Over the weekend, the Daily Mirror dropped a bombshell. Tony Hadley has apparently said he would have rather joined Duran Duran instead of Spandau Ballet. This made the headlines in our household where the Duran Duran vs. Spandau Ballet argument never really gets settled. We talked about it the night we met and it has been an ongoing battle ever since!
My wife, London-born, was often dancing at Camden Palace in the 80s, enjoying the explosion of the New Romantic scene that erupted from The Blitz and Spands were her band. My fascination with Duran Duran was charming to her at first (sometimes it still is!). So, we have a friendly rivalry when it comes to these bands and I think we have learned to appreciate the other band a bit more in recent years. So, having digested my fair-share of Spandau Ballet in the name of marital bliss, I think I can make a fair assessment of how this may have played out.
First, it is understandable that Tony would say that in 2020. He left Spandau Ballet in 2017 after trying to make it work with Gary Kemp on a short-lived reunion. Any bad blood between Andy Taylor and the rest of the Duran Duran doesn’t compare to what Hadley has been through with his band. The legal wrestling over songwriting credits ended up in court. Kemp has appeared to be less than generous in how he shares credit whereas Duran Duran smartly shared writing credits as a band from day one. For Hadley, I think he would have preferred the team spirit of Duran Duran.
For many music fans in the States, Spandau Ballet didn’t really hit their radar until the soulful “True” became a global hit. However, their first album was ground-zero for the Blitz movement – they were essentially the house band for the club. Check out this early clip for what the band sounded like in 1981. They weren’t that far from Duran Duran’s sound in the early days as both bands worked at blending dance and rock music into an experience that broke free from punk’s limited palette. So, yes, Hadley could have definitely fit into Duran Duran’s debut album but then it gets a little tricky.
When it came to Rio, Duran Duran turn up their guitars and really embraced being a rock-n-roll band with synths. They broke America with that sound and the videos were pivotal to the success. This is where Hadley would not have been the right fit. Simon LeBon’s poetry and acting talent were critical to the band’s success while Hadley was content to sing the lyrics that Kemp brought to the studio. LeBon was the perfect frontman for Duran Duran and they needed his writing. He was a natural rock star in a decade full of them.
However, it is curious to imagine Hadley’s voice on many Duran Duran songs. There is no doubt that he is the stronger singer from a technical perspective. I’ve seen him live twice and he can absolutely belt out Queen’s “Somebody To Love”. I immediately thought of “Ordinary World” as a song Hadley could really nail but I would be most eager to hear him sing “Seventh Stranger”. I think the moodiness of the song would suit his crooner style and edge the band closer to Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry territory.
Would Simon LeBon have fit into Spandau Ballet? Based on my research (i.e. asking my wife who is upstairs reading a book about disco), the answer is absolutely not. I would agree with her. For one, I don’t think LeBon would have been happy singing songs that Kemp wrote. Plus, Spandau Ballet represented a specific moment in the New Romantic scene before dabbling in modern soul which LeBon would have not been right for.
Duran Duran was perfectly balanced as a team for the success they achieved. The five of them were all critical to the sound and, as we learned, replacing any of the five would yield far different results that didn’t always work. However, I love that Tony Hadley made the remark recently. It provided some fun banter under our roof and I really appreciate him as an entertainer. So, sorry Tony, you weren’t right for Duran Duran but thanks for keeping us smiling show after show!