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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