Journeys To Glory: revisiting the times and sounds of the Spandau Ballet’s debut album 

Photo by Denis O’Regan / Spandau Ballet;  for illustration purposes

More than a New Romantic statement

Journeys To Glory: revisiting the times and sounds of the Spandau Ballet’s debut album

The Spandau Ballet’s debut album, “Journeys To Glory,” was released in 1981, at the height of the New Romantic movement, but it would be unfair to say that this is an album that belongs solely to it. Spandau Ballet, formed in 1976, like many of the bands emerging at the time, released their first record at the turn of the decade, and by then, music and fashion had merged, with most of those bands having David Bowie in common as their “silent mentor”. The electronic sounds of the underground German movement known as Krautrock were brought into the mainstream by Bowie, influencing a whole new cluster of British underground bands who formed shortly after the global Punk rock explosion, and these bands crafted a more sophisticated sound and, unlike Punk rockers, didn’t mind looking good and clean. They first were labeled as New Wave, then as Post-Punk, and subsequently as New Romantic.
Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet were at the forefront of the movement, both releasing their first albums in 1981. However, while Duran Duran embraced mainstream Pop music as a whole on their first album, Spandau Ballet sounded like they were still trying to stay as underground as possible on “Journeys To Glory.” Despite the album’s big hit “To Cut A Long Story Short,” rocketing to the top of the charts and garnered media attention, some music critics dismissed the talent of certain bands emerging from the New Romantic movement, claiming that they looked way too good and dressed way too well to be talented artists or musicians, but this fueled bands like Spandau Ballet, who proved the exact opposite not only with their debut but also with their follow-up. The album’s biggest hit is the dance-infused electronic rock of “To Cut A Long Story Short,” but it’s not the only powerful moment; this is a record with some of the best Spandau Ballet songs and a band that’s very distinct from the one that only two years later hit No. 1 on a global level with the song “True.”



It’s been 40 years since “Journeys To Glory” was released, and to put it simply, it sounds better and more contemporary than ever before, not just lyrically but musically. In an era when many musicians look back for inspiration, this is an album where they will find it in solid songs like the catchy “Musclebound,” “Mandolin,” “The Freeze,” or the instrumental “Age of Blows” (that could easily be part of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy), and closes with the magnificent “Toys,” which is the rockiest and rawest of all the tracks, all written by Gary Kemp. Spandau Ballet has always produced powerful songs and hits, but “Journeys To Glory” depicts a band in their infancy as well as their artistic peak, one that would quickly evolve in their second and third albums, experimenting with a different musical style that helped them shed the New Romantic label. Perhaps the secret to “Journeys to Glory” musical durability is its simplicity, a consistent beat and punch that permeates the sound of all these tracks. Tony Hadley delivers some of his most powerful vocals, together with Gary Kemp and Steve Norman on guitar, Martin Kemp on bass, and John Keeble on drums, on one of Spandau Ballet’s most timeless albums. As the New Romantic movement faded, both Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, the movement’s protagonists, shifted simultaneously into musical directions that launched them into the absolute mainstream and global fame. “Rio” by Duran Duran and “True” by Spandau Ballet became two of the most popular songs in history. Spandau Ballet developed a distinct, rich sound that remains familiar to music fans, but somehow “Journeys To Glory” slipped under the radar for decades to come. If you haven’t already done so, give a listen to this fascinating, interesting musical voyage that transports you to a rich musical era while also bringing you to the present, as you will be amazed to learn how some of the songs in it continue to influence today’s artists.



Side 1
1 “To Cut a Long Story Short”
2 “Reformation”
3 “Mandolin”
4 “Muscle Bound”

Side 2
5 “Age of Blows”
6 “The Freeze”
7 “Confused”
8 “Toys”

Personnel: 
Tony Hadley – vocals, synthesizers
Gary Kemp – synthesizers, guitars
Steve Norman – guitars
Martin Kemp – bass
John Keeble – drums

Produced by: Richard James Burgess
Recorded during: September 1980 – December 1980 at The Manor (Oxfordshire) Jam StudiosTrident StudiosUtopia Studios (London)

Released: 6 March 1981
Label: Chrysalis / Reformation

Singles:
“To Cut a Long Story Short” Released: 31 October 1980
“The Freeze” Released: 12 January 1981
“Muscle Bound” Released: 23 March 1981



Watch the music video for “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet, 1981



Read the exclusive Steve Norman interview



Listen to “Journeys To Glory” on Spotify

Read all about the tour:

 

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David Warren

David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at david@popexpresso.com