A Phil Brodie Band
the Myths ~ The Name Revealed
taken at the Hope & Anchor, Islington, London
Left to right: Mick Austin, Mark Robinson, Gordon Bowman and David Wardill
A fortnight after Spandau Ballet reunited on the HMS Belfast, the original
lesser known band of the same name have announced they will hold their
own reunion in London in April. Band members Mick AUSTIN, Mark ROBINSON
and David WARDILL, all originally from Ampthill, Bedfordshire, will
meet up for the first time in more than 30 years to recall the days
when THEY were Spandau Ballet.
Its TRUE says lead singer Mark Robinson: "The three of us were
in a band in 1978 trying to think up a good name. I was reading the
recently published "Spandau,The Secret Diaries" by Albert
Speer and thought that Spandau, the prison near Berlin where Speer wrote
the diaries before his release in 1966, would make a great name for
our band. Mick and David used to love anything military and they were
in awe of the German Maxim machine gun called the Spandau so they liked
the name too. We randomly added the word "Ballet" via the
"Bowie" method of cut up words in a hat, to form "Spandau
Austin adds: "Mark designed a poster with our new name for a performance
at the Ampthill Youth Club on 30 August 1978. We didn't play the gig
but all went to London instead. We got a new drummer "Gordon"
through an ad. We played pop rock mainly, based on riffs and pretty
simple melodies on the whole; quite catchy, certainly not wishy washy
or boring". Mark remembers it as "new wave/ rock".
Early rehearsal tapes still exist.
The band performed at Islington's Hope & Anchor in support of The
Softies on 6 May 1979. Expecting to make it big they spray-stenciled
the name and logo "Spandau Ballet" on the toilet door of a
well known, "Virgin Records' owned, London nightclub and at various
other locations around the capital. The logo was a female ballet dancer
silhouette wrapped in barbed wire. They believe their marketing campaign
was so successful that it caught the attention of a certain Robert Elms
who was good friends with Steve Dagger, the manager of a then unknown
band called "The Gentry". In an Islington pub in November
1979, Elms suggested to Dagger and band members Gary and Martin Kemp,
Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble that they change their name
.. Spandau Ballet.
Years later Robert Elms admitted that he had seen the name written on
a toilet wall but claims to this day that it was a wall in Berlin not
London. Martin Kemp's autobiography mentions that "The name 'Spandau
Ballet' must have belonged to another band at some point, but now it
belonged to us - we were Spandau Ballet, and that was that".
logo design 1978
Robinson remembers discovering the existence of "the other"
Spandau Ballet in January 1980 when a newspaper mentioned that a band
of that name would be performing at the Blitz club near Covent Garden.
"Our friends all thought it was us" jokes Austin but he was
annoyed at the time that another band had "used" his band's
name. Robinson reflects: "We were young, angry, hadn't a clue what
to do. We thought it would go away but how wrong can you be? If we had
had any brains we would have protected the name but hey, that's rock
n roll. The New Romantic Spandau Ballet were better than we ever were,
but it still hurts. Just a punk band from Bedfordshire".
But the boys were not totally silent about the issue. Following publication
of an NME story in which Robert Elms claimed credit for inventing the
name "Spandau Ballet", a furious Austin wrote a letter to
the magazine hitting out at Elms which was published in January 1981.
He also wrote to Peter Powell at Radio 1 who read out his letter on
air. It was to no avail and the Bedfordshire band, the original Spandau
Ballet, never performed again.
By ironic coincidence, Mick Austin and David Wardill later discovered
that their flatmates in 1978-79, Kim Bowen and Lee Sheldrick, were themselves
friends of Elms and that Bowen had suggested the name "Spandau
Ballet", either to Elms or one of his friends, because, as she
told Wardill: "I didn't think you were using it any more."
Subsequently the band drifted apart. Mick Austin turned to art and eventually
became the artist for Judge Dredd in 2000AD while David Wardill quickly
found fame as bass player for The Passions, who went on to enjoy chart
success in 1981 with "I'm In Love With a German Film Star".
Mark Robinson now runs his own design company in Dubai.
So, do the original Spandau Ballet members think they can be as successful
as their more famous namesakes second time around? "Nah" says
Robinson, "we're just meeting up for a drink and a chat about the
old days and perhaps we'll play a few of the old songs, just for fun.
We don't think we will sell out the O2 arena"!
the name on his guitar
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