“Why do I find it hard to write the next line? Oh, I want the truth to be said. I know this much is true.”
These lyrics are an excerpt from the hit Spandau Ballet song “True”. And it has made the band’s way into music history.
“True”: it is truer than true…
“True” is a song by the English band Spandau Ballet. Released on 14 April 1983, 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, becoming the sixth biggest selling single of the year, and charting highly in 20 other countries. Most noteworthy, it is Spandau Ballet’s biggest hit and their only major hit in the US. Reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983, it topped the adult contemporary chart for one week.
In addition, “True” was composed by group leader Gary Kemp who wrote the song at his parents’ house, where he lived at the time. It is a six-minute 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.
Moreover, the song was recorded before Gaye’s murder a year later. The song was also partly about Kemp’s platonic relationship with Altered Images singer Clare Grogan. To note, some phrases in the lyrics were adapted from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, a copy of which Grogan had given Kemp.
In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation’s tenth favorite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV. However, it has also been named as one of the worst songs ever recorded, with the lyrical content gaining particular derision from Guardian journalist Luke Williams and the NME.
Behind “True”: a cryptic song
In an interview with the Spandau Ballet band, Gary Kemp wrote the song and said at the time he was
“having this sort of platonic relationship with a singer” and that he “ended up writing a song really to her. There’s a few cryptic clues in there.”
As for the sound,
“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.”
Lead singer Tony Hadley recalled how young they were when the song hit.
“We were 23 at the time, it was like wow… what a fantastic moment and it’s a song that gets played continually on American radio and all around the world.”
In addition, Kemp expressed,
“I was 22 when I wrote it. My brother and I, being the kind of ordinary chaps that we are, we were still living at home with our parents. So I mean, probably I would be playing that song to him in our bedroom. Then our Mum would go, ‘come down your dinner’s ready!’”
On the other hand, band member Steve Norman stated,
“You never know if a song is going to be a classic. There was one moment, which is actually in the film, where we’re in the studio recording it. And then we started to sing. Gary was sort of playing the guitar I believe. We are all there sort of singing along and then there was a little bit of a magic in the studio there. That was the first indication that we were onto something special.”