Monday, 6 October 2014

To cut a long story short I'm not a fan (but I did love Steve Norman)

In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you that I was never a fan of Spandau Ballet in the eighties and I'm still not really. They alway occupied a space that was reserved for fashionable, nice to look at, but ultimately more interesting in real life than on stage. Like the celebrity marriages (one Kemp to Shirley from Wham and the other one to Sadie Frost from... well Dracula I guess), the infamous court case where they fought for a portion of the royalties and the supposed rivalry with Duran Duran. I wasn't a fan of them either.
Red carpet - obvs ! 

So, when I was invited to watch a documentary movie about them and to attend the red carpet screening at the Royal Albert Hall I put aside the concern that it was on my son's birthday - he's been a pain lately and he'll be in bed before the movie starts anyway - and said yes. After all, it was because of Steve Norman that I took up playing saxophone at school and the opening bars of True immediately transport me back to the summer I was in the garden revising for my 'O' levels with a transistor radio playing only that song (or so it seemed). I've since found out that Gary wrote it about Claire Grogan - now her I was a fan of back in the eighties. 

My unsubtle bid to be the new Joan Rivers

I was at a discreet end of the press pen when the 'talent' arrived and have to say that the band were so lovely - they went to talk to and sign autographs for fans who had waited in the queue to meet them and spent a long time posing for photos - even these blurry selfies that I took. They were friendly and Steve talked to me about how his kids had never heard any of the band's music and would be "in the green room getting drunk." Oh well, if your dad is in the band I guess that's the perk you get isn't it ? 

Martin Kemp - no really it is
Steve Norman - I proper loved him

We got to talk to George Hencken - the director - who admitted she wasn't a fan either, but that had helped her make the movie with complete honesty - more of which later. Once we had negotiated the red carpet I had a heart in mouth moment when there was no ticket for me to get into the movie and live gig to follow. I had left my son on his 4th birthday to stand in the cold and I wasn't even going to get to watch the movie I was there to review. Tears were inevitable until a wonderful person said there was spare ticket that I could use (this was with seconds to spare) and I settled into a seat next to a photographer called Ian - thanks for having an unused plus one Ian.

Director: George Hencken

The movie is called "Soul Boys of the Western World" and is made up of original footage from childhood cine film to performances and behind the scenes clips that tell the story of a group of friends from North London. It is a creative version of reality that paints Spandau as the architects of the New Romantic movement when in actual fact they were opportunists who moved whichever way the mood was going and records were selling. Having said that they did work hard and the friendship they shared is evident in the early stages. They were still living at home when not touring with the band and the joy at being able to buy their own cars and earning more than their dads ever did was clear. The version of the eighties in which they were the icons and Boy George and Steve Strange were bit players isn't one I recognise, but this history is told by the ones who filmed it so that's how it looks. There were moments where a (very) young Danny Baker and an insanely youthful Robert Elms appear on screen and the audience cheered. Yes, I realise how sad that sounds and I even tweeted Danny during the movie in case he didn't know he was in the movie.

George has not been shy in dealing with the hostility that led to the band splitting up with the Kemps move into acting and the others being left high and dry. By the time of their eventual appearance at the high court its clear there is no love lost and it's played with a heavy hand. The role of pantomime villain is squarely laid at the feet of Gary Kemp and there were even boos in the Royal Albert Hall when his photo was on screen with the damning statement that it was his ego that broke the band. Let that sink in for a moment - boos - in the Royal Albert Hall - for a pop star. This made it all the more awkward when they came on stage after the movie to do a Q and A with Lauren Laverne. We were, however, treated to some bon mots such as:

"It's the heartbeat of humanity - it's all about the groove" John Keeble on music

"We're responsible for the ozone depletion - sorry." Tony Hadley on the band's use of hairspray 

Middle-aged men playing pop music 

The live performance that followed began with just Tony and Gary picked out by a spotlight as if to hammer home how they are mates now and the whole messy business of money is behind them. I never saw them live back in the day so I have no comparison, but I love pretty much all live music. The anthemic nature of their set meant there was a lot of air punching (Hadley) pally microphone sharing (Kemp jnr and Steve when not on bongos, sax or other percussion) and plenty of audience participation. My heart really did stop for a moment when they played through the barricades, but then I am easily led when it comes to emotional manipulation. 

The movie was a trip down memory lane for me in terms of fashion and music and it was lovely in places and painful in places - a bit like a soap opera really.

Well, Martin was in Eastenders after all :) 

Disclosure: I was invited to review this movie by Mumsnet Bloggers Network

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