- SPANDAU BALLET Parade (Chrysalis/Reformation)
- Week Ending 7th July 1984 (For 1 Week)
- Total Weeks On The Top 30 – 20
Our fifth album chart-topper gives us another first. Spandau Ballet’s eagerly-awaited follow up to True was my first #1 that I hadn’t bought or heard in full. (I wouldn’t actually own it until a mid-90s CD reissue).
Quite why that should have been the case has been obscured by the mists of time; I certainly loved the lead single Only When You Leave enough to purchase it. Maybe some other need for using my available pocket money came along. Or maybe I was buying yet another remix of Two Tribes.
Timing certainly seemed to play a part in how Parade was received by the public and how it would eventually perform chart-wise. In fact, the aforementioned Only When You Leave‘s chances of emulating the feats of True and Gold on the UK Top 40 were scuppered by the combined might of Duran Duran and Frankie Goes To Hollywood; a strong debut at #5 ended with a disappointing peak of #3. That bad luck extended to Parade itself, stuck for 3 weeks behind Bob Marley’s remarkably popular compilation Legend; it had already spent 7 weeks atop the UK listings and no doubt Spandau’s brand new long-player would have been expected to outsell it, at least on the first week. But ’twas not to be.
The Spandau boys upon hearing the news that Legend had kept them off #1 yet again…
Parade is proof that pop can be an elusive little bugger at times, despite the best endeavours. No doubt Chrysalis’ head honchos would have congratulated themselves and all concerned when first presented with the album; there is nothing in quite the same league as True (or even Gold) but overall the songwriting is solid and the quartet of singles eventually plucked from the LP were good enough to hog the airwaves for the rest of the year. With their post-True status elevating them to being one of the big three UK pop acts of 1983, all reasonable projections would have been for another winner and to finish 1984 pretty much where they left of in 1983. Even the mid-summer release looked like a perfect launch, the sumptuous I’ll Fly For You surely destined to be the year’s Holiday Romance soundtrack.
Except nobody had anticipated Frankie mania, and for Wham!’s George Michael to turn himself into a brooding, mature solo star with the smoochfest that was Careless Whisper. At a stroke, Gary Kemp was suddenly last year’s great white-soul tunesmith.
For all of that, Parade stands up pretty well even now, and if I were to compile a chart for this same week in 2023, I’d still put it straight in at #1. As a lover of clunky lyrics, you might expect me to have a certain fondness for the likes of “she used to be a diplomat but now she’s down the laundromat…they washed her mind and now she finds it hard”, yet somehow there isn’t the same quirky appeal as when Phil Oakey’s on about where there used to be some shops in The Lebanon, or even Sting always ending up getting wet regardless of the size of his umbrella (and no, that is not meant as a euphemism!) in Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.
It’s just – and I may be off the mark here – there’s something about Gary Kemp’s lyrics which are trying too hard to be something. Too self-conscious perhaps. I’m reading his autobiography at the moment (I Know This Much) and it’s the same problem; very well-written and constructed exactly as a well-written memoir would be, but lacking that spark which might engage the reader more deeply. No, I think I know what it is. It’s earnestness. And there are worse crimes, of course.
There were worse albums from the giants of 80s pop in 1983/1984, too. Parade is superior to the ragged Seven & The Ragged Tiger, and light years ahead of the abysmal Waking Up With The House On Fire. It has no obvious weak links like Welcome To The Pleasuredome, and is better produced than Make It Big. And yet, it’s rarely remembered when the 1984 retrospectives roll into town.
The absolute lack of US success for Parade, failing to build on the breakthrough there with True, proved to be a final nail in the coffin for the band’s relationship with Chrysalis, who they accused of failing to adequately promote the album Stateside. CBS were waiting in the wings, but the switch took Spandau Ballet out of the picture for all of 1985 and more than half of 1986. And they found out how quickly the pop world moves on without you.