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Best Spandau Ballet Songs: 20 Gold-Standard 80s Pop Classics
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List & Guides

Best Spandau Ballet Songs: 20 Gold-Standard 80s Pop Classics

From widescreen ballads to slick pop-funk, the best Spandau Ballet songs define the New Romantic era with dazzling confidence.

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The 80s were the decade when music matching style mattered more than ever, and only those artists who were able to anticipate the market’s shifting attention and adapt fast could hope to survive. One British band – almost more than any other – surfed the changing musical tides with one striking metamorphosis after another. With Spandau Ballet’s first hit single reaching the UK charts in November 1980, and their last making the listings just four months ahead of the decade’s close, the five-piece bookended the decade with dazzling confidence and some classic singles which make up the 20 best Spandau Ballet songs.

Listen to the best of Spandau Ballet here and check out our 20 best Spandau Ballet songs, below.

20: Musclebound (from ‘Journeys To Glory’, 1981)

With the New Romantic era in smouldering supremacy, Spandau Ballet’s epic oddity is a period piece that scored a welcome return to the UK Top 10 after the band’s second single, The Freeze. Musclebound’s brooding physicality and chant-like rhythm is a world away from the classic sound that lay just a couple of years ahead, but it remains fine gothic-pop froth worthy of the era’s Top Of The Pops, with a video filmed in the middle of a blizzard in the Lake District. “I have watched this video several times since and still have no idea what it is all about, which, bearing in mind how much it cost, is a worry,” said lead singer Tony Hadley.

19: Be Free With Your Love (from ‘Heart Like A Sky’, 1989)

Spandau Ballet’s final UK hit single, Be Free With Your Love came from the group’s final album ahead of a lengthy hiatus, Heart Like A Sky. A late entry among the best Spandau Ballet songs, it came at a difficult time for the five-piece, with the British music scene increasingly dominated by dance music, and relations between the band fracturing. This is solid midtempo rock haunted by the market context. “Heart Like A Sky had a quality that was unmistakeably Spandau Ballet, but it lacked our unanimous belief,” admitted songwriter Gary Kemp today.

18: How Many Lies? (from ‘Through The Barricades’, 1986)

This fan favourite was a modest success when issued as a single in early 1987, but really came to life when performed live. A highlight of the group’s mammoth Through The Barricades – Across The Borders tour (concert footage was used for the promo video), the song came from Spandau Ballet’s first album since signing to CBS Records.

17: Highly Strung (from ‘Parade’, 1984)

The video for this choppy dance-pop hit from 1984 was a significant logistical and financial step upwards for the band who, until 1983, had yet to film a clip beyond Great Britain’s borders. This time, the location was Hong Kong, and the video showcased the band at the peak of their international fame. The third single to be lifted from the Tony Swain- and Steve Jolley-produced Parade album, Highly Strung made No.15 in the UK.

16: Raw (from ‘Heart Like A Sky’, 1989)

Routing the sound of the five-piece back to the clubs where they had excelled in the early part of the decade, Raw’s funk riffs were executed with a finesse that stood apart from a largely anonymous dance scene dominated by acid house. Helping to elevate it among the best Spandau Ballet songs, a plethora of interesting mixes were created to push the single and are worth checking out.

15: Paint Me Down (from ‘Diamond’, 1982)

Ruffling feathers at the BBC was something of a rite of passage for artists in the final decades of the 20th century. Paint Me Down’s crime was little more than art-school hijinks captured on video, but the loincloths were clearly a fashion statement too far for teatime TV. “Was it art or just a mistake?” quipped Martin Kemp in his 2000 autobiography. Possibly both, as the ban cost this funk-pop number critical airplay that caused it to stall in the lower reaches of the UK charts.

14: The Freeze (from ‘Journeys To Glory’, 1981)

Issued as Spandau Ballet’s second single, The Freeze extends the New Romantic cinemascope of their triumphant debut album, Journeys To Glory. A classic of the era, it captures the blazing excitement of the group’s 1980 breakthrough, when, surprised by their out-of-the-park, near-overnight success, the style press and some of the music weeklies courted Spandau Ballet as the Next Big Thing.

13: Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) (from ‘Diamond’, 1982)

The fusion of punk energy, the polished hooks of European pop and the slick sheen of Black-oriented soul and dance music is ostensibly the DNA of the 80s hit formula. Spandau Ballet’s early skills lay in knowing when to tweak the blend just enough to keep up with subtle changes in the market. In 1981, Brit-funk was all the rage, so this – the first single from the group’s second album – was a cool shift into mainstream club culture. Their biggest success to date, Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) peaked at No.3 in the summer of 1981, instantly earning its place among the best Spandau Ballet songs.

12: She Loved Like Diamond (from ‘Diamond’, 1982)

The huge hit that should have been, She Loved Like Diamond remains one of the best Spandau Ballet songs, despite only finding (unexpected) acclaim in Spain in early 1982. A breezy, funk-infused pop charmer with a nagging melody and a great vocal from lead singer Tony Hadley, its parent album, Diamond, had been an attempt to experiment with the band’s sound. “It was a disaster,” Tony Hadley later recalled. “It didn’t take a genius to work out that if things carried on like this, it could soon be game over for Spandau Ballet.” Things didn’t, and it wasn’t.

11: Round And Round (from ‘Parade’, 1984)

This melodic ballad was Spandau Ballet’s Christmas single in 1984, when they found themselves in competition with their own contribution to Band Aid’s groundbreaking Do They Know It’s Christmas? Despite the group’s reputation for high-octane pop and increasingly lavish visuals, Round And Round proved that their mellower moments could more than match the adrenaline-pumped highs found among the best Spandau Ballet songs.

10: Fight For Ourselves (from ‘Through The Barricades’, 1986)

The group’s first single for their new record label, CBS, Fight For Ourselves was recorded during Spandau Ballet’s year as tax exiles in Ireland (“We all tended to rattle around in Dublin, not sure what to do with our time,” recalled Tony Hadley). A robust pop rouser, it made the Top 20 in the UK, despite supply being affected by a dispute between CBS and a chain of record stores.

9: Once More (from ‘Once More’, 2009)

Spandau Ballet’s unexpected reunion in 2009 led to more than just a lucrative tour. Across that summer, the five-piece went back into the studio to rerecord lighter, acoustic versions of familiar hits, and cut this gorgeous Gary Kemp and Steve Norman ballad along with another Tony Hadley original, Love Is All. A second tour followed in 2015 until Tony Hadley announced he was out of the group for (seemingly) good.

8: Only When You Leave (from ‘Parade’, 1984)

In July 1985, Spandau Ballet appeared at the Wembley Stadium portion of the legendary Live Aid concert and performed this hit single from the previous year. Only When You Leave didn’t move the musical formula much further on from the group’s spectacularly successful True era but it was a solid pop cut that did creditable business globally. “By 1984, the dividing lines were clear,” said Gary Kemp. “Duran [Duran] had America, while we had Europe; we had Australia, while Duran had Japan… but Culture Club had the world.” Such was the hit-parade drama of the most exciting era for music-chart lovers.

7: Communication (from ‘True’, 1983)

The all-out pop nugget from the band’s third album (before that ballad changed everything), Communication is an often-overlooked single that made UK No.12 in March 1983, though it more than earns its place among the best Spandau Ballet songs. The strong guiding hands of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley shouldn’t be underplayed in the Spandau Ballet story: they teased out the band’s melodic flair and gave Gary Kemp’s compositions a lighter, more accessible polish.

6: I’ll Fly For You (from ‘Parade’, 1984)

The highlight of Parade, I’ll Fly For You is a great pop-soul ballad that gave Spandau Ballet another excuse to shoot a video in an exotic location. This time, the promo was filmed stateside in New Orleans, with most of the band appearing in courtroom scenes intercut with performance footage and location shoots.

5: To Cut A Long Story Short (from ‘Journeys To Glory’, 1981)

The song that started it all, To Cut A Long Story Short was a confident and colourful energy blast that catapulted the newly Spandau Ballet onto Top Of The Pops within weeks of the single’s release. With a video filmed at The London Dungeon and a kaleidoscope of tartan and make-up creating a unique look for the Blitz Club breakout band, the single shattered all expectations and remains one of the best Spandau Ballet songs of all time. “We had proved we could shift records in the kind of numbers no one had anticipated,” said Tony Hadley.

4: Instinction (from ‘Diamond’, 1982)

The idea to dust off this Diamond album track and offer it to producer-of-the-moment Trevor Horn is the sort of career gamble that seems genius in hindsight. In truth, Spandau Ballet needed to be bold, and it’s no exaggeration to say Horn’s rebuild of the song saved the band’s career and catapulted them back into the Top 10 after Paint Me Down and She Loved Like Diamond. Creating a completely fresh arrangement, the producer persuaded Tony Hadley to sing Instinction again from scratch. “The final mixing of the track was astonishing to take part in,” recalled Gary Kemp. “No computer subtly trimming the faders: instead, we played the desk like an instrument – my hands, Tony’s hands, Trevor’s hands, all with a role, pushing and pulling to create the dynamics as we felt them. A live, adrenalin mix.”

3: Gold (from ‘True’, 1983)

The forever gift to sports programmers around the globe, Gold was unlucky to land silver chart status in the UK but still often outranks a certain other ballad as the most familiar single among the best Spandau Ballet songs, certainly across Europe. Its Bond-styled video proved cupid for songwriter Gary Kemp and his future wife Sadie Frost, but also marked the consolidation of the band’s imperial era, when everything they touched turned to – yes, you guessed it…

2: Through The Barricades (from ‘Through The Barricades’, 1986)

There’s no doubt Through The Barricades would have been a sure-fire chart-topper had it been released a couple of years earlier, but this sweeping ballad did secure the band a final Top 10 hit in 1986. Its legacy as a brilliant melody and a poignant narrative about the Northern Ireland troubles endures, and the song also captures Tony Hadley’s best-ever vocal performance. Inspired by the murder of the band’s roadie Thomas “Kidso” Reilly, Gary Kemp recalled that the composition came quickly: “It came in one sitting – a surprise delivery of lyrics and music… It would be the best piece of music we would ever make.”

1: True (from ‘True’, 1983)

Topping our list of the best Spandau Ballet songs, this global classic will forever define the London-based five-piece’s career. Written by Gary Kemp about Clare Grogan of Altered Images, radio picked up on the soulful album track while previous singles Communication and Lifeline were still working their way through the playlists, proving public appetite for the song was unstoppable. This pop standard was the band’s only major US hit and topped the UK charts for four weeks in May 1983. It has been covered many times, but its most famous use was in a sample on PM Dawn’s 1991 US chart-topper, Set Adrift On Memory Bliss.

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