KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – SPANDAU BALLET “THROUGH THE BARRICADES”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: SPANDAU BALLET
Album: THROUGH THE BARRICADES

Spandau Ballet - Through The BarricadesSpandau Ballet was the first artist I mentioned in my No Guilt, Just Pleasure post last year, so I’ve already discussed how much I love their music even though it was the polar opposite of nearly everything I was listening to when I first heard them in 1983. They’re best known on both sides of the Atlantic for that year’s True album and its ubiquitous title track. True is certainly the crown jewel in their catalog but they released a lot of excellent music after that. The following year’s Parade was nearly as good, but American audiences were starting to lose interest as only one song barely cracked the Top 40. In 1986 I stumbled upon their new album, Through The Barricades, which appeared in stores without any advance notice or radio promotion. In fact, it’s possible that the CD I found was an import copy from the U.K., since I’m not sure if it was initially released in the U.S. In the U.K. it was their third consecutive Platinum album, spawning three Top 40 singles. It’s a shame that American audiences missed out. All the elements that made me fall in love with their sound were still in place: guitarist Gary Kemp’s distinctive and catchy songwriting, Tony Hadley’s magnificent vocals (I still think he’s the best pure singer of that era), Steve Norman’s melodic sax lines and the sleek-yet-warm production.

Spandau Ballet band photo

Several upbeat tracks, like “Cross The Line,” “Man In Chains” and “Snakes And Lovers,” straddle the line between rock & pop, usually favoring the latter but appealing to more open-minded fans of the former. “Virgin” is a delicious (if slightly silly) pop nugget embellished with synths that would have fit nicely on True. “Fight For Ourselves” is a rousing tune with chanted call-and-response vocals and music that isn’t far removed from the more uptempo side of Simply Red. All of the aforementioned songs are merely the appetizer for two amazing ballads that are the heart & soul of the album. “Through The Barricades” is a showcase for Kemp’s nifty acoustic guitar lines and one of Hadley’s most emotional vocal performances, and “How Many Lies” must have set thousands of lighters ablaze on their subsequent concert tours. Hadley’s voice is in top form and Kemp’s recurring guitar figure is simply stunning. How this song didn’t become a worldwide smash I’ll never understand. I have a feeling there are a lot of closet Spandau Ballet fans out there, but their knowledge of the band might only include True and a hits compilation. I strongly urge those people to check out Through The Barricades, which might be date-stamped to the mid-‘80s but whose songs stand the test of time three decades later.

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13 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – SPANDAU BALLET “THROUGH THE BARRICADES”

  1. J.
    March 31, 2016

    Interesting post, Rich. I’ve honestly never listened to Spandau Ballet. I think the only tracks I know are thosw that featured on compilations of ‘the best of the 80s’ and the likes that you maybe pick up for a Mother’s Day gift or something. Definitely a band I’ve thought “mnah” about as a result!

    Like

    • Thanks, J. Spandau Ballet is not for everyone but once you get into them it’s a really enjoyable catalog to spend time with. I still marvel at how much I love them when I think about how different they were from everything I liked at the time.

      Like

  2. mikeladano
    March 31, 2016

    I know True and not much else, but I know a few people who love this band!

    Like

    • “True” was a great single but it only shows one aspect of their sound. Considering I was still really into Triumph, Rainbow, Deep Purple and all of the guitar bands that were emerging at the time (Big Country, U2, The Alarm), there must be some kind of connection between them and Spandau Ballet. Sure, I also enjoyed some singles by Culture Club so my tastes were widening (or softening?), but there’s something special about Spandau for me.

      Like

  3. 80smetalman
    March 31, 2016

    I heard the song “Through the Barricades” when I first got to the UK in 1986. I think it is their best song.

    Like

  4. ianbalentine
    March 31, 2016

    I think this just may be the first band we part ways on, Rich! 🙂 I tried to like them in the ’80’s when True was released when someone compared them to ABC, but thought them too sticky sweet for my tastes. Ironically my wife brought home a “greatest hits” CD of SB a few weeks ago and I found that 30+ years did not help the situation.

    It’s like that with Supertramp with me…I am a HUGE fan, but others can’t stomach them. If I hadn’t have listened to them a few weeks ago your post would have made me revisit them. You make many strong points.

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    • It was bound to happen, Ian, and I’m not surprised it took Spandau Ballet to do it. I realize for some people they would be an acquired taste, and others might never acquire it. I’ve made the same comparison between them and ABC, although the latter never had the same kind of impact on me. I have a couple of their LPs and a compilation CD so I’m a fan, but I absolutely LOVE Spandau Ballet.

      Not sure why people wouldn’t like Supertramp. They were such an amazing band. People of a certain age might have gotten sick of them around the time of Breakfast In America since their songs were on the radio all the time, but their music has aged really well. I love that Roger Hodgson is still out there playing the old songs and his voice sounds just as good as it did 40 years ago. I haven’t seen him live so I’m basing that on live recordings I’ve heard & seen.

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      • ianbalentine
        April 1, 2016

        Thanks for the kind words about Supertramp, Rich. I think they’ve agreed wonderfully as well. I’m a completest with them, so I’ve followed them right up to present day, and they’ve released some good albums post Hodgson. Rick Davies was a huge talent, and although most would love to see a reunion I’ve been fine with the new Supertramp and the Hodgson efforts. Most Supertramp albums were in fact 2 solo efforts anyway. They would switch from a Hodgson composition to a Davies one pretty religiously. Their band, especially drummer Bob Siebenberg, are really under appreciated as well.

        Davies has cancer, I understand, I’m hoping he’ll recover.

        See what happens when you mention Supertramp? I’m a sick puppy!

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      • I love your passion for Supertramp, Ian. I’m also pretty much a completist, including the post-Hodgson albums, most of which are excellent. I especially loved that David Gilmour appeared on the Brother Where You Bound album. As a huge Floyd/Gilmour fan, that was extra validation for the Davies-led lineup. So, is it Bob Siebenberg or Bob C. Benberg? I’m guessing it’s the former but he’s used the other one on occasion.

        Agreed about Davies’ cancer battle. Hoping for a full recovery and the return of Supertramp.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Murphy's Law
    March 31, 2016

    I might have to give this album a try – I had the True album, but the only songs I listened to frequently were Gold and Lifeline. Hadley is a great singer but the sax and many of the production choices are just too syrupy for me

    Like

    • I completely understand your aversion to saxophone (even though I love it) and the syrupy production, so they may not be for you, but hopefully at least a couple of songs break through beyond “Gold” and “Lifeline.” Thanks for the feedback.

      Like

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