Is Tony Hadley lying to me? Here he is in the personal finance section of the Telegraph in July last year: "I have a lot of mining shares in South Africa that, if they come off, will be very nice." Then the Marikana massacre happened. Not very nice. When I asked him in a recent phone interview, on the brink of the South African leg of his current "Go West" world tour, whether he was still bullish about his shares, he had changed his tune. "My shares are in Canada actually. The mining shares are in Canada and one in Africa but not in South Africa. There's a lot of issues. The miners being shot and killed. Outrageous! Look you've gotta give people a fair wage. A fair crack of the whip. You can't exclude people from a decent lifestyle."
Why do I find it hard to write the next line / Oh I want the truth to be heard ("True").
Does it matter that he may have lied to me? Not really. I mean I lied to him in the interview. I told him he was "a big influence on my life". I don't know where that came from? Back in the 80s I was a strict Frankie Goes to Hollywood fan. Spandau Ballet struck me as smooth operators with a neat line in melodrama. But they were good. A worthy part of the synth pop shoulder-pad invasion of the Reagan era. It was an exciting time. Tony remembers bumping into celebrity humanitarian Bob Geldoff who asked the band to do Live Aid and sing on a little song called "Do They Know it's Christmas?" to fight famine in Africa. "We met Bob down the King's Road and he said we're doing this single for Ethiopia and we said yeah, yeah, good on you Bob!"
They had no idea it would be the global pop moment of the decade.
"We arrived on the day of the recording at Heathrow at 6 in the morning and the press were already there. That's when we realised this thing had gathered momentum. We had to nip into the toilets and put on a bit of makeup."
With Bono and George Michael attending, it must have been a difficult day recording? "Not at all. It was a charity record to us and that was about it. To be honest it felt a bit like a school choir except with Bananarama and Duran Duran."
Spandau Ballet's music stays with you and their very best is close to the top of the pop mountain. "Through the Barricades" is their Bon Jovi guitar ballad moment about 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland and the redemptive power of love. It can make you cry if you let it. The band folded right before Britpop in the early Nineties. Hadley has kept on singing and touring with the can-do spirit of a kid born to solidly working-class parents in a free hospital in Islington. He wasn't a prodigy like Billy Elliott though. Nothing came easy. Tony knew he had a voice but he was smart about crafting it with singing lessons and vocal training. "I'm always trying to learn," he says. "I'm really critical of myself." He apparently has autographed pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Frank Sinatra in his home in the Cotswolds and his voice sort of assimilates the appeal of both: Hepburn's vulnerability and Sinatra's soaring toughness. He loves the analogy and the interview really gets going.
It must be youth that keeps us feeling strong. ("Through the Barricades")
These days, Hadley does a lot of well-paying corporate gigs in places like Abu Dhabi and there are a lot of covers in his live act. Bowie, the Killers, Nina Simone. Is he essentially offering a kind of tasteful middle aged karaoke? "I wouldn't call it karaoke! Look I'm really proud of my past but I love Tom Petty. I love Queen. It's a real challenge vocally to sing these songs and still sound like Tony Hadley. Making sure if I sing a Queen song I don't sound like Freddie Mercury."
The question of ownership and authenticity has been a real problem financially. Unfortunately for Tony, he didn't write any of the hits back then. Lead guitarist, Gary Kemp, wrote them all. It's meant he's enjoyed the lion's share of the royalties from around 20 million units shifted over the years. "I'd love to have written "True" or "Gold" or "Through the Barricades" but I just wasn't capable of it when I was younger, and Gary was." That kind of clear-eyed magnanimity is hard won. Hadley and a few other band members took Kemp to court in a wrenching royalties dispute played out in the papers in 1999. Tony lost. Gary Kemp, pompously, called the outcome "a victory on behalf of all songwriters."
There were vast vats of bad blood which made the recent Spandau Ballet reunion tour something of a surprise. "It took a lot of persuading for me to do the Spandau thing. A friend in my current band got us together, Gary and I, in a pub actually. After years and years of animosity. Over a few pints, I said what I had to say and he said what he had to say. We realised if it was gonna happen we had to draw a line under the past and move on."
Always believe in your soul/You're indestructible ("Gold")
Their last universally ignored recording as a band came out around the Kemp brother's acting debut in a very violent and disturbing movie about a pair of infamous East End gangsters. There were parallels between the film and what was happening in the studio. "The Krays was just after our last album. It was terrible to record. The band was falling apart. It reflected how things were getting worse and worse." Tony starred in Chicago in the West End and even won a reality-show in 2003. "It took a lot for me to do it. I don't do cameras or filming in bathrooms but they paid me an awful lot of money."
He's toured the country a few times now and played the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley in 1988 but isn't entirely convinced by what he sees today.
"What I find amazing about South Africa is the inequality between rich and poor is still so great. Also there's almost a reverse kind of Apartheid in a way. A lot of white people can't get a job. I thought the end of Apartheid would mean equality between blacks and whites and no more disharmony. It's not like that at all."