Music Video Monday: Spandau Ballet: Gold

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Martin Kemp’s DJ set at Wylam Brewery last night (show reviewed here). I then listened to his bank holiday show about the New Romantic scene on Radio 2 this afternoon. On both occasions, he finished with Gold, which was (a) absolutely expected and (b) a consequent earworm for the rest of the day.

The song was one of my early loves when I first got into ’80s nostalgia in the ’90s, but the video makes it even better, despite the fact that its attempt at a narrative is typically daft.

It’s about trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle made out of gold. I think? Anyway, at the start of the video, a woman’s hand is shown stealing one of the pieces, making the jigsaw frustratingly unfinishable for everyone else.

Spandau Ballet - Gold

The video then follows Tony Hadley, who has heroically taken it upon himself to track down the stolen puzzle piece, roaming around somewhere in north Africa in search of his objective. There are a lot of sharp suits and sunglasses in this video.

Spandau Ballet - Gold

He occasionally catches glimpses of a gold-painted woman, presumably the gold lover who stole the puzzle piece. The gold lady was played by Sadie Frost, who was later married to Spandau bandleader Gary Kemp.

Spandau Ballet - Gold

There is a really annoying jump cut around the 1:20 mark – it’s meant to be a seamless blending of shots of a guitar, giving the effect of the background changing behind the instrument, but it really doesn’t work – largely because the two guitars are lit so differently! Maybe this one should be classed as ‘the best they could do in 1983’.

Spandau Ballet - Gold
Guitar one…
Spandau Ballet - Gold
…and guitar two, which appears to be a much warmer colour!

The video ends in a way that is possibly meant to be an homage to Goldfinger (it’s not very clear), with Tony finding the gold-painted lady apparently dead from the paint (a murder method that has been debunked, incidentally). He morbidly places her gold pendant on her body and takes back the puzzle piece she stole.

Spandau Ballet - Gold

The video finishes with Tony completing the jigsaw puzzle. A happy ending!

Watch the full video:

Book Review: I Know This Much: From Soho To Spandau

I’ve been going through a bit of a spate of rock star autobiographies lately, and I have several more lined up on my Kindle for the year ahead. My most recent read was I Know This Much, the memoir of Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp.

I Know This Much

It’s a very enjoyable read and probably my favourite of the rock autobiographies I’ve read so far. The story covers Kemp’s childhood in the pre-gentrification Islington of the ’60s and ’70s, his teenage successes in music and acting, the formation and early days of Spandau Ballet, their heyday in the first half of the ’80s, and the decline of the band and Kemp’s move towards acting as the ’90s approached. It then jumps forward to the royalty court case brought by other Spandau members in the late ’90s, and finally the band’s reunion a decade later.

The narrative is warm and engaging, and I found the focus on Kemp’s parents – who seem to have provided a form of stability, never changing in outlook or lifestyle even when their sons became famous pop stars – very touching. It’s their lives that bookend the story, and in some ways they are the central figures.

Kemp’s account of his band’s role in the story of London’s Blitz club and the wider UK music scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s also paints a vivid picture – it’s fascinating to realise how small a scene it was, with every other face in the crowd a future international pop star. It’s difficult to imagine a more modern equivalent – maybe this kind of scene is just something that doesn’t happen anymore. One part I really appreciated was the story of how True, which is probably Spandau’s most enduring song, was inspired by Clare Grogan, who’s one of my favourite fellow Scotswomen!

The highlight of these pop star cameos, though, is Boy George, who shows up in the narrative approximately once per chapter – on stairwells, in recording studios, in the street – purely to heckle Kemp and the other members of Spandau Ballet, like a slightly bitchier Statler and Waldorf. I like to imagine that this is still happening to this day.

I’m going to try and read the other Spandau memoirs sometime soon, while this one is still fresh in my mind – it’ll be really interesting to compare and contrast.

Being a Band Aid baby, or: one hell of a bucket list

If you’re lucky, there’s something special about the song that was number one when you were born.  Maybe it symbolises something about your life, or your interests, or the person that you ended up growing up to be.  Maybe it’s just a really awesome song.

If you’re unlucky, you end up like Geth and get Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) (UK number one from 25th May 1980 to 14th June 1980, fact fans!) as your birthday number one.  It’s not bad as TV theme tunes go, but it’s not special to Geth – he didn’t grow up to be a soldier, or an expert on the Korean War, or even much of a M*A*S*H fan, really.

I was lucky, and my birthday number one is special to me.  I love it as a Christmas baby, as an ’80s throwback, as a chart geek, and as a lover of music in general.  It’s an extremely well-known Christmas song – one of those tracks you hear constantly from the middle of November until early January.  It held the record for the best-selling single in UK chart history for more than twelve years, only ever being overtaken by Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.

My birthday number one is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the most famous recordings in music history.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I was born on 3rd January 1985, the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-five day period (9th December 1984 to 12th January 1985) that Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? spent at number one in the UK.  From the 1984-1985 UK birthrates available online, I estimate that I share my birthday number one with approximately 71,000 other Band Aid babies, including Georgia Moffett, Lewis Hamilton, and Newton Faulkner.  (I would love to be able to work out the exact number, but the internet is not forthcoming at the moment!)

Due to the ubiquity of the song, I grew up with it, and it became my favourite Christmas song long before I realised that it was my birthday number one.  I pored over the upside-down answers to Smash Hits quizzes that challenged readers to name all the artists involved in the song, and memorised names that were unfamiliar to me in the context of the early ’90s pop music landscape.  I dutifully learnt to sing the song with my primary school class in preparation for our Christmas performance at the local old folks’ community centre.  I waited excitedly for it to come on as soon as my brother and I were allowed to play the family’s Christmas compilation CD (That’s Christmas) on the 1st of December every year.  It’s one of those songs that you hear hundreds of times every year, and so it never really goes out of your mind.  That’s not something you can say about Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless).

The finer points of Bob Geldof’s project to put together a charity supergroup and the song’s recording on 25th November 1984 are well known, detailed in a hundred different BBC4 documentaries and summarised fairly well on Wikipedia (though I highly recommend the Smash Hits coverage of the recording day included in the collection book The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s for a bit of period flavour – it has a great group photo of all the artists involved except for Boy George, who infamously didn’t show up till six o’clock in the evening due to oversleeping in New York and having to get on a Concorde back to London).

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, including a lot of concerts by artists who were big in the ’80s due to it being my favourite music era and favourite era in general.  But the other day, it occurred to me that I had never gone to see a single one of the thirty-seven artists who performed on my birthday number one.  I had never even seen any of the additional seven artists who couldn’t make it to the recording and so sent recorded Christmas messages to be used on the B-side of the single.

This is the part of the post where I get to the point.

I will never get to see every single one of the artists involved in my birthday number one.  Sadly, two of the musicians who contributed to the song (George Michael and Rick Parfitt) and two who recorded B-side messages (Stuart Adamson and David Bowie) have since passed away.  But I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to see as many of the rest of them as possible.  After all, I have more opportunity than some.  My brother’s birthday number one is Ben E King’s Stand By Me (a re-entry at UK number one between 15th February 1987 and 7th March 1987), which means that since King’s death in 2015 he has no longer had the possibility of seeing his birthday number one artist.  People who were born between 14th December 1980 and 20th December 1980, when (Just Like) Starting Over was number one following John Lennon’s assassination, have never had the chance to see their birthday number one artist.

Enter the Band Aid bucket list!

For most of my bucket lists, I reckon that if I’m lucky enough, I’ve got another fifty or sixty years left to get them completed.  Time is not so much on my side for this particular list, given that all the artists on it are now in their fifties and sixties and won’t be performing or alive forever.  As such, rather similarly to the huge hoard of ’80s vintage clothing I’m collecting while it’s still cheap and plentiful, I aim to get the bulk of this project achieved while I’m still in my thirties, and so I’m targeting >50% list completion by my fortieth birthday on 3rd January 2025.  That gives me six years, one month and fourteen days as of this post to see as many of the following artists as possible.  I’d better get a wiggle on.

The artists who sang on the track:

The extra artists who recorded messages for the B-side:

Current progress: song artists 5/37 (13.5%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 7/44 (15.9%).

I have arranged to find out about future performances by all of these artists using the extremely lazy 21st century method of following them all on Twitter!

I’ll keep updating this post as I see more artists.  I’m looking forward to this project!