their official website, their official fan community website and their social media.

“Soul Boys of the Western World”
John Taylor wrote a couple of short notes this week on the band’s official website.  The first note was about this documentary, which is about Spandau Ballet.  In the note, John raves about the documentary and encourages everyone to see it.  I would think that any Duran fan would be interested since they were their “rivals” of sorts and could enlighten people about the music and fashion of the early days of both bands in the UK.

Teenage Cancer Trust
The band did perform this week!  Many of us were wondering if there was a show somewhere as Simon had tweeted about Movember and about how he can’t have one on stage but can shave everything else after the 15th, which indicated that there was a show in the works.  While it wasn’t a public appearance, they played in London for a fundraiser.  I love that the band wants to give their time and energy to causes like this one.  Read John’s complete note about it and see a picture here.

November Katy Kafe!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks forward to these each and every month!  I, especially, can’t wait if it means getting a scoop and we definitely got one this month!  Rhonda covered it all in her post earlier in the week!

Kingdom!
The song by Charli XCX featuring Simon is out tomorrow!  What does everyone think of it?!  I have to admit that I’m pretty excited about being able to buy new music featuring anyone connected to Duran!

Unstaged
The live performance directed by David Lynch played yesterday in Portugal at a film festival.  Read about it here.

More Anniversaries!
This week saw the 7th anniversary for Red Carpet Massacre and the 30th anniversary of Arena that Rhonda discussed here!

2015 Calendar!!!
As Rhonda talked about here, the Duran Duran calendar for 2015 will be available on November 27th!  I have to admit that I’m looking forward to this one!

Okay, Duranies, what did I miss?!

-A

Book Club: Mad World (Spandau Ballet, The Human League and Heaven 17)

We are continuing on with our weekly book club, in which we discuss each and every chapter of the book, Mad World, one by one.  This is week 4 and this week we are discussing Spandau Ballet, The Human League and Heaven 17.  We invite you to read those chapters and then come discuss with us!

Spandau Ballet:

Amanda’s thoughts:

Isn’t one of the rules of being a Duranie that you are supposed to hate Spandau?  I learned early on that they were rivals, that they were fighting to be the top UK band.  Heck, they even fought in battle on the TV show, Pop Quiz.  Thus, I will wholeheartedly admit that I doubt I ever gave Spandau the chance that any band deserves. I looked forward to reading this chapter so it would give me a  different look at this band, from a Duranie, but not only a Duranie perspective.  Then, I read the introduction and learned how the name was a term Nazis used, but they didn’t know it at the time.  I have to look past that and the rivalry.

I adored the story that Gary Kemp told about the club scene in 1978, in which kids would dress up and go to watch each other.  There wasn’t a band that glued the scene together but they felt that there should be.  They would be that band.  As someone who has spent a bit of time in clubs with a similar feel, I related instantly.  Then, I read that others at the club also had creative ambitions and I am once again reminded about how creative this time period was.

Another theme I keep running into over and over again is the idea that these songs, these important songs were not written to be singles as they did not fit hit singles formulas.  We talked about how “Cars” by Gary Numan didn’t fit the single mold and neither did New Order’s “Blue Monday”.  Now, Spandau’s song, “True,” could be added to the list with its Al Green and Motown influence, its length and its placement at the end of the album.  Clearly, the formula for a hit song did not always matter.

One of the things mentioned in this chapter is how Spandau did not do as well in the States as they did in Europe.  Gary Kemp blamed it on the record company there that, according to him, “made a lot of mistakes”.  Tony Hadley, on the other hand, mentioned that the name was problematic with the Jewish community in the States.  He also didn’t think that “True” was representative of their work.  So, let me ask all of you this.  Could they have been bigger in the States with a different record company and name?  Based on the time period and their style, I have to say that I think they could have been.

Rhonda:

One thing you’ll quickly learn about me in this post is that I don’t follow the rules very well.  I loved Spandau Ballet, and have most of their albums. It never occurred to me until AFTER the DD reunion (from reading about the rivalry online) that I wasn’t supposed to like them, and by that time – I just didn’t care. The funny thing is that I never really put Duran Duran and Spandau in the same musical “camp”, so to speak, other than recognizing that both bands were from the UK.  All I really knew was that I liked their sound, and they dressed nicely. (Funny words coming from someone who relishes her jeans and t-shirts!) Admittedly, I didn’t know that Spandau had other albums before True until later on…but I’m thankful that I bothered to look at all, and if you know the band solely from True, it’s really time to expose yourself to some of their other music, because I think you’ll be shocked! 

Gary Kemp mentions their mystique, by saying that no record company had seen them, and that record companies weren’t even allowed into their gigs.  They had a documentary that Janet Street-Porter had filmed, and that was what record companies could view and decide if they were interested in the band. He compares that to YouTube today, and how no band really has that same mystique because anyone can film you and put that video up on YouTube for all to see.  It certainly does remove some of the curiosity factor, and I still say that media of all types today is meant for quick consumption.  Get it, absorb it, and move on to the next greatest thing. It will be interesting to see just how much of today’s music, today’s media, will really have a lasting effect in the same way that our music did for us.

What drew me to Spandau Ballet is that their sound was really quite different from anything else of that period. The band embraces that, as Gary mentions, “Spandau has two things that make us sound like no other band: Tony’s unique and powerful voice and Steve Norman’s amazing saxophone that we always like to include. It’s the sound of our soul, if you like.”   I completely agree with him – just as you can’t find anyone else that can harmonize like Simon; I don’t think you can copy Tony Hadley, or find anyone that plays like Steve.  The uniqueness of the bands during this period are what still keep them alive today.  There was never a real “formula” that any of these bands followed – and I think that is what kept it all feeling fresh and new for me.  It’s also where I cultivated my strong dislike of what I call the “Top 10 Hit Formula” that certain producers seem to really hang their hat on these days.  I’m sure it existed back then as well, I just didn’t pay it (Top 40 radio) much attention. 

Having now read Mad World completely through twice, one of the saddest things to read in nearly every single chapter (for me) is the “That Was Then, This is Now” section.  There seems to always be a tinge of wistfulness, perhaps sadness, and sometimes even a bit of lingering anger depending upon the band in question, and for me – Miss 80s Music Fan – it’s heartbreaking.  Maybe it’s just the idea of looking back on the full experience that sparks emotion for me, I’m not sure. Tony Hadley says something that I still find myself thinking about and considering as I sit to write this book discussion, “But we’re still old friends, which is great. We can all go and have a pint and a meal, and we’d all laugh and joke and tell stories. But it’s not the same, and it never will be.” 

When I think about that, I can’t really argue with Tony Hadley. Life experience changes your perspective, and things must have certainly changed since the 80s. When you reunite, I would imagine you come back to that proverbial table with all of that baggage, along with anything else you’re still dragging along for the ride. It can’t ever be exactly the same, but is it enough to build upon?  That would be my question.

The Human League:

Amanda’s reaction:

Right away, we learn that this chapter is going to be different.  Phil Oakey, the singer, refused to meet with the authors.  I so wonder why.  Perhaps, he will think differently now that the book has been published.

I like how Lori Majewski, one of the authors, points out that nowadays it is obvious what songs are about, but then, songs made the listeners work for it.  I agree and I loved working for it.  I still do.  I love trying to figure out what a song is about, which is probably one of the reasons I love Duran songs so much.  They aren’t obvious, even when they appear to be so.  It seems that Phil Oakey, himself, was like this, too, according to Martyn Ware who described him as “otherworldly” while being the “best chum” and “aloof” at the same time.  Now, I’m even more fascinated by him and his decision not to talk to the authors.

Likewise, I found their approach to lyrics so interesting.  The fact that they banned words like love, which led to topics like philosophy and science fiction.  It sure seemed like a way to push them past the usual.

Rhonda:

I really don’t understand why a musician wouldn’t want their story to be included in this book, unless they just didn’t understand what was being done. Sometimes I think that these musicians…INCLUDING my ever-favorite Duran Duran, just don’t get it, which is at least partially why this blog even exists. They don’t understand, and maybe sometimes they don’t/can’t care, that their music has resonated with fans so much that for many of us – their songs are as much a part of who we’ve become as people as say, our hometown, our high school, and the friendships we’ve made along the way. No matter…I wish Phil Oakey had participated, because his music and his voice made a difference in my youth.

That said, I love that Jonathan and Lori chose to include “Being Boiled”, because it is a great song – it’s dark and obscure, brooding and hypnotic.  The more I hear early New Wave, the more I know that is where my musical soul lives and breathes. Just as Lori said – I adore that unless you really sit down and pay attention, you’re likely to have no idea what the song is about.  I appreciate that the song lyrics weren’t so watered down and obvious back then.  I think that nowadays (not to sound so “Get off my lawn, kids!”, but seriously…) everything is so dumbed down, so EASY, the public gets so bored.  They’re not even given a chance to prove they’ve got brainpower in there somewhere.  

Martyn Ware explains the real gist of Human League, and I find it to be the case for many (if not all) of the bands I adore from this period. “Right from the start, we wanted people who listened to us to regard it as entering into our world, where we could, over a period of time, flesh it out with our artistic content. So it’s not just about music. It’s about lyrical content, it’s about the kind of films you watch, it’s about the kind of novels you read, it’s about the kind of visual art you like. It all fed back into a worldview.”  I don’t think that it’s necessarily a surprise to find that when I’m with fellow fans – Duran fans for instance, there are more than a few of us that like the same sort of books, or the same sort of art.  So many of these bands intertwined their visual presence with their musical presence. I always say the music of this period is three dimensional in a way that you just will not ever find again, and it’s precisely due to the reasons that Martyn Ware states.  

Heaven 17

Amanda’s ideas:

The story about how the manager of Human League worked to kick Martyn Ware out of the band was pretty shocking and sad.  I wonder what the manager, Bob Mast, would say about it.  Did he really think that Phil could be a solo singer?  Did he think he would be better off without Martyn?  This story makes me sad since Martyn and Phil were such close friends.  Yet, obviously, he didn’t let stop him as he got a new singer within just a couple of days.  That’s impressive.  I wonder how many people could bounce back from being kicked out of their band and losing their best friend at the same time.

One thing that Heaven 17’s story highlights for me is the use of sides back in the era of albums.  The one side, Pavement, had songs written still as Human League and were more electronic and the other side, Penthouse, wasn’t.  I miss the album.  I do.  Even if I put a whole album on, unless it is vinyl, it isn’t the same as have an A side and a B side where bands could do exactly what Heaven 17 did here.

One thing about Heaven 17 that I was surprised by was that they didn’t tour and instead focused their money on videos.  I do love that they ended up touring with Human League in 2008.  That seems fitting.

Rhonda:

I definitely prefer vinyl to digital. It’s not even a contest…vinyl has a warmth to it that just cannot be translated to digital, never mind the more obvious fact that I miss having two sides to an album.  Maybe I’m just stuck in the 80s, in which case, that’s fine too. 

I am one of those people in the world that lets friend loyalty dictate certain things. I would never, for instance, even remotely entertain the idea of ditching a friend so that I could move up the business ladder.  That’s probably why I’m going to stay a blogger forevermore, so that I don’t HAVE to deal with office politics, and that’s just fine by me.  I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be kicked out of a band by a best friend…but yet this sort of backstabbing seemed to happen a lot back then.  It’s all about success and what you’re willing to do to get there. (My question remains whether any of these bands really know when they’ve gotten that success and whether they really ever enjoyed it once they were there – it all seems to be something people only see in hindsight!)

I liked Heaven 17 fine, and “Temptation” is probably their most recognizable song, but they weren’t on my short list.  For me, the big story here is how they were freed from the self-defined shackles of Human League in order to explore other influences.  I liked that they weren’t into the “fame” side of things: they viewed themselves as “valued artists and musicians”. The fact that they had a hard time breaking America because they wouldn’t tour with Coors is interesting. I wonder how many American bands would have sold their souls to be on that tour?  That’s one thing I find fascinating with many of the UK bands of this period: they stuck to their ideals.  

They toured again with Human League in 2008, and Ware says something that I believe is a common thread among nearly every band of this period, “We’re mates now, but I wouldn’t say there’s been closure.”  I swear I’ve read similar tales from every band in Mad World.  Maybe it is partially the British culture – maybe it’s easier just to sweep it all under the rug?  

Have something to add? Comment below!!

Join us next week as we discuss Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Bow Wow Wow and The Waitresses!