[T]he Tony Hadley homepage on his agent’s website describes the band’s demise thus: “As the Thatcher years drew to a close, Spandau disbanded.” You don’t hit on that formulation by accident. Hadley himself is a committed Conservative who attends party conferences and was rumoured to be interested in running for Parliament. And he’s definitely not at the Cameronian “hug a hoodie” end of the party: he liked the way Thatcher did things.
But the link between Spandau Ballet and Thatcherism is about more than the personal politics of Tony Hadley. It’s about the emptiness of Spandau, the aspiration to do nothing more than look good in a nightclub, the happy embrace of style over substance. Billy Bragg has even attributed his decision to become a performer to them: “One day [I] saw Spandau Ballet on Top of the Pops wearing kilts and singing Chant No 1 and something in me snapped. I was waiting for a band to come along to play the kind of music I wanted to hear, and none was forthcoming, so it was that moment I finally realised it was gonna have to be me,” he said at a press conference in August 2003.
And we still haven’t talked about the music. We haven’t mentioned the sexless funk of Chant No 1. Nor the oddly fascistic undertones of Musclebound. Nor the dreadful wine-bar soul of True, which was No 1 for four years between 1984 and 1988. And that’s because, really, Spandau Ballet weren’t about the music, just as chrome-and-black-leather furniture wasn’t really about sitting down.
I don’t have the visceral loathing for Spandau Ballet that Hann does (but don’t get me started about U2). But because pop music is so much about attitude and style, particular bands do tend to encapsulate particular eras. If Spandau Ballet embodied Thatcher, Oasis represented the early, Cool Brittania days of Blairism.
Haven’t really thought through how it works in Australia, though. What bands represented the Keating years? Is there anyone who stands out as a musical incarnation of the Howard era?