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)
  • 6:08 (12-inch 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 huge 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 major 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 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, Em, G/C, Bm. The song changes key when it hits the instrumental break. The instrumental break is in the key of E♭major.[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.

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

Chart history[edit]


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. 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. ^ a b 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. 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. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  23. ^ "Adult Contemporary". RPM. 39 (11). 12 November 1983. Archived from the original on 24 October 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  24. ^ "Top Singles". RPM. 39 (9). 29 October 1983. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  25. ^ "TOP Hebdo". TOP Hebdo. Retrieved 31 January 2016. Note: choose "1983", and then "15/10/1983".
  26. ^ "Song artist 726 - Spandau Ballet". The World's Music Charts. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  27. ^ " – Spandau Ballet Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  28. ^ "Irish Singles Chart – Search for song". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  29. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: S". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  30. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Spandau Ballet" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  31. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True". Top 40 Singles.
  32. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  33. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 978-84-8048-639-2.
  34. ^ " – Spandau Ballet – True". Swiss Singles Chart.
  35. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  36. ^ "Spandau Ballet Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  37. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, 5 November 1983". Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  38. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc)|format= requires |url= (help). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 1983 – Volume 39, No. 17, December 24 1983". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  40. ^ "End of Year Charts 1983". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  41. ^ "Top 50 Singles of 1983". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications: 25. 25 December 1983.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, 31 December 1983". Archived from the original on 16 May 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2018.

External links[edit]