Pioneers of the New Romantic movement, Spandau Ballet’s career began in the late 1970s within the walls of the Blitz, an enigmatic club in Covent Garden known for influencing the sound and style of 1980s pop. London school friends Gary Kemp, Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble – and later Gary’s brother and former roadie Martin – Spandau Ballet continued to soundtrack the bombshell and excess of the decade, selling 25 million albums worldwide. Known for their bitter breakup – Tony, Steve and John unsuccessfully sued Gary for a share of the band’s songwriting royalties – they have since reformed but are now on hiatus. Martin has gone on to a successful television career, while saxophonist Steve and his band, the Sleevz, are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Spandau’s debut album with a UK tour later this year.
It was on the set of the clip for To Cut a Long Story Short, our first single. I was 18 at the time and my face is very serious. We were stern young men who wanted to conquer the world. But behind that mask, we had the best laugh. I always thought of Spandau as five boys who went to Benidorm for 10 years. After this photo was taken, the single sold around 400,000 copies and everything went off the rails. Before joining the band, I used to accompany some of my brother’s school parties. Steve would be there and I always loved him. He never treated me like I was younger or looked down on me. We became best friends very quickly. When the band first left, we had no money so I always shared a hotel room with him. There are many secrets from that time, but unfortunately nothing that we are allowed to share publicly!
My favorite days were in the beginning when we were complete strangers, traveling the world and totally clueless. On our first trip to Germany, Steve said to me, “When we get there, I’ll take you to the sauna!” At that time of the 80s, all saunas were mixed. I was just a teenager then, so sitting on the top shelf of a sauna staring at these naked women, I felt like I had landed on another planet! After a while, Steve said, “Come outside, I want to show you something else. There was this long trough full of punching stones. He said I should go in – according to Steve it was great for removing dead skin from your feet. So here we are, both completely naked, walking back and forth in this trough, sinking our feet into the stones, the dead skin flying off, and suddenly this German woman springs from these double doors and shouts: ” What are you doing ? ? You’re in my flowerpot!” We weren’t even in the sauna anymore, we were in the reception. Those memories beat anything like playing in front of 150,000 people in Madrid.
Every friendship has its ups and downs. It’s how you handle it that’s important. My group did well for a number of years, but eventually we found it difficult. I have nothing against anyone in the band – if I saw Tony tomorrow I would talk to him and love him as much as Steve today. If it’s mutual, I’m not sure, but I pretty much guarantee that if we met in a room, we’d be laughing and joking within seconds. But what made my friendship with Steve last so long was that we never argued. We had a few years during the trial where we didn’t speak on the phone. Then there was the period in the 90s when I had treatment for my brain tumour. I have no idea which friends came to visit Steve might have been there but all I remember is Shirlie [Holliman, Kemp’s wife]. It’s a big black hole in my head and it turned me from a boy to a man. But no matter what happened in my life, Steve and I still loved each other very much.
Having fun has always been at the heart of Spandau, and when I think of Steve, in my head he laughs. He hasn’t changed an inch. Inside and outside. He still fits in that kilt!
When this was taken, we represented a huge growing movement. We went to the London Dungeon to shoot the video – this was before they set it up and made it into a theme park. It was really quite scary. There was an incongruity in seeing our gaze against this kind of decomposition. We felt like we were pushing our way through the doors of the future.
I first met Martin when he was 13 – I had come to Gary’s family’s house near Essex Road. They shared a room at the time: Gary had posters of Bowie, and on the other side, Martin had Bruce Lee. I was in both. We embarked right away.
Before the band got really big, we both spent a lot of time in the arcades playing Space Invaders. We had odd jobs, like handing out magazines in Chancery Lane, but we were skinny so we drank at home before we went out. I had a beer making kit and a few pints of it was like rocket fuel. Or we’d steal a bottle of house wine from Martin’s dad that was lethal.
Once we drank this stuff all afternoon and decided to go to Exmouth Market. I don’t remember too much; we went to a pub, and there was a stripper. We were supposed to go to the Blitz – it was when people were on pills so I bought us Pro Plus pills instead. The next thing I know is the next day and we’ve passed out in a tiny park in town, woken up by a homeless man who says we’re sleeping on his bench.
Martin was in love then and still is. To date, he has never fought in his life. Well, I saw him in one with his brother in the early 80s and it was dawn handbags. No punches, just beats. Spandau has always been a gentleman, but when it comes to daring, we were just ahead, holding on for each other. were coming! Better move! We have been roughed up in this regard. We had to be, because what we were wearing was quite shocking – on trains people would stand and stare at us like we were aliens. The group that fell to Earth. Then, quite early on, Princess Di wore frilly necklaces and it hit the mainstream.
Even though I never treated him like a younger brother, I always took care of Martin – I still do. He’s a popular man. Since he was in EastEnders, people often approach him when we go out together, so I tend to jump in and say, “No autographs!” He must go! I love it. I would hate to have the fame he has. I’m surprised he can handle it because he’s such a shy man.
At the height of Spandau’s fame, we’d be touring together for most of the year. We would desperately need each other’s space after we got home. But at the time, Martin and I had girlfriends who knew each other, so once our bags were unpacked, he would ring me and say, “Steve, would you like to go have a pint and a curry with the girls?” I would say, “I’ll see you in an hour!” I never tire of Martin. Never anyone in the group, but even less him.