Spandau Ballet Documentary, SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD
DOC-NYC Film Festival, Nov. 15, 2014
By Lisa Reznik
Nov. 25, 2014 -- The NYC premiere of Soul Boys of the Western World took place as part of the 5th Annual DOC-NYC film festival earlier this month. Director George Hencken introduced this new documentary to a full house at the SVA cinema in Chelsea. Band members, Hencken and the band’s manager discussed the making of the hugely entertaining documentary following the screening.
Soul Boys of the Western World is a portrait of Spandau Ballet, one of the bands that defined the 1980s. The film is also an excellent summary of the music scene of the era. Set against a backdrop of evocative period footage including never-before-seen home movies, this documentary will thrill many fans.
The early, club-oriented Spandau Ballet tracks were some of the most exciting records of the early Eighties and remain some of the most influential of the period. The group's debut single "To Cut a Long Story Short", which reached No. 5 in the UK in 1980, was the first of ten UK Top 10 hits, including a No. 1 single in 1983 with the song "True".
This was the era of the birth of MTV so there were interviews, interviews, interviews,” Hencken said. Soul Boys of the Western World is her directorial feature debut which she called a gift. “Collating the vast amount of archive footage for the film was spine-tingling,” Hencken said. “Getting the atmosphere of the moment just right was the biggest challenge,” she continued, as well getting clearance of archival rights from the BBC.
You don’t have to be a Spandau Ballet fan to enjoy Soul Boys of The Western World. The film is like a history lesson of London in the 80s. “I was so aware of the dramatic change from the 70s to the 80s and I really wanted to evoke that,” Hencken said. Footage of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made its way into the film, she explained, “not because there’s an allegiance between the band and Thatcherism, but to put the band into a social and historical context outside the band itself at the end of the eighties, when people really wanted to have a good time.”
Bandmates Tony Hadley (lead vocals), Martin Kemp (bass guitar), Steve Norman (guitar, saxophone, percussion) John Keeble (bass guitar) and Gary Kemp (song-writer, guitar) reveal how a group of working-class Brits came to conquer music and influence fashion around the world, only to break up at the end of the decade in the wake of an acrimonious legal battle. The film shows this bad side of life in the band when things started to fall apart, an aspect of the band’s history which some fans just discover here.
In the 1990s, Hadley, Norman and Keeble launched an unsuccessful court case against Gary Kemp for a share of Kemp's song-writing royalties from his work with Spandau Ballet and the band split up.
“Our falling out was acrimonious,” Manager Steve Daggar.admitted. “But our past goes back to when we were school kids. We formed our band when we were 16 and we managed to work out those differences.”
When asked why the band wanted to make the documentary, song-writer Gary Kemp blamed ‘ being masochists.’ “One of the most beautiful moments in the film is when we get back together,” he reminisced. “It was more important to get back together as friends than as a band. Everybody can connect to the vicissitudes of friendship, ” he continued.
The band concluded discussion of their documentary with the news it was just sold and will be seen in theaters starting in 2015. “And, after a 19-year absence, we will kick off our Lost Boys tour in January,” Steve Norman said with a smile to a cheering crowd. The band will play for New York fans on February 6 at the Beacon Theater.