Duran Duran is my most favorite band. But there are other bands I also love and adore, and like more than a few Duranies out there – Spandau Ballet is on that list.
Up until a few years ago, I’d never seen Spandau live. I’d always wanted to, but timing (I grew up just a couple of years too late), and their own break-up made that pretty impossible until 2015. But the wait was worth it. I didn’t go all-out for tickets in the same way many of my friends did, traveling all over the country to see them, but I did see them a few times that year. And each time I saw them, the show seemed tighter, the band seemed more on fire, and I was thoroughly convinced that it wouldn’t be the last I’d see of them onstage together.
The end of the tour arrived, and not terribly long after, Spandau announced that Tony Hadley, their lead singer, would not return. He had his own plans for a solo career, and he was apparently satisfied with what he’d accomplished with Spandau Ballet. All good things must come to an end; out with the old, in with the new, and so on, right?
But what about the band? Many long time Spandau fans felt like Tony’s departure meant the band should also come to an end. I can’t tell you how many times I read that Tony’s voice is what made the band Spandau Ballet.
Actually, yes I can give an approximation of how many times I read that – just imagine the same happening in Duran Duran, and you’ll know exactly how often it’s been written.
I understand where those fans are coming from. There’s no denying that Tony’s voice is important to the sound we recognize as Spandau Ballet. If it were Simon and Duran Duran we were talking about, the very same could be said, and we’d all nod our heads in agreement. Yes, I’d also argue that the guitar, drums, bass and even sax are important parts, but the voice is the voice.
But there is another side to this story, and that’s of the band. Those other guys. There are many who feel like they’re worthy of some importance. I am firmly in that camp, whether we are talking about Spandau, or even Duran Duran. (yes, I said it) Is it fair for one person to call the shots for the entire group? Is it right that one individual decides the destiny for everyone else? Spandau vowed that this wouldn’t break them, and that they would return. While I knew that in the moment they probably did mean every last word – I wasn’t so sure The Next Line would actually come to them . It’s one thing to be indignant and insist a group can move on, it’s another to actually do it. I was supportive, but silently doubtful. Let’s just say I was thankful I saw them live when I did, just in case.
All was fairly quiet until yesterday, when a curious email hit my inbox. Spandau Ballet sent an email….and yes my friends, they are about to write The Next Line. I silently cheered at my desk. They have a new, yet to be announced lead singer, and they are not only announcing their return, they’re playing a show in London at the Subterania on June 6th. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am GMT. They will sell out in a flash, and I desperately wish I could be there.
As any fan might, I wanted to see the reaction from social media. That’s the difference between today and thirty or even forty years ago – within a couple of clicks I can see fan reaction. Suffice to say, all was not well. There were fans, like myself, who were excited to see the band go on. However, many were not. Some say that because Tony has left, Spandau Ballet as we’ve all come to know it, no longer exists. Rename, reframe, and move on if they care to do so, but using the same name isn’t right. Many others think that no matter what the band does, it won’t be the same and that they should just quit. Apparently for those people, Tony was the band.
I don’t know what Spandau will sound like. I’m assuming it will be very different with someone else at the microphone. Even in the case of Duran Duran – band members have changed, but Simon has always been the singer – changes still come with every album. Some, I’ve loved, others, I have not. There’s no argument from me that a new lead singer will take getting used to, only that I really believe they have the right to try.
As for the name of the band, that’s a legal thing, worked out amongst the members. Tony continues to have Spandau Ballet songs in his set, although they’ve been totally rearranged so that the highlight is completely and totally on his voice. He doesn’t tour as Tony Hadley, ex-Spandau Ballet or whatever-you-will, he just tours as himself with a backing band. I think it’s bizarre (and not entirely successful, in my own opinion) to hear Tony singing, but to have other people playing a different arrangement of the songs I grew up with. He’s covering Spandau, so to speak. I think it sounds a little weird, but it is his right to move on.
Can you imagine if it were Duran Duran? Spandau Ballet fans are easily as ardent as Duran fans. They are certainly as opinionated, and possibly as stubborn. I cringe and shudder to think what might be said if Simon were to go it alone and leave the band. I’m sure many are saying that the band would hang it up. Maybe they would. It is certainly their right to do so. But it would also be their right to try. Wouldn’t we owe it to them, at least in some sense, to applaud their strength and fortitude to have a go at it? We might not like it (but hell, as I said above, there have been entire albums I haven’t necessarily loved and yet I survived!), but I still applaud their willingness to keep going. That’s the creative process at work.
As a fan, it is difficult to see past the emotionality, but we should try. The band name brings out certain feelings and memories. To the band themselves – it’s more than that. In the eyes of the courts, Spandau Ballet is a partnership, a legal entity. The business is entwined with the time and energy spent together. In the midst of the drama, I suspect the arrangements and legalities become more about the pieces of paper indicating who is entitled to what and so forth moving forward, than history and emotions. Someone said that dissolving a band partnership is like a divorce, and I don’t doubt that. In this case, the vocalist starts over, single and free with a solo career, the band keeps the name and marries a new lead singer. Fans are caught in the middle, just like the children. We’re pissed that our family name is continuing to be used by someone we don’t even know or recognize. It’s hard.
Ultimately, Spandau is trying to move on. I can’t blame them. I wish them nothing but success. I suspect it must really be difficult to be in their shoes right now, and I applaud their bravery. I wish fans would think about that a little more before being so quick to tell them to hang it up. For us, it’s about music we love. For the band, it’s their career. Why shouldn’t they keep trying? I’m going to keep cheering them on, even though I would love to be there in person to witness The Next Line at that first London show.
Here’s to possibilities and not giving up! Cheers!