Even pop stars must grow old, but it is rather a shock to learn that Tony Hadley recently celebrated his 60th birthday.
‘It’s a weird one, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘How did that happen? Where did all the time go? I haven’t got a clue.’
To cut a long story short, he hasn’t lost his mind. Perhaps it is more that the passage of time seems exceptionally piercing because of all that has gone before.
As lead singer of Spandau Ballet, Hadley spent much of the Eighties at the forefront of a New Romantic scene that celebrated the peacocking vanity of male youth, along with the power of guyliner and extravagantly frilled blouses.
The former lead singer of Spandau Ballet Tony Hadley, 60, tells Jan Moir he would rather be on his own than back with the band after one of the most toxic pop-group breakups in history
The band in their pomp, before a rift developed between songwriter Gary Kemp (second-left) and singer Tony
His chiselled cheekbones and thunderous baritone were regular features on Top of The Pops, while he sweated lavishly through the group’s 1985 Live Aid appearance in a leather coat with matching trousers, topped off by his slowly wilting mullet.
That was in the glory days, before Spandau Ballet’s collective career ended in rancour and a poisonous legacy that continues to this day. Oh, the battling Spands! Where on earth to begin? When will it ever end?
The group had their first hit in 1980 and went on to sell more than 25 million albums around the world, but seem to have been fighting like ferrets in a velveteen pouch since forever.
They are always falling out, reforming under duress to creak out another nostalgia tour or hits compilation, before falling out again.
Formed at school by brothers Gary and Martin Kemp, along with Hadley, multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman and drummer John Keeble, the group first broke up in 1990, reunited in 2009, split up in 2017 and are currently on non-speaks again.
The main protagonists have always been alpha males Tony and Gary, who locked horns from the start. ‘We were always the ones who argued,’ says Tony.
‘He’s got a very strong personality and so have I. And it could produce an atmosphere that was not very pleasant.
‘I was amazed to hear him say recently that we grate on each other but we have such a laugh sometimes. Really? If it was such a laugh, I would never have left.’
Spandau Ballet (pictured) had their first hit in 1980 and went on to sell more than 25 million albums around the world, but seem to have been fighting like ferrets in a velveteen pouch since forever. Left-to-right: Steve Norman, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp and Tony Hadley in Rome, Italy, in 2015
Although both were working-class kids from North London, the similarities ended there. They are political opposites, for a start.
Tony is a Conservative voter who admired Mrs Thatcher, Gary is a socialist who supported David Miliband (for the party leadership) and reads The Guardian every day.
When they each got their first big Spandau pay cheque Tony bought a car while Gary bought a William Morris armchair.
But they needed each other, too — then and now. Gary was the band’s intellectual and creative virtuoso, who wrote all of Spandau’s hits — but he needed Tony’s voice to do them justice.
Hadley announced his final departure in 2017 on Twitter, but has never revealed exactly why he went.
The main protagonists have always been alpha males Tony and Gary (Kemp, right), who locked horns from the start. ‘We were always the ones who argued,’ says Tony. Left: Gary’s brother Martin
The Kemp brothers’ new BBC2 mockumentary All True takes digs at Tony, portraying him with devil horns
‘And I never will,’ he says darkly. Time to pop on my Sherlock deerstalker and take a big puff on the pipe of truth. Tony, would the Kemps be ashamed of the reasons why you left the band?
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘If it ever got out, yes they would.’
Would it damage their reputations?
‘Yes. And that is all I am going to say.’
Do you ever think fondly of Gary now?
‘He’s quite a complex character,’ Hadley begins, before faltering. ‘That’s a difficult question actually. A lot of things have happened.’
Indeed they have! Recent areas of conflict and general Spandau needle-wheedle include Martin Kemp appearing on Celebrity Bake Off and biting the head off a Tony Hadley iced biscuit he had baked. What a bounder. That had to hurt.
More from Jan Moir for the Daily Mail…
Then a television advertising campaign in which the group’s hit single Gold was rewritten to promote Bold soap powder still annoys Hadley. ‘I thought that was pretty disgraceful, in very bad taste, greed,’ he says.
‘But I have nothing to do with Spandau Ballet’s decision-making process any more. I just want to make it clear it is not me singing in the ad. I don’t know how much money they got paid. I didn’t see any of it, that is for sure.’
Does he not receive any residual income from his Spandau Ballet days? ‘I haven’t been accounted to in quite some time,’ he says.
A new mockumentary satirising the band, made by the Kemp brothers and recently shown on BBC Two, is the latest salvo in this war.
All True is not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, but finds Gary and Martin — who both went on to become successful actors — poking fun at themselves.
They also take the mickey out of Hadley, who is depicted with devil horns and vampire teeth and is the butt of quite a few jokes.
‘I watched it with an open mind and I laughed a couple of times,’ says Hadley, gamely. ‘I was hoping to be royally entertained, but that didn’t happen.’
Like me, he was appalled by the swearing. ‘I am not being a prude, but I thought the language was a bit unnecessary. And don’t you think the pre-publicity was incredible? It was like Gone With The Wind 2,’ he bitches, rather deliciously.
Pictured: Tony on ITV’s Lorraine show on January 28, 2019
Today, the father of five wears crisp striped shirts and has the ruddy, wholesome air of a country butcher rather than the sleek pop pin-up of yesteryear.
We are Zooming together, with Hadley ensconced in his ‘leather interview chair’ in an anonymous corner of his five-bedroom home.
Although he once said he would never leave London, he now lives in a Buckinghamshire village with his second wife Alison (she loves the countryside) and their two daughters, Zara, 13, and eight-year-old Genevieve.
Here, he glories in his barbecue area and outdoor kitchen. ‘You can cut things up and prepare things and it’s got cupboards and stuff underneath. That’s my man space, if you like,’ he explains.
‘I’m not in charge of the barbecue because my wife says I burn everything.’ She doesn’t let him go to the shops on his own, either. ‘I am hopeless, apparently.’
The former 6ft 4in frontman has lost ‘about an inch and a half’ from doing too much running and stock car racing
Right on cue, Alison pops into the Zoom screen to bring Tony a mug of tea and chide him for making it sound like she bullied him into moving out here. He shrugs amiably.
Later, they will pop to John Lewis in High Wycombe to pick up some new suitcases, an exciting post-lockdown expedition. ‘I’m looking forward to that,’ he says.
They had a small family party to celebrate his 60th, instead of the big bashes in the village and in London that were planned pre-Covid.
The girls baked him a Victoria sponge birthday cake — ‘my favourite’ — and he is slowly coming to terms with the indignities of ageing.
‘Nothing left to make me feel small,’ he once sang in his pomp. ‘Luck has left me standing so tall.’
Now he reveals nothing could be further from the truth. ‘Actually I’m shrinking,’ says the former 6ft 4in frontman. ‘I’ve lost about an inch and a half. Why? I’ve done too much running in my life.
‘And I did a lot of stock car racing where I got smashed up. I’ve got four vertebrae that are fusing and compressing together so I am getting smaller. It doesn’t bother me. It’s just what it is.
‘So long as you do your exercises and bits and bobs. I mean, I’ve been exercising like billy-o throughout this whole lockdown. I’m fitter now than I’ve been in years and its all thanks to Joe Wicks.’
The whole family does the Wicks work-out every morning in what Tony calls the kitchen/dining area.
Tony (left) says he has watched Gary (right) and Martin Kemp’s new BBC2 mockumentary satirising the band
‘We sweat a lot, but we clean the floor afterwards,’ he says. I do hope Alison isn’t eavesdropping again, or she might make another intervention to give him a clip around the ear. The things men say!
But Tony is oblivious to domestic gaffes. ‘Oh, he has been brilliant, inspirational,’ he continues, chuntering on about Joe Wicks.
‘I mean, what are you going to do? Are you going to eat yourself stupid and drink yourself stupid, or are you going to get up and exercise?’
It is hard to imagine this equable man was once so incensed by the division of earnings between Spandau Ballet’s members that he took Gary Kemp to court in 1999, to sue for a share of his royalties.
As the songwriter, it was Gary who received the lion’s share of the group’s earnings — that is where all the money is in pop music.
As the songwriter, it was Gary (right) who received the lion’s share of Spandau Ballet’s earnings. Pictured: The group perform at The Serpentine Gallery in London on July 2, 2015
That’s why Gary has a large Georgian townhouse on the finest square in Bloomsbury, Central London, complete with an elegant drawing room filled with E.W. Godwin furniture, an etching by Augustus John and first editions of Aubrey Beardsley’s Yellow Book.
Hadley lost the court case, which he says cost him more than £1million. I suggest it is interesting that despite being an avowed socialist, Gary kept the money — to which he was entitled — instead of sharing more of it with the group.
‘I couldn’t possibly comment,’ says Hadley and takes a big gulp of hot tea.
Many songwriters give their bandmates song writing credits to share around the spoils, but that seems not to have been the case here. All along there were clearly issues over how the band was run.
After Hadley left for good three years ago, the group hired another singer, Ross William Wild.
After a year with them, Wild said in an interview that he was so humiliated by the way he had been treated by Spandau Ballet he tried to commit suicide.
‘I was made to look like I wasn’t worth s***,’ he said.
‘Magnify that about 100 times,’ says Tony, ‘and then you might realise why I left. I had re-joined Spandau with a good heart, but I just got to the point where I thought I honestly cannot do this any more.
They want me back but it ain’t going to happen. I’d rather be happy on my own than be in that band again.’
To this end, he has a new single out called Obvious and has been performing live in drive-in theatres. His new suitcases are for a post-pandemic tour — you can’t say he is not optimistic.
Despite it all, despite having his biscuit head bitten off and being depicted with devil horns, (grow up, Kemps) Hadley claims he has no animosity towards his former band member friends.
‘I genuinely wish them well and hope they feel the same about me — I’m moving forwards,’ he says.
He is certainly having a good lockdown. Not only has he lost weight and looks splendid, I love his weekly Instagram shout out, where he grabs a drink and sings a song for fans in what he calls his ‘small music room’.
There, he has rigged up a camera on ‘a bit of driftwood’ to make his very own selfie stick.
There is a microphone into which he belts a Frank Sinatra number or sometimes Mott The Hoople — but if I stuck my head out of my window in West London, I could probably hear him live.
Alison is now making dinner, one ear cocked in a husbandly direction, as Tony sums up the situation so far.
‘I have a pretty good life. I don’t dwell in the past, that is dangerous. I have no regrets and try to learn from my mistakes.
‘Maybe I haven’t had everything that’s owed to me over the years, but I have five lovely children, a beautiful wife and I live in a lovely house.’
All this and an outdoor kitchen with cupboards? Tony really is living a charmed existence.
He still loves working and says he will never retire. ‘Thank God, my voice can still sing in all the original keys. Sometimes I can even manage higher than I ever did before,’ he says.
So now he is calmer, happier and thinner, but shorter with a higher voice? He’s indestructible.