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Carry on Kemping Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp reveals he isn't nostalgic for the '80s and that he 'loves' life now

Spandau Ballet’s Gary says the ’80s weren’t the ‘good old days’ and he's living his best life now

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Gary wrote the band’s biggest hits.

Gary wrote the band’s biggest hits.

Gary wrote the band’s biggest hits.

Back in the mid-Eighties, Ireland was like the backstage green room at a Top of the Pops TV show.

In 1985, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were holed up in Carlow, while strolling down Dublin’s Grafton Street you were likely to bump into Def Leppard or Spandau Ballet.

And if you were lucky enough to slip past the velvet rope of the capital’s then hottest celebrity nightclub, the Pink Elephant, you’d find the aforementioned music superstars partying into the early hours of the morning with various members of our own rock royalty, U2.

Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, who wrote their million-selling hits including Gold, True and To Cut A Long Story Short, this week chats by Zoom from a studio in his London home and recalls those heady days as he gets set to release his new album, Insolo.

“We lived in Dublin for nearly a year in 1985, and they were good times,” Gary tells the Sunday World.

“We wrote our Through The Barricades album there, hung out with Def Leppard and sung backing vocals on one of their albums. Frankie Goes To Hollywood were around, and I hung out with Adam Clayton down at the Pink Elephant.

“But, as with all those good times, when I’m writing the onus is on me to come up with the goods, so I don’t suppose I lived quite the life of the playboy. I did my fair bit, but I was more the worried lad trying to write an album that was going to keep everyone happy.”

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Gary with his Spandau Ballet bandmates.

Gary with his Spandau Ballet bandmates.

Gary with his Spandau Ballet bandmates.

 

It was the summer that Bruce Springsteen played Slane Castle. “We got a helicopter down to Slane for Springsteen,” he remembers. “Pete Townshend [The Who] and Eric Clapton were there.”

As one of the biggest pop groups of that decade, Spandau Ballet were caught up in a dizzying whirl of fan-mania and jet-setting around the globe. It was the stuff of teenage fantasies, achieving pop superstardom and enjoying worldwide adoration by female fans.

However, today 61-year-old Kemp admits he didn’t get a chance to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. “I was always worried a lot in that whole period and I don’t think I really enjoyed it,” Gary tells me. “I was always concerned about, ‘are we doing the right thing? I have got to write the next album, am I writing the right song?’

“I think there was a lot of day-to-day pressure I took on, but that’s the type of guy I am anyway. I’m a born worrier. My mother was a worrier, and I’ve taken it on.”

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So you didn’t take time to enjoy it? “I don’t think you could, because there wasn’t time,” Gary says.

“But listen, I can’t complain, it was fantastic. I mean, those 20 minutes I had on stage at Live Aid were unforgettable. We played a lot of great gigs together. It finished when it needed to finish in a way.

“People are so angry that you’re not getting back together as a band. But what they’re really angry about is that bands like ourselves, they think, are the key to getting back to their 15-year-old selves. That if only we were on stage then ‘we would be young’…you can’t have that responsibility.”

Kemp admits he’s conscious of his own age, particularly as his second wife, Lauren, is 17 years his junior.

One of the songs on his new album is called I Am The Past. “That song is a love story about a guy who is feeling that his best days might be over as far as his strength is concerned,” Gary explains.

“In my head it was a cowboy scenario and he was an old sharp-shooter and maybe not quite as sharp as he used to be. But I was thinking that my wife is younger than me and how does that work?…‘you are so much better than I am, how is that working?’”

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The band now.

The band now.

The band now.

 

Kemp, who married British actress Sadie Frost in 1988, and got divorced in 1995, wed costume designer Lauren Barber in 2003.

Another of his new songs, The Fastest Man In The World, was inspired by Gary’s fear of commitment until he finally got caught when he found love and contentment with Lauren.

“I went through a long period where I was not trying to settle down with anyone,” he tells me. “I was forever jumping ship. I had a young boy I was looking after [a son from his marriage to Frost], and I didn’t want to confuse him. But I was definitely not into commitment. This song started out with me singing about someone else in the third person, but it was actually about me. Now when I write and sing songs I think, ‘what can I put into this song that is true to me?’”

While the glory days of Spandau are long gone, Kemp, who also has three children with Lauren, says he’s never been happier in life.

“People say, ‘Those [the ’80s] were the good old days’, well, no, I’m in the good days now, I have to say,” Gary adds.

“I really love where I am now. This is probably the best time in my life in many ways… nice family, settled and that. I don’t have anyone to answer to creatively and get to sing my own songs, which is a nice feeling… so this is ‘the good old days.’”

  • Gary Kemp’s new album, Insolo, is out this weekend.

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