STEVE NORMAN

WHILE AT SCHOOL IN ISLINGTON IN THE MID-1970s, MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST STEVE NORMAN WAS A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE CUT, ALONGSIDE HIS FRIENDS GARY KEMP, JOHN KEEBLE AND TONY HADLEY. WITH THE EVENTUAL ADDITION OF KEMP’S BROTHER MARTIN, THE BAND BECAME SPANDAU BALLET…

steve norman 2They emerged from the London club scene with the single TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT in 1980 and by April 1983 were well on their way to being one of the biggest groups of the decade. They sat at number one on the UK singles chart with TRUE, from the album of the same name, which sat at number one on the UK album chart. Other hits included GOLD, I’LL FLY FOR YOU, INSTINCTION, LIFELINE, HIGHLY STRUNG, THROUGH THE BARRICADES and COMMUNICATION – but the bubble eventually burst. A decade after their first flush of success the band split amongst, perhaps ironically, communication difficulties. High profile legal actions followed and it seemed impossible for the band to work together again. Against the odds, in 2009 the members of Spandau Ballet patched up their differences and reformed, beautifully detailed in the riveting documentary SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD.

Norman is also founder and occasional member of Holy Holy, the band comprising several of David Bowie’s former bandmates and notable devotees. In April he’ll be touring with Earl Slick, Bowie’s guitarist, to perform the STATION TO STATION album in full alongside other Bowie classics. He’s now recognised as one of the most versatile and accomplished musicians of his generation and, in this exclusive new interview, he both reflects on his love for David Bowie and looks back at his great experiences (and difficulties) in Spandau Ballet…

STEVE, JUST BEFORE THIS CALL I WAS LISTENING TO YOUR SAX SOLO ON THE SONG TRUE – A MOMENT WHICH NEVER FAILS TO BRING A SMILE TO THE FACE… SO I GUESS WE’LL BEGIN THERE. IT’S EARLY 1983, SPANDAU BALLET ARE RIDING HIGH – ON TOP OF THE SINGLES CHART AND THE ALBUM CHART. IT MUST HAVE BEEN EXHILARATING…
… Yeah, but I’ll slightly correct you there. I don’t want to bring any sort of negativity into our career at this point, but you have to remember we were coming out of the second album – DIAMOND – which was a very very experimental album. I don’t think people really understood it at all, and they certainly weren’t expecting it. They were expecting us to come up with a record full of songs like CHANT NO.1 (which was the biggest selling single from DIAMOND)… but we’d thought “You know what? Let’s have a little change of direction, here”… and we experimented.

AND THEN TRUE… WHICH WAS VERY DIFFERENT AGAIN… A BIT OF A GAMBLE, EVEN?
Yeah… We went off and wrote some blue-eyed soul. We were heavily inspired by our soul past, really; Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie Wonder – that kind of stuff… So TRUE was the album which picked us up after this sort of weird experimental phase, but it was also our way of stepping into the mainstream. Prior to that we’d always been a bit of a cult band, a clubby band… Moving on was a conscious decision. And it went global. I guess we never really looked back after that… To this day people know TRUE and they know GOLD from that album… It’s probably the most memorable album Spandau Ballet made, to be honest.

WITH TRUE (BOTH THE ALBUM AND THE SONG) THE BAND SEEMED TO BE RIGHT AT THE TOP OF ITS GAME. MUCH LIKE DURAN DURAN’S RIO ALBUM, WHEN YOU LISTEN BACK YOU HEAR A BAND FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS CREATIVELY… WITH EVERY DETAIL EXECUTED AT 100%… WHILE THE BAND WAS MAKING IT, WERE YOU ALL AWARE THAT YOU WERE ONTO SOMETHING SPECIAL?
I think we certainly became aware – but not at the beginning with TRUE, the song. That song actually came a little bit later on. We were working on others first. PLEASURE was the first one we worked on – and, in fact, the working title for the album was THE PLEASURE PROJECT… We thought PLEASURE was going to be the first single. It certainly ushered in the new sound. It was a sound that had a big smile about it, you know?

YEAH. IT’S A FEEL GOOD SOUND…
Yeah, it is. We’d all been thinking “Where would we like to go to record the new album?” and we thought it’d be a great idea to all go away together, and live together for a little while. When you live together to record, you get things done a lot quicker but it also gels you, it bonds you, you know? It helps the work. That’s certainly what it did for us lot on TRUE. We all sort of upped sticks and went to the Bahamas…

… NICE! THAT’S IN THE SOUND, SOMEWHERE…
Yeah. But we did already have TRUE, the song, ‘cos I remember we’d rehearsed it back in London. But when we got out there something happened. There was definitely a moment where we knew it had something very very special to it. I think the singular moment was caught on film ‘cos either Gary or the producer Tony Swain had a cine-camera, and filmed us in the control room all singing along to what we’d recorded of the song so far. But I think we still didn’t consider it to be a single…

HA HA, REALLY?
Yeah, you don’t know that you’re writing and recording a hit single. I don’t think Gary thought, when he wrote it, that it was going to be as big as it eventually became. Actually, by the time we finished it, we knew. By then it just seemed to have this unstoppable momentum all of its own.

TRUEIT WAS A MASSIVE HIT, WORLDWIDE.
When you go to America, that’s the Spandau Ballet tune that has attached itself out there. That’s the one everyone knows. Here, back then, everyone just fell for it straight away. It was on the radio all the time and Simon Bates, the Radio One DJ, he put it on back-to-back. No-one ever did that! I also remember that John Taylor and the rest of the Duranies sent us a message saying “Well done” on the song. And chapeau to them on that – ‘cos I don’t think we’d have sent one to them, ha ha!

THE BAND WEREN’T STRANGERS TO THE CHARTS – THERE’D BEEN HITS – SO IT’S NOT AS IF IT WAS AN OVERNIGHT THING. YOU’D REALLY WORKED FOR IT…
Yeah, we did. We were very much a cult band up until TRUE, as I said before. You make your first album and it encapsulates a sound you’ve been working on for the past couple of years or something, and then you get the chance to record a second and you think “Okay, we’ve got to do something different, ‘cos we’re in a slightly different place now”… By the time of TRUE we were in a really different place. But this time we knew exactly what we wanted, and we knew where we wanted to pull our influences from… We’d gotten used to a certain amount of success – but I don’t think anyone could have prepared themselves for the amount of success that TRUE brought us… All the planets aligned, really, I guess…

THE SUCCESS – ALL THOSE MAGAZINE COVERS, THE NEWSPAPER COVERAGE, SELL-OUT TOURS, HIT SINGLES, TOP OF THE POPS, NOTORIETY… WAS THAT YOUR TEENAGE DREAM MADE REAL?
Yeah, totally… The absolute biggest drive was because I wanted to be the guitarist in a band. But once you’ve become that, once you’ve got that band together, the next thing is that you want it to be as big as The Beatles… Or the Rolling Stones… Or, in our case, we wanted to be as big as the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, ha ha… Why not? We started playing pubs when we were in the band at school in the late ’70s, then clubs, and then we signed and our success meant we were able to play small theatres… Then it got even bigger… arenas… and eventually, in certain areas of the world – say, Italy – we were playing stadiums… So, your goals do shift along with that. You move the goalposts a bit. We were always looking to expand, looking for new audiences, bigger audiences…

DO YOU FEEL, TAKING IT THAT BIG, THAT YOU LOST SIGHT OF THE BALL?
No, not really. You’ll find with quite a few established bands that they also go the other way, sometimes on the quiet – playing clubs or whatever. It keeps them connected, and it means they don’t lose touch with what’s important about it. We still do that, occasionally. We don’t always aspire to play arenas and stadiums, you know? Sometimes we do choose to go smaller. We go “You know what..? This’d be a really good gig to do”… Like, say, the Beacon Theater in New York. That’s an amazing place and I think we’d rather do more than one night in those sort of places than the bigger stuff, actually. Those places that are so steeped in musical history, too, the smaller places – when you think of all the talented musicians who’ve come through them… Just to be able to play them is great. And also, there are places in the world where we’re not as popular as other parts, so we play smaller venues because we have no choice.

I’VE OFTEN WONDERED, FOR A BAND AS BIG AS SPANDAU BECAME, HOW THE ARENA AND STADIUM EXPERIENCE STACKS UP AGAINST THE MORE INTIMATE GIGS… WHETHER THE CONNECTION IS DIFFICULT, WHETHER IT ACTUALLY CHANGES THE NATURE OF WHAT YOU DO?
It is different, yeah. It is. No doubt about it. Your music does actually change because of the size of venues you play, which depend on where you’re sitting in popularity. So, if you listen to our music, the early albums, they’re a lot more intimate because our gigs were to smaller audiences. Then when TRUE came out we started to play larger theatres and then arenas, and our sound gets bigger. It changes. So it does affect you. There was certainly a lot more guitar when we were playing stadiums. You start using reverbs in a different way and… you start reaching out to those bigger audiences. You’ve got to stretch your music – because it’s got to reach all the way to the back. So if you’re in a large arena or a stadium you can’t help but do things with a little more pomp, you know? You have to give it a bit more theatre, I guess…

I MENTIONED TEENAGE YEARS A MOMENT AGO, SO LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR YOUTH. WHAT WAS THE MUSIC YOU GREW UP AROUND…
Quite often I’d sit with my parents’ record collection and sort of sift through it, and absorb it. Certain things stick, and they have an influence on what kind of music you choose to listen to from that point on. My Dad was into jazz, a little bit, but both of my parents listened to the radio. It was on, like, all day. My Mum’s still the same to this day – there’s always that background noise, that chattering. I often think that if she didn’t have the radio on all the time when I was a kid growing up, I wonder if I’d even be into music… I was exposed to a lot of trad. material – and also pop. Radio One was a kind of mish-mash of all different types of music. You’d have The Beach Boys next to Mantovani next to Tom Jones, then maybe something a little bit harder, a Cliff Richard record or something… then Status Quo, ha ha… This’d all be back-to-back, so there wasn’t that sort of  pigeonholing that we have nowadays. You were being exposed to all different types of music back then and I think that’s really healthy. It refreshes you. These days the stations just play one type – whether that’s dance, urban, whatever… People cherry-pick music these days and no-one listens to a whole album anymore, which I think is a real shame. Unless you’re a big fan people just pick single tracks and come up with their own playlists, don’t they?

CAN YOU REMEMBER WHICH ARTISTS YOU WERE FIRST ABLE TO CLAIM AS ‘YOUR OWN’..?
Well, because of the way radio was I got exposed to people like Percy Faith… I remember my Uncle Jim, his record collection was basically Cliff Richard & The Shadows. My Mum was holding down different jobs all the time so every Saturday she’d drop me off with her brother… And I used to be round his place playing along to these records by The Shadows with, let’s say, upturned bins and cardboard boxes which I’d use for a drum kit. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

YEAH!
Yeah! We’ve all done it! Ha ha ha… I’ve even done the old ‘tennis racket in front of a mirror’, just to see how I look, ha ha… That was before I even had a guitar. You know, my parents couldn’t afford a drum kit so I had to pick something else and that’s why my first instrument was the guitar. If we’d have had money I’d have got a drum kit. That was my first passion. Brian Bennett – the drummer in The Shadows – was actually one of the first guys I most admired, funnily enough… Very luckily I was able to meet another hero last year – his bandmate Hank Marvin! He lives in Perth, Australia, and came along to see Spandau Ballet… He came backstage after and we got on like a house on fire. I was very very proud to meet him. I’m still also just a fan, y’see… I still get the old goosebumps when I meet someone I admire, and I don’t mind telling ’em either… Some people can be a little bit too cool, can’t they? Just let yourself go, and admit you’re still actually a music fan – after all, that’s why we’re doing what we do, isn’t it?

ABSOLUTELY… STEVE, YOU HAD A TERRIBLY INSULTING NICKNAME IN THE MUSIC PRESS BACK IN THE DAY AND…
… Oh, God. Which one are you thinking of?

… STEVE ‘PLONKER’ NORMAN… 

Ha ha ha… Yeah, well, I think that’s probably because I was a bit of a plonker… I remember where that came from, but I’ve not heard it since those days. My nickname was always ‘Spiny’… as in ‘Spiny Norman’, a gigantic hedgehog from a Monty Python sketch. I still get called that occasionally. But, anyway, ‘Plonker’… Well, you say things in the press sometimes and I made up some scandalous stuff. Someone in our management had said to us “Guys, we could do with some press – Duran are running away with this. They’re dating models and there’s this video with an ice-cube and a nipple”… So me and Martin made a lot of stuff up. Of course it came across badly. I read it and I was mortified – because I wasn’t like that. I’m not trying to say I didn’t get up to stuff – pur-lease! – but I certainly didn’t talk about it… Ha ha. So, yeah, I came across as a bit of a plonker, I think. Fair enough…

THERE WAS ALSO THIS PERCEPTION OF YOU AS THE, SORT OF, BEZ OF THE BAND… THIS CHARACTER WHO DIDN’T REALLY CONTRIBUTE. YOU WERE THIS ‘ADDITIONAL MEMBER’ JUST LOOKING GOOD AND ONLY DOING ORNAMENTAL STUFF…
That’s right. There was, yeah…

I’M REALLY GLAD TO SAY TIME HAS CORRECTED THIS. PEOPLE NOW REALISE WHAT A VERSATILE MUSICIAN YOU ARE… YOU PLAY, WHAT, EVERY INSTRUMENT GOING?
Ha ha. No. Not everything, I couldn’t say that. But one of my strengths is that if I focus on it I can get a tune out of anything. I have to work at it, of course, but not as hard as some people do. It  comes natural to me and I’m very lucky in that respect… I do remember all of that perception though, and it did get to me, if I’m honest. It really depressed me, because I knew I was more than that. I got written off.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WAS?
In some ways it was my own fault, really… And also, of course, in some ways I think the press were really looking for a way they could shoot us down or write off what Spandau Ballet were doing… I don’t have a problem with it now but if people had thought that about me all the time then I think I’d be concerned. Since the documentary film came out (SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD) all that has been addressed, anyway. We were all really good musicians, and still are. I’ll play with any musician of any standard – I’m not saying I’ll be better than them, but I’ll hold my own. You don’t have to be a complete virtuoso to come across, you know?

I WAS REALLY PLEASED WITH THAT ASPECT OF THE FILM… AND I WAS ALSO QUITE SURPRISED THAT IT DIDN’T SHY AWAY FROM THE DIFFICULTIES THE BAND ENCOUNTERED AROUND THE TIME OF THE SPLIT, IN 1990. OBVIOUSLY IT COULDN’T DETAIL THE ABSOLUTE NUTS AND BOLTS OF WHAT WENT ON – BUT IT GAVE A GOOD ACCOUNT OF HOW DIFFICULT IT MUST HAVE BEEN. THERE’S THIS FOOTAGE OF GARY SITTING ON HIS OWN, RUEFUL AND REGRETFUL OF HOW THINGS TURNED OUT… THE FALL-OUT FROM SPLITTING UP, THE LEGAL ACTION AND ALL OF THAT – IT MUST HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT TO GET PAST?
Oh God, yeah… Going back to the end of the ’80s and the early ’90s, the band was falling apart. In fact it had fallen apart even though we were still making an album. Gary and Martin had chosen to spend some time acting. That was cool with the rest of us, but it was the way they didn’t involve us. In the middle of recording it was, like, “Right, we’re doing this film now and that’s it. You’ll have to wait”. Well, okay, but there could have been a proper meeting, you know? “Can’t you just tell us” sort of thing. It was a communication issue. It always is. I guess we all had different ways we dealt with it. Mine was to go to Ibiza, just to escape really.

A GOOD PLACE TO ESCAPE TO…
Yeah, it sorted me out. My self esteem was at an all time low but I managed to ‘find myself’ again, if you like.

IT’S INCREDIBLE TO THINK THAT’S THE CASE – THAT YOU’D BEEN IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST BANDS, SO MUCH SUCCESS, SO MUCH FAME – AND YET YOU WERE… BROKEN?
Yeah… but you’ve already brought up how people had written me off and thought I was just a Bez character. I’m not a Bez character and I never was. And that’s with absolutely no judgement or disrespect to Bez. I’ve met Bez and he’s a really lovely guy. He does what he does and he doesn’t pretend to be anything else, you know? But that wasn’t me and I think at that point, when Spandau wasn’t happening anymore, I thought “Is that it? Is that going to be my legacy? Is that all that people actually think of me?”… I let it really get to me, if I’m honest. So there was that, but there was also the fact I didn’t know what else I was actually good at. I thought that band was my life – that was it. Spandau Ballet was good enough for me. It was snatched away and… erm…

… THERE WAS NOTHING TO REPLACE IT?
Yeah. There was nothing to replace it, yeah. When your confidence is that low you find it hard to work out what you’re actually any good at. You can’t see anything that you’re good at, at all, in fact. I’m not just talking about me, here. I feel for anyone that finds themselves in that position – in any walk of life. Anyone that’s so depressed that they can’t see the wood for the trees, anyone who can’t see what’s good about themselves. Terrible.

fly for youHOW DID YOU COME THROUGH?
You’ve just got to listen to the people that love you. Listen to what the people who believe in you have to say. Your family, your friends. That’s what I did. And, as I said, I also went away. I spent a bit of time in Ibiza and then, eventually, I was able to pick up the saxophone again…

… YOU’D STOPPED PLAYING ALTOGETHER…
Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t even look at the saxophone for a good few years. Actually, I didn’t even know where it was… I’d put it away in a cupboard somewhere, because it was so representative of the band that it was really painful to see it… I got into dance music out there in Ibiza, and then I picked the guitar up again first, and started writing dance-oriented music. Eventually I had to get back into the sax but it was okay by then. I ended up staying out in Ibiza for over twelve years. My kids grew up there, and I got very much into the Spanish culture. My first wife is Spanish, a lot of friends are Spanish, obviously some family are Spanish… I speak the language… I really love that place, so much… I still go and visit Ibiza and connect with that little piece of my heart I left there…

INCREDIBLY, BEARING IN MIND WHAT YOU’D BEEN THROUGH PERSONALLY, THE BAND MEMBERS PATCHED UP AND SPANDAU BALLET REFORMED SEVEN YEARS AGO. WAS IT A CASE OF ‘WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE’ OR WAS IT PARTICULARLY TENTATIVE?
Oh, it was extremely tentative. It took a long while. The first move was from Martin, really. He came to see me in Ibiza. I hadn’t had a problem with Martin, really – he’d kept out out of the whole litigation thing because of his brother and that was totally understandable. So, especially ‘cos I was in Ibiza, by default we’d lost touch… It was sad, we did speak once or twice but it wasn’t the same. You know, we were room buddies in the band in the days before we could afford a hotel room each… We were close. Anyway, he came over and spent the night, which was fantastic. He then went home with the most ridiculous hangover ever, ha ha… Later on, this mutual pal of ours who’d also come over, William Hunt, reminded us of all of the positive things that we’d been speaking about. And one of them was Gary…

THAT’S GOOD…
Yeah. I didn’t think I’d have any contact with Gary again – and I didn’t really want any, to be honest with you. But I’d said to Martin to pass on my regards, and he said “Well, if that’s the case, if you’ve ‘softened up’, I can tell you that he’d love to speak to you”.  I thought “Wow”… I was really shocked by that ‘cos you sort of make things up in your head when you have a fall out with someone, don’t you? You get massively blinkered. I saw him as the three-headed monster and, I think, vice-versa – that’s also how he saw me… But that wasn’t the case…

SO YOU GOT IN TOUCH?
It took us a while. It took a few months by e-mails – all okay, but a little bit formal maybe? It was one of those things where it started as “How can I help you?” and we both tried to prove ourselves as genuine. But then it really did soften up, after we’d eventually met up.  We just came back to the stuff that only he and I would know and could laugh about, and that helped us a lot.

ALMOST BECOMING FRIENDS ALL OVER AGAIN…
Yeah! It was lovely. The only way to get over what happened between us was to put our differences in a box and leave them in there… In an argument both people, or both major parties, think they’re right. There’s probably never going to be a solution if you both think you were right, so you’ve just got to put it behind you and not go there. Don’t visit it, and just move forward and grow. And that’s what we did. We’re pals and we have a lot of history together, and I don’t want to not be able to think about those things, do I? It’s my life. When we weren’t getting on, Spandau Ballet for me was so painful I almost lost all that – my history, all my stories. I was bitter for a very long time – but I don’t have that anymore. I forgave Gary for being wrong, ha ha ha ha…

communicationHA HA… BEFORE WE STOP TALKING ABOUT SPANDAU AND MOVE ONTO SOMETHING ELSE, LET ME JUST ASK YOU WHAT THE FUTURE IS THERE?
Well, we’ve been on tour for the last year or so. Over a year. That’s come to a stop, now – actually surprisingly, I’ll be honest with you. Tony suddenly decided he didn’t want to do it anymore, and wants to focus on his own band – which is kind of weird ‘cos he’s doing Spandau songs. But that’s his choice, and that’s that! So, beyond telling you that, I really don’t know at the moment, regarding Spandau…

… SO WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I’ve decided to use my time doing other things. I really like dance music, and I work with Rusty Egan – and various other DJs – doing private parties. I play live sax, live percussion. Really great fun…

… AND YOU’RE TOURING WITH EARL SLICK..!
Yeah, that’s going to be something else. Since David Bowie died the TV’s been full of his concerts and videos and things. He was all over it for weeks, wasn’t he? One of the things I managed to catch was the REALITY tour concert film, from about 2003. It’s absolutely amazing. And the drummer – Sterling Campbell – took over in Spandau on tour last year when John Keeble fell sick. Sterling stepped up and was brilliant. He was great on Bowie’s REALITY show, so I watched it closely and saw Earl Slick on guitar… really for the first time, I hadn’t seen too much of him before that. I was blown away. They did STAY, which is off STATION TO STATION, and Earl was phenomenal; just incredible… I was gushing so much to all my friends who appreciate music… I’d be talking for, like, half an hour or something, just about Earl Slick. Round about the same time I was asked if I wanted to do the tour this April and May, the STATION TO STATION tour. Completely coincidental. I was absolutely made up. I’m also Musical Director for the band, which is another added bit of responsibility, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m very much looking forward to the gigs. Another labour of love for me, and another reason why I love my job!

I GUESS THE INVITATION TO PLAY GREW OUT OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH HOLY HOLY… IN FACT, YOU WERE ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THAT PROJECT AND YOU ALSO WROTE AND SANG THE HOLY HOLY SINGLE, WE ARE KING…
Yeah. I named the band, too. I wanted something a little bit obscure. The first gig we did, Woody Woodmansey only played four tunes, ‘cos we had Clem Burke (Blondie) on drums. Woody wasn’t drumming at the time but we got him out of his semi-retirement… He sat in on FIVE YEARS at a gig and, well, my goodness… it just sounded like Woody. It really was hairs on the back of the neck time. It was fantastic… I did a little tour with them with Tony Visconti… and also Glenn Gregory – another big Bowie fan…

I LOVE THE FACT THAT THE BAND FEELS SO… AUTHENTIC… WITHOUT DAVID BEING THERE. IT’S A REAL CELEBRATION, BUT REALLY RESPECTFUL…
We didn’t want to make it a tribute band. There’s so many people out there who want to hear the tunes, so many Bowie fans. Not necessarily fans of just him – but of those amazing songs. It’s almost like the songs are his offspring, and off they’ve gone into the world. To have them played by members of Bowie’s various bands is something special… It’s great. I love Bowie. He was one of the first artists on my radar. If it wasn’t Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Tamla Motown when I was growing up then it was the glam thing. A lot of Tony Visconti stuff, funnily enough; T-Rex and, most certainly, David Bowie. When I was growing up at school, Bowie was the connection between me and all of my peers, my classmates.

holy holyIN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER WE ALL GREW UP WITH HIM, DIDN’T WE?
Yeah, we did. We grew up with him whether we know it or not, I think. That’s probably why it was such a shock – it was almost like your favourite Uncle had just passed away. I can’t quite understand why but you just felt like he was a family member. Absurd, almost. And the grief… I had to grieve. I had to listen to stuff and I had to talk about him. He was very unique. So important. His influence was huge. He was the first guy who brought the music, the style, the clothing, the imagery, the attitude… He brought all that together and forged his own way forward with it. I don’t know of anyone else who was doing that, unifying all art forms – or of anyone who’s ever done it. I’m saying this as a fan, not just a musician. As I said earlier, I don’t mind tipping my hat when it’s appropriate, you know? He was the best. It was great that he gave Holy Holy his blessing – he heard WE ARE KING and he heard the band.

DID YOU EVER MEET HIM?
I never really met Bowie properly, no. I was in the same room as him a couple of times but we never had a real conversation. I was always hoping it would come about at some point. I always felt that one day, because of this Holy Holy thing, if he ever needed a sax player… Ha ha ha… Or a percussionist – stroke – guitarist – stroke – backing vocalist… I’d be the man! He’d have got a triple whammy there, you know?!

YOU WEREN’T ABLE TO TOUR WITH HOLY HOLY LAST YEAR DUE TO YOUR SPANDAU BALLET COMMITMENTS…
No, I wasn’t. They’re on tour again very soon, Holy Holy, but I can’t do that one either. So that’s kind of the end of that, there, for me. I wish them all the best of luck, and I do keep in touch with everybody. But I’ve got the Earl Slick tour coming up and, if I’m honest, that’s probably the last Bowie thing I’m going to do. I’m actually doing this one more because I wanted to play with Earl Slick… And, of course, it’s the STATION TO STATION album – which is not a bad one to have a go at, is it?! Ha ha…

IT’S NOT BAD AT ALL… TVC-15, WORD ON A WING… AND STAY!
Yeah! I get to play STAY. With Earl Slick! Wow!

IS THAT YOUR PARTICULAR FAVOURITE BOWIE MOMENT?
It’s definitely my favourite Earl Slick moment. But it always was a big Bowie favourite of mine. That and FAME. I’m a bit of a soul boy at heart, I guess, so those ones really resonated. When he started getting those tasty musicians on his tunes for the YOUNG AMERICANS album, you know? That’s a really great period, I think…

TO ROUND UP, STEVE… WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT FROM YOUR OWN CAREER? SAY YOU WERE THOUSANDS OF MILES FROM HOME, YOU’VE BEEN AWAY FOR MONTHS, YOU’RE UP THERE ON THE STAGE FOR THE UMPTEENTH GIG… WAS THERE A PARTICULAR MOMENT THAT YOU LOOKED FORWARD TO OR THAT WOULD EVEN, PERHAPS, SIMPLY GET YOU THROUGH?
I wouldn’t say there was a particular moment that got me through, anymore – because the set we played last year was so great. There’s always great tunes you have to leave out, which can be sad, because you don’t have the time to do them all. And, to be fair, we found that some of our favourites didn’t always quite sit in the set as well as you’d expect them to – so some of them got left out. But last year, every track in the set I was excited about and loved playing. There was always something interesting going on, whatever instrument I was on. One of the ones I’ve always loved is CHANT NO.1, mostly for its danger, but it also reminds me of the early days. TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT is great as well, but I think… erm… Ooh, you’ll have to give me a minute, here..!

… TRUE – THE SAX SOLO… WE’RE FULL CIRCLE..!
Actually I do really like playing that, but no. There’s nothing better than playing I’LL FLY FOR YOU in Italy. You know earlier I said about America taking TRUE to their hearts? It’s like that with different songs resonating with different parts of the world. In Italy we didn’t sell anything until I’LL FLY FOR YOU came out. So was that ’84 or 1985? Anyway, maybe it’s the melody that the Italians love, that struck a chord with them. Coincidentally MTV kicked off, so people could actually see what we looked like as well as listening to the music… Well, that song had such a profound effect out there. I’m not just saying ‘on kids of a certain age’… I’m talking about everybody – mums, dads, grandparents, children… newborns, ha ha… Even now if I go over to Italy people of all ages stop me on the street for a chat or a photo. Italy embraced Spandau Ballet like no other country on this planet. Just to have that is something I’m immensely grateful for, yeah…

Buy tickets for the UK tour of Earl Slick / Bernard Fowler / Steve Norman
performing David Bowie’s STATION TO STATION here

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