Saturday 26 December 2009
Dylan Jones: 'Spandau Ballet have often been ignored, but the music was not only timely, it was groundbreaking'
In some small way, 2009 will belong to Spandau Ballet, in a similar way that 2006 belonged to Take That. No, the north London gadabouts haven't been catapulted back into the nation's collective heart, and they haven't come armed with a manbag full of festive number ones. But they came back. Successfully. Achieved some sort of redemption. And their comeback hit, "Once More", even sounded like The That!
When discussing the pantheon of Eighties pop, Spandau have often been deliberately ignored, but some of their early records remain some of the most influential, and some of the most resonant of the period.
With Spandau, the music was not only timely, it was groundbreaking. Prescient, even. Of the moment. And unnerving to anyone not in the know. "To Cut A Long Story Short" was an era-defining slice of electronic myth-making, and a great dance record to boot (if it hadn't been, the cognoscenti, those who went to the same clubs as Spandau, would have strangled it at birth - or, more pertinently, refused to dance to it); "Musclebound" was a clever, seductive spin on body politics; and "Chant No.1 (We Don't Need This Pressure On)" was, in its own way, as important to the summer of 1981 as "Ghost Town" by the Specials - a canny mix of contemporary funk and bottom-heavy agitprop, the perfect encapsulation of the new decade's obsession with fiddling while Brixton and Toxteth burned.
It is one of the most important records of the early Eighties, and this is not an opinion solely justified by hindsight. Having come fully-formed from the new romantic Billy's/Blitz club scene, Spandau completely understood the currency of the dancefloor, building prime equity in nightclubs from Canvey Island to New Jersey, from Soho to SoHo. And back again.
In this respect Spandau didn't so much surf the zeitgeist as kick-start the wave. And soon they had become exponents of a shiny, unapologetic riposte to the post-punk industrialists and the emerging left-of-centre political independents celebrated by the NME (who hated Spandau because they could never get into the nightclubs where they were playing).
Along with the other bastions of New Pop, Spandau Ballet defined the decade - proving, perhaps, that eyeliner, tartan capes and the variances of the Linn drum are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They came, they saw, they partied. And then they left, leaving a (fairly) good-looking legacy.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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