1976 in Islington, London, England - initially as The Cut
Core '80s Band Members:
- Tony Hadley (born Anthony Patrick Hadley on June 2, 1960 in Islington, London, England) - Lead vocals
- Gary Kemp (born October 16, 1959 in Smithfield, London, England) - Guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, primary songwriter
- Martin Kemp (born Martin John Kemp on October 10, 1961 in Islington, London, England) - Bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Steve Norman (born March 25, 1960 in London, England) - Saxophone, guitar, percussion
- John Keeble (born July 6, 1959 in London, England) - Drums, backing vocals
Inspired initially by the punk rock movement in England - as many eventual '80s music stars were - London's Spandau Ballet ultimately attained stardom by helping to nurture a specific '80s new wave subgenre called New Romantic. With heavy emphasis on a fashionable image, the band perfected an elegant, melodic brand of synth pop that led to major success in the U.K. if only a fleeting prominence across the Atlantic. Here's a look at the active and consistent '80s career of one of pop music's most suave and sophisticated bands, Spandau Ballet.
The roots of Spandau Ballet date back to 1976, when the Kemp brothers and frontman Hadley came together as schoolboys to form a punk-styled band they soon renamed The Makers. Initially a guitar-centered outfit that took on yet another name (Gentry) circa 1978, the band didn't take a turn toward synthesizers and electronic music until members received exposure to such groundbreaking sounds in London clubs.
By 1979, the group had settled on its familiar name - apparently a euphemistic reference to the grisly nature of executions by hanging at a certain German prison - and soon secured a major-label contract on the strength of its developing New Romantic sound.
Instant U.K. Success:
Due in part to tremendous buzz about the New Romantic movement and Spandau Ballet's integral place within it, the group's debut single, "To Cut a Long Story Short," became an instant European hit in late 1980. This set the stage for a Top 5 U.K. chart showing for Spandau Ballet's debut album, Journeys to Glory, which was released a few months later in March 1981. More hits followed in short order, as the follow-up LP Diamond emerged later the same year, spawning the band's biggest U.K. single to date, the No. 3 hit "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)." Still, these two albums made little impact in the U.S., a situation poised to shift drastically in 1983.
Becoming 'True' Worldwide Superstars:
The unimpeachable and still-exhilarating classic '80s single "True" became one of 1983's biggest pop hits across the globe, introducing Spandau Ballet and its take on New Romantic soft rock to a massive, welcoming audience. That title track from the band's third album has remained an '80s music staple ever since, making occasional appearances at various levels of Western pop culture. For its trouble, Spandau Ballet proved unable to avoid the dreaded one-hit wonder tag in America, as the highest chart showing there any of its singles could muster before or after was No. 29 - for follow-up single "Gold." Neverthless, U.K. notoriety continued.
Second Half of the '80s and Breakup:
Spandau Ballet would go on to release three more albums before decade's end - 1984's Parade, 1986's Through the Barricades and 1989's Heart Like a Sky. And although western European audiences continued to respond enthusiastically to the band's determinedly ambitious, sophisticated pop, the group failed to latch on effectively to other rising niches of '80s music in the U.S. Following the disappointingly received sixth Spandau Ballet release, the band splintered in 1990 and would not resurface until a full two decades later.
Reunion & Ongoing Legacy:
In the years between Spandau Ballet's musical endeavors, band members like Hadley and the Kemp brothers stayed busy as actors in TV and film, particularly in Britain. Some disputes about songwriting royalties kept the group's core members apart as performers during the '90s, but by 2009 a rumored reunion of the core '80s lineup came to fruition with the release of Once More. Only two new songs accompanied that release, but fans responded favorably to the ensuing tour, and during the past few years the band has continued to perform semi-regularly.