Tony Hadley interview
By Steve O'Brien | October 15, 2021
In this Tony Hadley interview, the former Spandau Ballet man belatedly toasts four decades of music with a mammoth 36-date UK tour featuring The Fabulous TH Band next year.
There’s an undeniable twinkle in Tony Hadley’s eye, clearly evident even via the pixilated view of a laptop screen. Perhaps it’s because he can sense the age of these Zoom interviews may finally be coming to an end.
“I’m getting excited now,” he chortles. “Obviously from my personal point of view it’s frustrating not being able to do the job I love. I’ve had a Zoom with my band and crew every week of lockdown, and we have a laugh but we are desperate to play.”
Like the rest of the ‘new world’, housebound Tony has had to find new ways of existing during a pandemic. “Being with my two young ones was great but home schooling was, er… interesting to say the least. There’s only so much gardening and homework that you can do. I did a couple of quizzes but I’ve had enough. I’m a bloke that needs a sense of purpose, I need focus and an end game, so the only thing I’ve done is listened back to song ideas for my next new album. Otherwise I’ve been domesticated.”
Tony’s next tour will celebrate a rich musical legacy that goes way beyond his 80s pomp. From solo albums and musicals, to all-star tours and reality TV, Hadley promises to leave no stone unturned when he hits the road next year to celebrate four decades in the music business. Plus there may even be a new studio album to dive into by then as well.
“We have all the singles sorted,” he reveals confidently. “I just need to be with my band again.”
And, of course, Spandau Ballet’s finest moments will be revisited with fondness: “I’m celebrating my personal 40th anniversary in music but if Spandau had been together we would be doing it as a band. That’s life, though”
Did you spend much of lockdown in a recording studio?
No, I’m a technophobe. When I’m in the studio they don’t let me anywhere near the desk. Everyone thinks you have a home studio but no, I don’t at all. I have a couple of guitars and a piano and that’s kind of it.
Presumably the 40th anniversary tour was delayed considering your first hit was in 1980?
I’ve lost all track of time. It was put back a year but we are lucky that we got all the venues for 2022 because so many people have had to cancel and reschedule. We are going to all the places I’ve not been to for a long time. It will be all of us in the back of a sleeper bus, band and crew, great fun. The interesting thing will be where do I go musically? Do I go back to when I was 16 and the first song I sang at Pontins holiday camp in Camber Sands? The stuff we did before Spandau when we were The Makers, a power pop band doing classic punk and R&B songs…
What was that first song that you sang then?
Lady Madonna by The Beatles. Halfway through I forgot the words, and that’s haunted me ever since. The second one was With A Little Help From My Friends, the Joe Cocker version with all the raunch. All the folks went, “You’re alright, son, you can sing”, and I got the girl that I had the hots for. I was just 14. Then people asked for my autograph and I thought, “Wow this is good, I quite like this.”
When you see ‘40th anniversary’ in black and white, does it make you gasp?
(Laughs) I hit 61 this year and I was like, “Shut up Tone, how did you get to 61?” It doesn’t make sense. I still feel like a kid in sweet shop. I still remember recording the vocals to To Cut A Long Story Short and the mistakes that were made because that was the day we signed a record deal with Chrysalis, I’d had too much Champagne. In the blink of an eye, it’s gone.
Obviously you’ll forever be associated with Spandau Ballet but it’s a relatively short period of your career…
Yeah, I’ve done a lot. My first solo LP, The State Of Play, came out in ’92, I called that my REO Speedwagon album, it was so West Coast it was nearly in the sea. I’m a big fan of American rock acts like Journey and Boston. At one point, I was gonna live in LA, probably wear spandex trousers and become a rocker so I realised halfway through I wasn’t making the right record. There’s good stuff on there but it wasn’t really me. I was really a bit funkier and more leftfield than that. It was a great learning experience, though.
The 1990s did its best to bury the memory of the 1980s. Did it feel a bit like that post-Spandau?
I think the way we looked at music and fashion changed completely. The 90s was a bit funky when you think of the rave and house stuff. I was in Ibiza in ‘87-’88 when it was all kicking off and there in the middle of a fountain conducting about 100 people. They christened me ‘King of the Jellyheads’. But I think politically and musically it was time to say, “We are going to do something completely different.” So in a sense I went out of fashion. Spandau and all the 80s bands did. But as with all good things it came round again.
You’ve done some random things over the years, like the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
(Laughs) Yeah, the Jesus thing was brilliant. I said, “Please don’t tell me I’m wearing a loin cloth.” I did that with Roger Daltrey, Frances Ruffelle and Herod was played by Julian Clary. I’ve done Chicago and toured with The Alan Parsons Project in Germany. I also did a lot of techno stuff in Germany and Holland. Yes, I’ve been there at BCM in Mallorca behind the decks spraying people with foam.
You’re also one of the best connected singers in the music business…
Yeah, me and Martin Fry, Paul Young and Peter Cox are good friends. I did a night at the Proms with Joe Cocker and James Brown who was super cool. Alice Cooper rates as one of the most interesting people I’ve worked with, he transforms from this scratch golfer in the morning and the nicest bloke you could meet to this leather-clad rocker. Freddie Mercury – what a fantastic fella he was. We spent a day together with a bottle of port and vodka down under.
Despite the acrimonious split, do you still have a fondness for Spandau Ballet?
I have really good memories. Doing Top Of The Pops was just ‘wow’, it felt like you’d arrived. Then you get there and you think, “Is this it?” It’s all sticky back tape and plastic sets, really small. Having our first No.1 with True was bloody amazing. It was in 1983, we were all about 23 and we were in Nottingham, I was naked. I remember Martin and Steve coming in with a bottle of Champagne spraying it everywhere like the Grand Prix. We were all jumping on the bed like kids. We were playing a gig that night and next door was Jim Davidson and up from London came Steve Strange and the Blitz boys.
I remember going to the bar afterwards – it was the most bizarre scene, us looking like Robin Hood and Steve Strange looking stranger than us. Then Jim Davidson cracking – these days – not very particularly politically correct gags, it was surreal. We were young lads. The problem with having fame and success so young is that you don’t soak it in, it’s happening so fast.
Spandau always looked like a fun band to be in, which is why it’s so sad for fans to see you still at loggerheads.
It would be nice if somebody asked them, “Why really did Tone leave? Not all the flannel you’ve told journalists over the past years.” It’s for them to say they started it. That’s how I look at it. But it’s like when you marry someone – you want to spend the rest of your life with them, so then how do you go from “I love you” to “I don’t want to be in the same room as you”? And that’s what happens in bands sometimes. There are very specific reasons.
With Spandau it was a slow disintegration, but the early and middle period, we were a fun band. Then it all started to change, people got serious.
I’m not really sure what happened sometimes. Music is about fun and if you aren’t doing it for that reason don’t do it. Unfortunately with Spandau it ceased to be fun anymore, which is a shame because I’m celebrating my personal 40th anniversary in music but if Spandau had been together we would be doing it as a band. You get to a point in life where you don’t need the angst. I just want it to flow. I don’t need people getting on my case, I go out there and have fun.
The press enjoy a band niggle though don’t they?
I suppose bad press is good press, I just think that it’s very sad what’s happened. I haven’t seen John, Martin or Gary for five years now. I stay in contact with Steve Norman, though. His mum and my mum were best of friends and his mother sadly died last summer so we’re in touch. We had a very honest conversation; and he knows what went on,
so there you go.
Tony Hadley’s 40th Anniversary Tour runs from March to May 2022. For ticket details, visit Tony Hadley’s website here.