True was the album that broke Spandau Ballet worldwide. Released in early ’83, the band worked with new producers Jolley and Swain (Imagination, Bananarama) and the result was a much smoother, more radio-friendly sound. They had already had four Top 10 hits in the UK with their previous producer, of course, so there was no question about the commercial appeal of Gary Kemp’s song writing, but until now America had ignored Spandau. They almost made the Hot 100 with True’s lead single Lifeline, but it was the album’s title track would change everything: following its release as a single there in July 1983, it made the Top 10, pulling the album into Top 20 in the autumn. They were now truly an international success.
Back in the UK, True was the third single from the album. Lifeline had made the Top 10, and follow-up Communication fell short of the Top 10 by just two places. True the single topped the chart, and the end of no school disco for the rest of the decade, and no karaoke night for the one that followed, was complete without it. A fourth single, again with a punchy one-word title, Gold, brought the group their seventh UK Top 10 hit single in the summer of 1983. They then returned to the studio with Jolley and Swain for their next album, Parade, which was less successful worldwide that it predecessor but still yielded four Top 20 singles in their home country by the end of 1984. They finished the year by contributing to the Band Aid charity single.
1985 was spent touring (including an appearance at Live Aid) and getting themselves released from Chrysalis, who they blamed for their lack of sustained success in the States. (Parade’s lead single there was their last minor hit in the US.) A safer bet was thought to be CBS (who “had all the swagger of a powerful record company… their corporate ego wanted us. EMI had Duran so CBS wanted Spandau,” Kemp commented in his autobiography I Know This Much), and they took over marketing, manufacture and distribution of Reformation records for the second half of the 80s. “There were some backwards-and-forwardings … but then the pen went to the paper and we finally had a label to release out album on,” Kemp said. “It was a huge deal financially – [Steve] Dagger certainly had brought home the CBS bacon – but would they succeed for us in America the way we knew that Chrysalis just couldn’t? We certainly felt the album, which we’d titled Through The Barricades, was strong enough.”
The first single under the new arrangement was defiant anthem Fight For Ourselves, the first Spandau record in the UK for well over a year-and-a-half, barring a compilation album of past material. It wasn’t their biggest hit, but it made the Top 20 again and paved the way adequately for the previously mentioned album, the highlight of which with the ballad title track, originally inspired by the death of Thomas Reilly. “We had a guy called Kidso who worked for us on merchandise during the ‘True’ tour,” Kemp explained to Belfast Telegraph (“Gary Kemp: When we played Through The Barricades in Belfast the reaction was incredible”, 13 February 2015). “He went back to Belfast after the tour and was killed. Kidso’s brother, Jim, who played drums for Stiff Little Fingers, subsequently took me along to see his grave and the song was inspired by walking down the Falls Road. I got to experience some of the emotion of that first-hand and it just stuck with me. I didn’t expect it to come out in the shape of a ‘Romeo-and-Juliet’ sort of song, but it did. We were quite nervous about playing it in Belfast in the Eighties but the reaction was incredible. I remember one guy on his mate’s shoulders and the guy was crying and punching the air.”
The song was another Top 10 hit for the group in the UK, but as if in answer to Kemp’s earlier question about whether their new record company would succeed for them in the US, the single flopped there.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jul. 14
The BELLE STARS Slick Trick (Stiff BUY123)
FIVE STAR Find The Time (Tent PB40799)
The JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Some Candy Talking (Blanco Y Negro NEG19)
The MISSION (Wayne Hussey) Garden Of Delight (Chapter 22 CHAP7)
SPANDAU BALLET Fight For Ourselves (Reformation A7264)
Joe STRUMMER Love Kills (CBS A7244)