'I Know This Much' - by Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet's prime mover - is simply the freshest, most exciting and best-written memoir to arrive for years.
Gary's story begins in North London, where the Kemp family rented a home with no bathrooms and chickens in the yard.
After a couple of failed attempts to kill his brother Martin, his parents gave him a guitar for Christmas.
From schoolyard battles between the Bowie Boys and the Prog Rockers to Mrs Kemp's firm insistence on net curtains, and from acting for the Children's Film Foundation to manning a fruit and veg stall on Saturdays, Gary brilliantly evokes an upbringing full of love, creativity and optimism.
As the Thatcher years begin, Gary's account of the outrageous London club scene centred around the Blitz and Billy's is just sizzling.
Out of this glamorous mayhem of kilt-wearing mascara'd peacocks would emerge Spandau Ballet - the band that would define the era, and hold high the victorious standard of the New Romantics. Gary's thrilling journey with Spandau Ballet would see them record worldwide hits such as 'True', 'Gold' and 'Through the Barricades', play the biggest stadiums in the world and take to the stage in togas when their luggage gets lost in flight.
Stallions, supermodels and dwarves would be hired for video shoots, and through it all, Gary records the wonderful friendships, and the slowly-building tensions, that would eventually see five old friends facing each other in court. 'I Know This Much' tells the story of Spandau Ballet, but it's far more than a book about being in a band.
Whether it's meeting Ronnie Kray before filming 'The Krays', sketching out the fashions and subcultures of the day, or hanging out with Princess Diana, this book offers a story on every page. And all the more so because it's all written - brilliantly - by Gary himself.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 320 pages, 40 col plates (16pp)
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 29/04/2010
- Category: Rock & Pop music
- ISBN: 9780007323319
- EPUB from £5.49
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Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
After watching a highly cheesy ITV 'special' on Spandau Ballet, who seem to be everywhere at the moment, I was prompted to read Gary Kemp's autobiography, released after the group's initial reunion in 2009. I have previously read and enjoyed his brother Martin's life story (2000), and still have a copy, but then I have long nurtured a crush on 'the best looking bloke' in the band! Gary is a better wordsmith - obviously, being a songwriter - though not as open or likeable as his little brother. The opening chapters, describing the Kemp family history and growing up in Islington, are the best - humorous and warm, bringing to life a poor but loving background, filled with hideous knitted jumpers but lacking pretension. When Spandau begin to take off, under the neurotic control of Gary, his narrative loses some of its original charm. Gary does cover the rift in the band - he stopped paying contributions to the others from his publishing company, which Tony, Steve and John took to be a breach of promise - but skips over his brother's health scare in the mid-1990s, which is covered in Martin's own words, but still. The last chapter, however, recounting the loss of Gary's parents in 2009, is absolutely heart-wrenching, and more than makes up for the obnoxious twaddle about Gary's artistic vision for the band (instead of taking Gary to court, the others should just have taped his mouth shut and locked him in a cupboard). After the initial laughter, I was nearly in tears when I finally finished reading Gary's story.A beautifully told, if selective, life story by a prince of pop.