Like Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, I am beautiful and clean and so very very young. Well, that is not exactly the case. I am unprepossessing, faintly grubby, and middle-aged. But then, Tony Hadley is no spring chicken either, if not quite as old as me. But, all else being equal, and notwithstanding brute reality, and both having my cake and eating it, I think I can justly claim to have beauty and cleanliness and youth, in comparison with certain others. A one hundred year old toad, sitting in a bog, for example. Put me next to that toad – on a dais, so I remain unsullied by bog-filth – and I think you would have to agree that if one of us is beautiful and clean and so very very young, it is certainly not the centenarian toad. We will not invite Tony Hadley into the line-up.
Toads do not feature largely in the Spandau Ballet story. Indeed, they do not feature at all. I have read the literature, all of it, repeatedly, far beyond what is reasonable, and I can tell you there is not a toad to be found anywhere, not in The Spands : Harbingers Of Pop, nor in Ooh Ooh Ooh, This Much Is True, nor in The Spandau Ballet Pop-Up Picture Book, nor in any of the other several dozen volumes under which my bookshelf creaks. This is, I think, a great pity.
Much would be explained were we to learn that the Kemp brothers, or Tony Hadley himself, kept, as a child, a pet toad. (I know there were a couple of other Spands, but nobody remembers who they were, or cares, other than their immediate families.) Ask me to explain what, precisely, would be explained, and I will make a fastidious gesture with my hands, and snort, and arrange my features into a withering look – a look that withers.
Did Googie Withers ever listen to, say, Chant No. 1? It is one of the greatest regrets of my life that I did not grab the opportunity to ask her this question before she died, a couple of years ago, at the age of ninety-four. Not that I had the opportunity. I never met her. But I could have ferreted about for an email address or contact details, and put my query. I feel sure Googie would have replied.
Of course, I have other regrets, many, oh!, many. And in all honesty, it is probably not true to say that the Withers/Chant No. 1 regret is among the most heart-wrenching of them. Not really. When I said it was, I suppose I was just trying to lend myself airs. It’s a common failing, but I shouldn’t make excuses. I know that now. And I know it because I have spent untold hours listening, at top volume, to the point where the neighbours complained to the police, to the entire Spandau Ballet discography, including out-takes and demos, on a loop, while gazing at large high definition hyperrealist pictures of toads, with a magnifying glass. You should try it some time. If there is a better way of clearing one’s head of cobwebs and faff, I don’t know what it is.