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Cannes Day 3: Soulboys of the Croisette

Remember True? Remember Gold? Remember Lifeline?. It was the 80’s and the famous rivalry between Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. I was team Spandau. I met the five boys in their frilly shirts at the rehearsal for Band Aid, Bob Geldof’s idea for a charity record for Ethiopia. Tony Hadley, Steve Norman, John Keeble and the Kemp brothers Gary and Martin were part of a wave called the New Romantics that included among others Boy George. The band stormed the charts and was riding high on their success. Then it all came crashing down: infighting, lawsuits, a breakup that felt like a divorce. In 2009 they reunited, now, five years later they bare their souls in a documentary that is shown here in Cannes. Soulboys of the Western World shows the ups and downs, the trouble and the healing. On Plage Royale, a sunny beach on the Croisette, Tony, Martin and Steve sat down with us. Martin is still the best looking, Steve the most talkative and Tony was on crutches – “a bad knee“. The boys who met in school are now in their early 50’s, discovered spirituality and the serenity that comes with not just age but surviving a bad situation. “We really missed each other, it was a terrible time“ says Steve Norman about the separation years. “It was hardest to watch in the documentary“ agrees Tony. The director, George Hencken, compiled many hours of archive material, videos, interviews and concert footage. As a longtime producer of Julien Temple she knows about music documentaries. She admits not liking Spandau Ballet as a teenager: “I was 14 years old when True came out. I was at a girls boarding school in England and into much gloomier music. I liked Joy Divison and New Order.”
She stayed away from putting the band members on camera in an interview format. Instead she opted to have them sit in a corner in the editing studio at separate times and talk into a microphone, as a sort of commentary on what was happening on the screen. “It was strange because I learned stuff about the others that I didn’t know, like how it all affected them. And I am sure they learned stuff about me. She did a very good job at reality. She didn’t make a film about how great we were, she showed the truth and that it is sometimes very hard to be in band with all the stuff that tears you apart.“ says Kemp. He and brother Gary made short lived attempts at acting. Martin admits that he liked it better than it liked him: “When you’re in a band you share the successes and the failures. As an actor you’re on your own.“ “Spandau Ballet came out of a movement called the New Romantics, it was part of pop culture that I’m not sure is there anymore. We came up after the rather depressing era. That’s why we dressed up as opposed to Punk’s dressing down“ he explains.
They cite David Bowie as their biggest influence – “Here was a man who was the ultimate performer. The music, the costumes, the stage. It all worked together perfectly“ says Martin. Their first big gig was in the Blitz Club, a venue that Bowie also played at. “The Blitz had its own vibe, you went on stage and something happened. And it didn’t end when you walked out the door. In that club you felt like you were standing somewhere special.“ says Steve Norman, “It was a minefield of creativity, not just for music. And Boy George was working in the cloak room hanging people’s coats. When we rehearsed he shouted ‘I don’t like your lead singer !’, so our drummer John Keeble said ‘Get yourself your own band then!’
Lead singer Hadley bemoans the good old days “when there were these rivalries between bands, like The Beatles and The Stones, and of course us and Duran Duran. We fed each other creatively. What’s going on now is that people just click on the two top itunes songs, it’s a bit boring.“ Not that he wants to sound like an old fuddyduddy: “I am really not a nostalgia freak. I live very much in the now.“
And what’s their favorite Duran Duran song? Turns out they have a few: “The Chauffeur“,“Ordinary World“,“Save A Prayer“,“Rio“.
Elisabeth Sereda