“True” by Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet’s “True” has an interesting origin story, which in turn describes some of the lyrics. For instance, what originally inspired Gary Kemp to pick up his guitar to pen the tune was watching the 1970 Beatles’ documentary, “Let It Be”. This becomes relevant to the “True” because its intro and chorus were inspired by a track featured therein called “Dig a Pony” and specifically how, according to Kemp, John Lennon ‘took one word and turned it into a shaking melody’.
Then once he did pick up his guitar, Gary went about trying to imitate the sound of some of his idols, Marvin Gaye and Al Green. In fact as seen in the second verse, there’s even a shoutout to “Marvin” in the song.
But the greatest inspiration was a friendship he had with a lady by the name of Clare Grogan, a successful media personality in her own right. Indeed there is a good portion of the lyrics which can be seen as alluding to this platonic relationship. For instance, “head over heels when toe-to-toe” can be gleaned as a metaphor for Gary’s infatuation with Clare. And we also know that certain phrases in this song were lifted from the classic 1955 novel “Lolita”. And the reason that Kemp was even reading that book in the first place is because it was given to him as a birthday gift via Clare.
A Song about trying to pen a love song
But that being said there also seems a notable degree of improvisation in the song’s lyrics. For instance, some of the lines are so symbolic that they can be interpreted a million different ways. And at a certain point the vocalist makes the audience aware that he’s ‘finding it hard to write the next line’. Or put differently, he’s suffering from writer’s block. In fact Kemp described “True”, in his own words, as being “a song about trying to write a love song”. And whereas this is not the type of information a songwriter would usually include in a track, after all in this case the narrator “wants the truth to be said”.
So all things considered, this song can be loosely interpreted as a tribute to Clare Grogan. And if that is the case, then we think the title would point to the idea of the singer’s love for her being “true”. But her name is not actually mentioned, and the lyrics in general have a very open-ended feel. So if anything, it can be concluded that the singer personifies a man who is indeed in love with a lady but is having a very-difficult time expressing such. So at the end of the day he is reduced to focusing on “the truth” of his feelings as opposed to elaborate words to express them.
Facts about “True”
This song was released as the third single from Spandau Ballet’s album of the same name on 14 April 1983. And the label behind it is Chrysalis Records.
“True” was written by Spandau Ballet’s own Gary Kemp, who handled most of the songwriting for the band.
“True” is noted for being Spandau Ballet’s biggest hit, especially in the US where the song peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. And outside of that, the track also made it onto the top 10 in a few other countries in addition to actually topping the charts in Canada, Ireland and the band’s homeland of the United Kingdom.
Part of reason this song blew up Stateside is due to its video being featured on the relatively-new (at the time) Music Television network (MTV). In fact Spandau Ballet is considered to be part of the ‘British Invasion’ of musicians from across the pond who scored big in the US during the early 1980s, thanks in large part to MTV. And in that regard, the director of the music video was Russell Mulcahy.
This song has been featured on a few prominent TV shows, such as “The Simpsons” and “The Office”, in addition to some major motion films. In fact it is known to be a favorite in terms of being featured during wedding scenes on such programs.
Moreover the Spandau Ballet performed this tune at the historic Live Aid charity concert in 1985.
Spandau Ballet employed the production talents of the musical duo of Jolley & Swain (S. Jolley and T. Swain), who had produced a few chart toppers during the 1980s.