Gary has become one of pop’s most successful songwriters, responsible for the words and music of all of Spandau Ballet’s 23 hit singles, including classics like True (almost 5 million registered radio plays in the USA), Gold, Through The Barricades, Lifeline, Only When You Leave , To Cut A Long Story Short, Once More and more recently, Steal.
As well as having covers and interpolations made by artists such as Nelly, Lloyd and the Black Eyed Peas, Gary’s songs have been used for TV shows worldwide, including Spin City, the Simpsons (twice) and Ugly Betty. They have also appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as the Wedding Singer, Charlie’s Angels, 50 First Dates, and Sky High.
Gary released a solo album, Little Bruises, in 1995, on Sony Records produced by Bow Wow Wow member and Malcolm McLaren producer Leigh Gorman. It was followed by a tour of the UK and Ireland.
Journeys to Glory (1981, Reformation / Chrysalis)
Inspired by the underground London nightclub scene of Billy’s and Blitz that was giving Gary “a new high.” Journeys was written on the band’s first synthesiser, bought on hire purchase for £200. It’s the set that made them Britain’s hottest new band of 1980, produced by Landscape’s Richard James Burgess. The hits are all there – To Cut A Long Story Short, The Freeze, Musclebound – plus the great single that never was, Confused and the epic Toys which closes the album with a flourish.
Diamond (1982, Reformation / Chrysalis)
A reflection of both the rapidly changing sounds and styles of London night club scene that Spandau continued to represent and a desire to explore the fresh possibilities of the studio. Side One is the soundtrack to a very long sweaty night on the dancefloor with the classic Chant No.1 defining the new Brit funk of ’81 and crossing over to New York. The more experimental trilogy of side two feature Gary playing a cheng and Steve Norman on tablas. She Loved Like Diamond is Gary’s first homage to the epic Bond orchestrations of John Barry.
True(1983, Reformation / Chrysalis)
A prime example of the New Pop of the 1980s, True is confidence personified. Recorded at Compass Point Studios, Nassau and produced by Tony Swain & Steve Jolley (Imagination, Alison Moyet, Bananarama) it’s a collection of songs that includes two era defining standards, Gold and the title track, two more hits, Lifeline and Communication, and boasted the potential for even more with Pleasure and Foundation the stand-outs. The band’s first number one album and single it broke them internationally.
Parade (1984, Reformation / Chrysalis)
Capitalising on the band’s new level of success Parade is Gary writing both for the challenges of Spandau’s first global live tour and the series of MTV-programmed videos that would accompany hits like I’ll Fly For You and Highly Strung. Recorded in Munich’s Musicland studio again with Swain & Jolley, its first single Only When You Leave consolidated the success of True and later opened their Live Aid set in 1985.
Through the Barricades (1986, CBS)
After a two year break and change of record company, Gary’s new set of songs saw the band return with guitars to the fore and a stadium swagger delivered with relish by producer Gary Langan (Queen, Billy Idol). The title track remains a highpoint both for Gary as a songwriter and the band’s performance. Fight For Ourselves and How Many Lies are rousing anthems that perfectly fit the bill as Spandau played to the largest audiences of their career.
Heart Like a Sky (1989, CBS)
The final chapter of Spandau’s first decade of success. Gary’s songs are more personal and introspective as band dynamics and the home music scene changed. While Britain enjoyed an Acid House summer of love Gary reflected on old and new loves with Empty Spaces and Crashed into Love. The single Raw led Spandau back to their own R&B version of the dancefloor and Steve Norman contributed Motivator, the first Spandau song not penned by Gary.
Once More (2009, Mercury)
Revitalised by the band’s emotive reunion, Once More, one of two new songs alongside radically reworked favourites, set the tone for the celebratory greatest hits tour that accompanied it. Tony Hadley’s vocals on To Cut A Long Story Short are some of the finest of his time in the band and the acoustic version of Parade’s With the Pride is another stand-out. Produced with imagination and flare by Danton Supple Once More opened up new horizons.
Gary Kemp's "Tracks That Influenced True” Playlist
I did this playlist for Spotify on the music that influenced me while I was writing the True album.
This Is The Love (single)
Released by Parlophone in 2014
Released by Parlophone in 2014