Tony Hadley shot to fame in the 1980s as the frontman of Spandau
Ballet and found himself back in the spotlight on the recent series
of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Gayle Ritchie caught up
with him ahead of his performance at Rewind Scotland.
With his brooding looks, suave crooning style and wardrobe crammed full of smoking jackets, Tony Hadley was a pioneer of the New Romantic movement in the 80s.
Three decades on, the image is still one of cool charm but despite the serious, even sullen, poses in the publicity photographs, the real-life Tony is warm, open, chatty and not afraid of roughing it, as anyone who watched him in the I’m a Celebrity jungle will have witnessed.
“Loads of people expect me to be moody and up myself because of those Spandau images,” he laughs. “But the truth is, I’m really friendly.”
I’m catching up with Tony ahead of his appearance at Rewind Scotland at Scone Palace. He’s got his work cut out with projects galore before he heads north for the 80s festival but I’ve managed to pin him down during a rare quiet moment.
“Rewind is a great opportunity to play in front of 15 to 20,000 people going mental,” he says. “People expect all the big hits – True, Gold, Through The Barricades – and you never want to disappoint them.
“I always look forward to the festival. Everybody knows they’ll get great musicians, great singers – it’s party time.”
This year, Tony hopes to bring his family up to Perthshire with a tent or two in tow. They’ll enjoy Rewind and then, if the weather allows, they’ll head off into the wilderness – only this time without the Bushtucker trials and bickering that made his I’m a Celeb stint essential viewing for millions.
“I love all that outdoors stuff so yeah, we’ll take our gear and maybe go on a bit of a camping trip and do a tour of the area,” he says.
Born in Islington, London, in 1960, Tony was obsessed with music from a young age. Along with his friends, Steve Norman, Michael Ellison, Gary and Martin Kemp, John Keeble and Steve Norman – fellow pupils at the same grammar school – he formed Spandau Ballet (then known as The Cut) as far back as 1976.
“I had a great education but when I discovered music, it just kind of consumed me,” he says. “All I could think about was music – Queen, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Slade – I just got into it completely.
“We were quite young when we formed the band, only 16, in lower sixth form.”
When Tony told his dad, Patrick, an electrical engineer and his mum, Josephine, who worked for the local health authority, his dreams of becoming a professional musician, they were, he says, “pretty aghast”.
“I think they hoped I would go to university like most of my cousins who were scientists and things like that,” he recalls.
“By all accounts, my dad used to play the violin but I’ve never heard him or even seen him with one, so I’m not sure how true that is.
“We had a typical sort of London family. I remember parties and people getting round the piano to have a good old sing song but there were no professional musicians. So being a pop musician wasn’t high on their agenda.”
Despite his parents’ lack of encouragement, Tony pursued his dreams and by the mid-80s, Spandau were global superstars – the poster boys of designer pop.
Spearheading an era of new music, their dress sense was equally experimental. Outfits included silk tartan suits adorned with brooches, billowing shirts, waistcoats and scarves draped flamboyantly over their shoulders.
And who could forget the mullets and slicked quiffs?
The band’s third album, True, released in 1983, heralded a more polished, blue-eyed soul sound.
Around this time, Spandau’s image changed too and they swapped their outlandish attire for smart tailored suits and ties, much to Tony’s relief.
The group’s enormous success was cemented by their appearance on the Band Aid record and their performance at Live Aid at Wembley in 1985.
One of the most commercially successful bands of the decade, they enjoyed 23 hit singles and sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.
All good things must come to an end and in 1989 Spandau split acrimoniously, leading to legal battles over royalty fees.
They reformed in 2009 for a lucrative world tour titled The Reformation and did so again last year.
However, Tony is also a solo artist in his own right, having spent the past 20-plus years writing his own music and performing worldwide.
He won reality TV show Reborn in the USA in 2003, played Billy Flynn in West End musical Chicago in 2007 and has performed with some of the greatest jazz orchestras in Europe.
His contribution to the music industry was officially recognised in 2005 with a Gold Badge Award from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
Then in 2013, along with Kim Wilde, he set a world record for the highest ever gig, performing at 43,000ft in a Boeing 767 aeroplane for Comic Relief.
A man of many talents, Tony has also been a radio presenter and actor.
Most recently, he performed on the soundtrack for the new Eddie the Eagle film alongside other 80s acts.
As we speak, he’s working on his first ever Christmas album, a summer single, an orchestral album and a tour with the Southbank Sinfonia in October includes a date at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
With so much on, Tony says the fun-packed Rewind experience will come as a bit of light relief.
“It’s going to be such a brilliant experience,” he says. “Much of the set will include classic Spandau hits but I’ll also throw in solo material and a couple of songs from my forthcoming album.”
Does he ever get bored rattling out the old faithfuls?
“I honestly never do. Every audience is different and it’s their reaction that makes a performance.
“There are always people doing funny things, sometimes wearing funny things and singing along. It’s great fun every time.”
For Tony, the highlight of the set is performing his favourite song – Through The Barricades.
“I love it; it’s such an emotional song. More often than not, there are people in the audience who react to it and get quite upset and it’s not until that happens you realise how powerful some of the songs that you sing are.
“It’s quite incredible. Gold has become a sort of football anthem and I suppose True is like – ‘hey, I love you, I want to marry you’. It’s become the wedding song really.”
Tony made a huge impression when he appeared on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity at the tail end of last year, becoming the sixth person to be voted off after surviving 22 days in the jungle.
Despite a war of words with fellow camper Lady Colin Campbell, he says it was one of the best things he’s ever done.
“I’d happily do it all again. People think you get pizza and a glass of champagne at 9pm but it’s not like that. You get wallaby that you have to chop up with a few vegetables.
“We ate all manner of things – crocodile, wallaby, possum.
“Literally you’re in the middle of the jungle and you have to go down to the creek to get water and logs and you have to boil every drop of water you drink. It’s very physical. I enjoyed that side of it, getting stuck in all the time.”
So what of his stormy relationship with socialite Lady C, which exploded in a row over a beetle she threw into the fire?
“That was just abject cruelty,” says Tony. “I eat meat but cruelty is another thing. It’s just unnecessary.”
When Tony objected, Lady C retorted with a torrent of abuse.
Is it fair to say she won’t be on Tony’s Christmas card list? “She wasn’t on it last year and she won’t be on this year’s,” he growls. “She’s not my cup of tea. I get on with most people but my good God, I’d never heard language like hers.
“It’s strange because she started off as a slightly eccentric older lady that we took care of. I gave her my bed, I slept on the floor; we looked after her. Then slowly, this other person came out and it was just unbelievable.”
Despite the bad blood, Tony bonded with Duncan Bannatyne, Yvette Fielding and Susannah Constantine and he’s hoping they’ll met up for dinner soon.
While most of the other contestants struggled with the Bushtucker trials, Tony embraced them all.
“They do this psychological profiling before you go in and ask what you’re scared of. I’m not really scared of anything – snakes don’t bother me, spiders don’t bother me, so I was fine with the trials and some were great fun.
“We laughed a lot and there’s loads of things people didn’t see. We built a stone table to cut meat on, built tepees and clothes lines but they never showed that. They just want to show the conflict.”
Tony lost 10kg in the jungle and he’s determined to keep the weight off by staying active.
He’s in training for a televised celebrity football match in Rome next month and he loves running, skiing, gym work and boxing.
Another passion is politics. “I’m interested in it because I care about what happens to our country,” he says. “As for becoming a politician (he supports the Conservatives), I’ll stick to music thanks very much – in the real world.”
The father of five children – three with his first wife Leonie Lawson and two (Zara and Genevieve) with Alison Evers, whom he married in 2009 – Tony is a devoted family man.
So far, none of his children have followed him into the music industry but Tony reckon nine-year-old Zara might have a future in entertainment.
“She does a weekly drama class and she’s really confident. She’s also pretty keen on buying those compilation albums, so we nick each other’s music.”
He says his new album will come out “when it comes out” – when it’s 100% right.
“It sounds great. It’s kind of different and embraces some of that electro 80s things but it’s a bit quirky.”
Tony also has his sights set on bagging an acting role in 2016, whether on stage or in a movie.
“Any acting jobs, give me a call.” he laughs. “But at the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier with my lot. I’m still doing a job I love. I’m still singing, I’m still having fun. I’m a lucky boy.”
Tony Hadley plays Rewind Scotland at Scone Palace, Perth, on July 23. www.rewindfestival.com.