520. ‘True’, by Spandau Ballet

Down your bottle of fizzy pop, pluck up the courage to talk to that boy or girl you’ve been avoiding all evening… For we are in last dance territory with this next number one…

True, by Spandau Ballet (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, 24th April – 22nd May 1983

Is ‘True’ the ultimate ‘last dance at the school disco’ tune? I’m pretty sure they were still playing it fifteen years later, when it was my turn trying to blend into the shadows at the back of the gym. The tempo is perfect for a slow clinch, and the Ha Ha Ha Ha Haaii sound like a lovestruck swoon. They work well as a hook, combined with I know this much is… true!

I also like the chiming, one-note guitars, that sound like an eighties update of the guitars from any number of fifties ballads. But, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the verses. And, sitting down to listen to them now, they’re the sort of verses that slip right by you. They’re unremarkable, and bland to the point of incomprehensibility. Take your seaside arms and write the next line… References to sand, and Marvin Gaye, delivered in the deliberate New Romantic style. Is it even a love song?

I could say that this was a record with some great moments, floating along in a sea of gloop, and be done with it. Except the ending saves it. The way Tony Hadley finally lets loose and gives the last I’ve bought a ticket to the world… line his all is a punch the air moment. And the This much is tru-ue… fade out is perfect for finally going in for that sloppy smooch.

I’d say that any ‘Best of the ‘80s’ compilation worth its salt has to have ‘True’. In truth, the compilation would also have to have all of our past five number ones: ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Total Eclipse…’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and Duran Duran, though perhaps a better-remembered song than ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ And while ‘True’ isn’t in the same league as the likes of ‘Billie Jean’, it deserves its place in the 1980s pantheon. In fact, the moment midway through, where there’s a pause and then BOOM: saxophone solo, is as eighties as you can ever get.

I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would. I thought it would be too gloopy, but there are enough catchy moments to see it through. The biggest problem is that it’s way too long. The album version is six and a half minutes long, for goodness sake. There is a single edit, but even that runs to 5:30. Not much of an ‘edit’… And excruciating if you’ve been roped into dancing with a girl you’d been trying to avoid all night… (I may be talking from experience, here…)

It’s surprising that this is Spandau Ballet’s one and only chart-topper. Like Duran Duran – a band they exist in complete conjunction with in my mind – they had been scoring hits since the early eighties (usually with more up-tempo songs than this one). And like Duran Duran their fortunes would fade by the end of the decade (though DD have had a couple more successful chart comebacks than Spandau…) They split up in the ‘90s, though they have reformed for tours in the past ten years or so. And I have to show my age before we finish, by admitting that for years I knew them primarily as the band Martin Kemp from ‘EastEnders’ was once in…

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23 thoughts on “520. ‘True’, by Spandau Ballet

  1. I never liked this record at the time and didn’t care much for the band. But I think this is one of the very few big 80s hits that seems to be to sound better nearly 40 years later than it did at the time. It may be the wrong thing to say, but in recent interviews I’ve seen, heard and read with Tony Hadley and the others, they come across as genuinely nice people, and that does prejudice me a little more in their favour. I think we can all name music stars (but we won’t) who make good records, but behind the public facade appear to be types that you would willingly cross Oxford Street in the rush hour to avoid!

    • I’m not sure if it’s improved with age, as I wasn’t around at the time, but few records are more ‘eighties’ than this. It really feels like the first half of 1983 sets the tone for how the decade will be remembered, to this day.

  2. Once you hear those lightly played guitars and the wordless refrain you know what you’re listening to. What I’ve noticed with “True” is that for filmmakers it’s an easy pick for a slow dance or romantic scene starting almost immediately in 1984’s Sixteen Candles when Molly Ringwald is looking at her crush at a school dance before Farmer Ted makes his move on her. I also remember it being used in Sausage Party and just last week when seeing The Lost City. In the US, “True” only got to #4 but this is one of those cases where it was a bigger hit when sampled in 1991 for rap group PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” which heavily samples “True” and was a #1 hit, the first on the Hot 100 under the new SoundScan tracking system.

    • It’s the ultimate slow dance at the end of the night tune. I think because while it’s very mushy and romantic, there’s also still a danceable beat working away in the background that you don’t really notice at first

  3. I’ve ‘Liked’ the POST … but not so much the song!
    I’m a bit of a dinosaur and don’t like change! 😉 Early Spandau Ballet, I loved, (‘Musclebound’ and ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’.) They were inventive and different and presented a very individual style of both sounds and dress.
    Granted, I’m not much into slow, ballad type songs full stop, but this is just WAY too sickly for me – one of those I retune the radio when it comes on. 😀

    • From what I can tell, they were a lot more spiky and inventive, coming from the post-punk world. Was this hit, and the album, a sell-out moment? (I’m always uncertain about calling something a ‘sell-out’, as there’s nothing wrong with wanting to write a popular song and make some money!)

  4. Take a guess… No, I don’t hate this one but I would never have bought it. I agree with you…way too long…kinda like watching grass grow. The melody is not bad but it takes a long time to pay off.

  5. My mate is a huge spandau fan so ive seen them many times on tour and solo tony. I liked the early new romantic and funk tracks but after that…. They were ok at best. Tonys a great guy. Im not a fan of his voice tho. This sounded quite good at the time but 40 years of oldie airplay has turned to loathing. I am so sick of hearing it. I love the PM Dawn adaptation. Never get bored with that so that tells me that there are good elements to it. But True just drones on soppily. I also avoided last dances. And school discos. Oh god the stress! That would have made me hate it!: )

    • I have no idea if I did actually slow dance to this, or if popular culture has super-imposed it on my existing memories… Much more likely to have been dancing to something like ‘Whole Again’… Whatever the soundtrack was, they’re excruciating memories!

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