True (Spandau Ballet song)

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Artwork for vinyl releases
Single by Spandau Ballet
from the album True
Released15 April 1983
RecordedOctober–November 1982
GenreBlue-eyed soul,[1] new wave[2]
  • 4:58 (promo 45 edit)
  • 5:39 (single version)
  • 5:17 (music video version)
  • 6:29 (album version)
Songwriter(s)Gary Kemp
Producer(s)Jolley & Swain
Spandau Ballet singles chronology
Audio sample
Music video
"True" on YouTube

"True" is a song by the English new wave band Spandau Ballet. It was released on 15 April 1983 as the third single from their third studio album of the same name. The song was written by band member Gary Kemp.

The song was a worldwide hit, peaking at number one in the UK Singles Chart on 30 April 1983 for four weeks,[3] becoming the sixth-biggest-selling single of the year, and reaching the top ten in the weekly charts of many other countries. It is Spandau Ballet's biggest hit and their only top ten hit in the U.S., reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 in the autumn of 1983 and topping the adult contemporary chart for one week.[4] In 2011, it received a BMI award as one of the most played songs in US history with four million airplays.[5]

Background and writing[edit]

"True" was composed by group leader Gary Kemp, who wrote the song at his parents' house while living there.[6] It is a six-minute (in its original album version) song that in part pays tribute to the Motown artist Marvin Gaye, who is mentioned in the lyrics, and the sound he helped to establish.[7] According to Kemp, "I think I wanted to write a song that was a bit like a Marvin Gaye, Al Green song, a blue-eyed soul song. It was at a time when it was me concentrating on melody first rather than the sort of riff and the groove."[1] Kemp also said, "'True' became a song about writing a love song. Why 'Why do I find it hard to write the next line? I want the truth to be said?' Because I didn't want to write it down—because there's nothing more embarrassing."[8]

The song was partly about Kemp's platonic relationship (and unrequited love) with Altered Images singer Clare Grogan. Some phrases in the lyrics (including the much-quoted reference to "seaside arms") were adapted from Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, a copy of which Grogan had given Kemp.[6] The song is written in the key of G major. It has a tempo of 98 BPM and a chord progression of G, Em9, CMaj9, Bm7. The song changes key when it hits the instrumental break. The instrumental break is in the key of E♭major. The song then re enters the key of G Major for the remainder of the Song.[9][10]

A notable omission of the recording is that Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp did not perform on the track; a bass synthesiser was used instead. However, Martin Kemp appeared in the music video appearing to play guitar, while the band's guitarist, songwriter Gary Kemp, sat at a piano. Martin Kemp would play bass on the song in future live performances.

Reception and legacy[edit]

In 2009, Tim Rice wrote in The Spectator that the song was "a giant of its time and remains a standard today".[11] In 2014, Ian Gittins described it in The Guardian as a "juggernaut power ballad".[12] In 2015, Peter Larsen wrote for the Orange County Register that the band's formula of mining "a vein of soulfulness tinged with nostalgia and romance" had "reached perfection" on the track, describing it as "the one Spandau Ballet song everyone knows... It's truly a perfect song, as moving today as ever it was."[13] It has been characterised as a "karaoke staple".[14] In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation's tenth-favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.[15]

On the other hand, Guardian journalist Luke Williams referred to the song as "the biggest load of musical tosh ever";[16] his colleague Michael Hann described it as "dreadful wine-bar soul".[17] Sean Daly of the St. Petersburg Times named "True" the worst song of all time,[18] while Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert Jamieson selected it as the worst ever love song.[19] It was also featured in the Houston Press article, "10 Songs We Never, Ever Want to Hear Again, Ever".[20] Luke Williams derided the lyric, "Why do I find it hard to write the next line?",[16] and NME included the line, "I bought a ticket to the world but now I've come back again", in their "50 worst pop lyrics of all time".[21]

In 2014, the band's singer, Tony Hadley, commented on the song and its lyrics:

I don't think "True" is Spandau's best song—for me, "Through the Barricades" is. But "True" had some connection, and I really don't know why. It's not a specific lyric, is it? "Head over heels when toe to toe"—sometimes you'd be like, "Right, Gary, what's this about, mate?" Is it "I'm head over heels in love?" "Am I in bed because our feet are touching?" I don't know. But then, I suppose, we grew up on David Bowie and Roxy Music. "Virginia Plain"—what's that about? Half of the Bowie songs, I couldn't tell you what they're about. With "True", you have to create the imagery for yourself.[8]

In 1985, the band performed the song during Live Aid.

In 1991, the song was prominently sampled on the P.M. Dawn track "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss," which singer Gary Kemp received a writing credit for. The song was a massive worldwide hit, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that November, and having the unique distinction of being the first #1 song after Billboard updated its metrics to include airplay from Nielsen SoundScan.

A new mix by Tony Swain and Gary Kemp was released in 2002 on the compilation album Reformation. On 30 April 2008, the single celebrated its 25th anniversary, and in honour, EMI released a brand new True EP on 5 May 2008, which included the original single, the new mix found on Reformation, and the remastered album version, plus live recordings of "True" and "Gold" from the last show of the group's 1983 tour at Sadler's Wells.

Track listing[edit]

7": Chrysalis / SPAN1 (UK)[edit]

Side one
  1. "True" – 5:40
Side two
  1. "Lifeline (Edited Remix for U.S.A.)" – 3:34

7": Chrysalis / VS4 42720 (US)[edit]

Side one
  1. "True" – 5:40
Side two
  1. "Gently" – 4:01

12": Chrysalis / SPANX1 (UK)[edit]

Side one
  1. "True" – 6:30
Side two
  1. "Lifeline (Remix for U.S.A.)" – 5:15
  2. "Lifeline (A Capella)" – 2:01

1991 CD: Chrysalis / CHSCD 3793 (UK)[edit]

  1. "True (Edit)" – 5:36
  2. "Lifeline (Edited Remix)" – 3:39
  3. "Heaven is a Secret" – 4:24
  4. "Pleasure" – 3:30



Sales certifications for True
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[48] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[49] Gold 50,000^
France 324,000[50]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[51] Platinum 20,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Cover versions[edit]

Cary Brothers covered the song for the soundtrack to the film Sky High.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dvorkin, Ashley (4 May 2015). "Story Behind the Song: Spandau Ballet's 1983 hit single 'True'". Fox News. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  2. ^ Gantt, Kareem (15 January 2015). "Spandau Ballet's 'True' is so-so, but most of this album is formulaic new wave". AXS. Archived from the original on 27 July 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 422–423. ISBN 978-1-904994-10-7.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 228.
  5. ^ "Spandau Ballet's True wins award". BBC News. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b Simpson, Dave; Kemp, Gary; Norman, Steve (14 May 2012). "How we made: Gary Kemp and Steve Norman on True". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ "The Band". Official Spandau Ballet website. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b Bernstein, Jonathan (4 October 2014). "Spandau Ballet's True story: 1980s pop stars on how their hits were written". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  9. ^ "True. Spandau Ballet". NoteDiscover. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Rice, Tim (21 October 2009). "Mum, dad and the music". The Spectator. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  12. ^ Gittins, Ian (1 October 2014). "Spandau Ballet review – return of the shoulder-heaving soul boys". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  13. ^ Larsen, Peter (25 January 2015). "Spandau Ballet stays 'True' to its sound". Orange County Register. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Spandau Ballet On Its Reunion And 'Looking Outrageous'". NPR. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  15. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (25 July 2015). "The Nation's Favourite 80s Number One: 12 more classic 80s chart-toppers which didn't make the cut". Metro. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  16. ^ a b "England v Australia - as it happened!". The Guardian. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  17. ^ Hann, Michael (25 March 2009). "Spandau Ballet: The sound of Thatcherism". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Spandau Ballet's 'True'". St. Petersburg Times. 19 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  19. ^ "The best and worst love songs of all time". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 14 February 2008. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  20. ^ "10 Songs We Never, Ever Want to Hear Again, Ever". Houston Press. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  21. ^ "50 worst pop lyrics of all time". NME. 28 May 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 286. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  24. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4378." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 4387." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Spandau Ballet". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Spandau Ballet" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  28. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  29. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True". Top 40 Singles.
  30. ^ "Notowanie nr 58" (in Polish). 28 May 1983. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  31. ^ "SA Charts 1965–1989 (As presented on Springbok Radio/Radio Orion) – Acts S". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  32. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  33. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True". Swiss Singles Chart.
  34. ^ "Spandau Ballet: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  35. ^ "Spandau Ballet Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  36. ^ "Spandau Ballet Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  37. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles – Week ending November 5, 1983". Cash Box. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  38. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  39. ^ "National Top 100 Singles for 1983". Kent Music Report (497). 2 January 1984 – via Imgur.
  40. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1983 – Singles" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  41. ^ "The Top Singles of 1983". RPM. Vol. 39 no. 17. 24 December 1983. p. 10. ISSN 0315-5994 – via Library and Archives Canada.
  42. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1983" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  43. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1983" (in Dutch). Dutch Charts. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  44. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1983". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  45. ^ "Top 50 Singles of 1983". Music Week. London. 25 December 1983. p. 25. ISSN 0265-1548.
  46. ^ "Hot 100 Songs – Year-End 1983". Billboard. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  47. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1983 – Top 100 Pop Singles". Cash Box. 31 December 1983. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  48. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mount Martha, Melbourne, Victoria: Moonlight Publishing.
  49. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Spandau Ballet – True". Music Canada. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  50. ^ Les Meilleures Ventes "Tout Temps" de 45 T. / Singles / Téléchargement — Top 900 at the Wayback Machine (archived 12 August 2020)
  51. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). The Complete New Zealand Music Charts: 1966–2006. Maurienne House. ISBN 978-1-877443-00-8.
  52. ^ "British single certifications – Spandau Ballet – True". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 August 2020. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type True in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]