Tony Hadley MBE, an English pop singer, chats with Kevin Cooper about his 2023 health scare, singing at The Cheltenham Jazz Festival with Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra, reissuing his previously released Swing album and his forthcoming 2024 Big Swing Tour of the UK.

Tony Hadley MBE is an English pop singer.

He rose to fame as the lead singer of the new wave band Spandau Ballet. He co-founded the band in 1976 as The Cut with guitarist Gary Kemp, his brother Martin on bass, drummer John Keeble, saxophonist Steve Norman with Hadley as the lead vocalist. All of them were students at Dame Alice Grammar School.

Spandau Ballet disbanded in 1990 after their final studio album Heart Like A Sky failed to live up to the commercial success of their earlier albums such as True and Parade. The same year Norman, Keeble and Hadley failed in their attempt to sue Gary Kemp, the band’s songwriter, for a share of his royalties.

Following the split Hadley launched a solo career, signing to EMI and recorded his first album, The State Of Play in 1992. After leaving EMI, he formed his own record company, SlipStream Records. He has since released six studio albums, six live albums and an EP.

In March 2009 the band reformed with Hadley as lead vocalist again for The Reformation Tour. He remained a member of the band intermittently until 2017 when he announced his permanent departure. Martin Kemp confirmed that there would be no further plans for Spandau Ballet to tour after Hadley’s replacement, singer Ross William, also left the band to pursue his own career.

Tony Hadley was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List.

Whilst busy organising his 2024 tour, and putting the finishing touches to his latest album, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Tony, good afternoon, how are you?

Kevin how are you mate? I’m good thanks for asking, but more to the point, just how are you mate?

All is good at this moment in time but having said that you have made me feel old today.

(Laughter) and just how have I managed to do that pray tell.

I was checking to see when the last time that you and I spoke and would you believe it, it was six years ago now.

Oh, you are kidding me, really, oh bloody hell. Funnily enough, I was just on the phone to Rick Parfit Junior; he’s a good lad and a very good friend of mine, and we are planning on doing something together. We were just having a chat about the vagaries of the music business post covid and where we were going to be, and I said to him, “I’m busier” and he said, “well I’m busier” (laughter). It really is ridiculous (laughter). However, don’t get me wrong as I’m really not complaining.

I thought that I would chill out for a while before speaking to you today, so I pulled a CD out and funnily enough it is a singer who I always thought you reminded me of, it was Paul Young and Sad Café.

Oh God he was a good lad was Paul and what a voice. He had a great voice did Paul bless him. I have to tell you that he was also very funny as well. Paul always lived life to the nth degree. He was a really good guy, and he would always be singing in The SAS Band, Spikes All Stars, Spike Edney who still plays for Queen. I can remember the old days when we had Cozy Powell on drums. We would have Paul Young, Kiki Dee, Roger Taylor from Queen, Stevie Stroud on bass, all really great musicians.

Paul was always bloody hilarious, and he was the one who would keep saying, “Tone please stay up a bit longer and have another drink” (laughter) and I would keep saying, “Paul I have got to go to bed mate” (laughter). He was absolutely fearless, but a lovely guy and a great singer too. He was pretty cool. So, for you to even mention me in the same breath as Paul really is a wonderful compliment and I do thank you for that.

Before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Thanks for your time mate, so thank you, it’s brilliant.

And can we first talk about the elephant in the room which is your health, just how are you?

Oh God right (laughter). To put things very briefly, I slipped on a wet floor down in Southern Italy. Stupid people let the water run all over the floor. I did the gig that night in front of fifteen thousand people, whilst wearing a leg brace, sitting on a stool with a little help from ibuprofen and Jack (Daniels). The following day I had to have reconstructive surgery as I had fractured my patella in two places. The tendon had popped off and there was ligament damage to both sides. So, I now have another massive scar on my leg, over my right knee, but I have to say that I am doing alright. This is where the story gets more interesting (laughter).

I went a bit funny over in Belfast; my blood pressure went through the roof, my temperature went up, the leg swelled like a balloon, so I had to go to the hospital where they checked me for everything and all was okay; it was just one of those anomalies. I then moved onto an airport hotel in Madrid where I had a gig in Valladolid and I honestly feel that the problem was that I had flown to Belfast and there was absolutely no way that I should have flown. I didn’t realise that I shouldn’t have flown, but I did as Belfast was only forty-five minutes away and I thought that I was not going to cancel any more gigs. The leg is healing really well, so the tour manager drove me to Valladolid on Thursday morning.

Then on Saturday morning I did the gig at 12.45pm and I am now just waiting here for a pickup tomorrow. I will be travelling down to Portugal where I have another gig. And then after that I am fine to fly. So, I had to cancel two gigs but I’m not going to lose anymore shows. You can’t keep me down mate I tell you, and I love singing too much. I hate letting audiences down, together with the band, I just can’t bring myself to do that.

What’s that old saying, there is no peace for the wicked (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s right. I’m totally alright. I’m doing well; I am actually recovering remarkably well. It’s quite nice as I am in the hotel on my own for a few days. I have been catching up with old friends, and it really is quite nice in a weird sort of way (laughter). I wouldn’t like it all of the time but there you go.

The last time that I saw you was 21st May 2022 at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham towards the end of your 40th Anniversary Tour. Were you pleased with how well the tour was received?

I have to say that the tour was really cool. I think if I am honest, we had already rescheduled the tour twice. And I think that we went out a bit too close to Covid. In the audience there were still people wearing masks, and I could feel the fear from the audience up there on the stage, certainly during March, but other than that, it went down really well. I tried to paint a picture and tell a story of where Spandau Ballet started; the first song that we wrote together and performed in the school music room, stuff like that. I was trying to create a musical picture of just where I was, where we were going and everything else. I loved it, but then again, I just love gigging to be honest, I absolutely love gigging (laughter).

My wife keeps saying to me, “you have got to slow down a bit” and I’m like, “no” (laughter). I do enjoy it, I love what I do and I’m very lucky to be able to do this. The new album is going to be out in October 2024. I’ve just got one more vocal to finish on that, and we are repackaging the Swing album ready for the March tour. We are recording five new tracks for that ready for its release on vinyl. So, as you can see, I am busy gigging, busy recording, just keeping going really. People keep asking me, “when are you going to retire” but I feel that I am singing better than ever. I certainly haven’t dropped any of the keys or anything like that, and opportunities are flying in from all over the place. I don’t have a hobby, I don’t like golf, so I will just keep writing, recording and gigging for the time being (laughter).

Are you still scuba diving?

To be honest with you I haven’t dived for a while now but yes, I love diving and I love skiing. Unfortunately they are both out of the question for me for the time being until all is healed. We are going to go anyway but I will sit and watch the kids enjoy themselves. There will be no participation for me just lots of Après Ski (laughter).

I once asked Alice Cooper if he had any thoughts on retiring and he replied, “retire, what from young man, singing or golf” (laughter).

(Laughter) I love Alice; I have been on tour with him, and he really is a great guy. He is the most incredible golfer, and also the most incredible performer. He is such a nice guy, honestly, and his family as well. He is one of those very rare genuine guys in this business. And I bought School’s Out back in 1971 and I still have the original copy (laughter). He loves his golf; he is absolutely addicted to golf. I like keeping fit, I enjoy that, I like running, training and everything else, but really its music for me. I like tinkering at the piano, the guitar or being in the studio, and mainly just performing live.

You have briefly mentioned it so I think that we had better speak about the forthcoming Big Swing Tour don’t you (laughter).

Well, I suppose so, yes (laughter).

Is it something that you felt that you wanted to do, or something that you had to do at this particular moment in time?

I haven’t done a swing tour now for many, many years. Having said that, I have done the occasional swing thing abroad, but not very much. What was the catalyst for the forthcoming tour was that the Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra phoned me up and said, “we would love Tone to be our special guest and singer at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival” and I thought, ‘wow, that’s some accolade, Ronnie Scott’s Orchestra at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival’. I immediately said yes with no hesitation. I have to admit that I was pretty nervous not having done it for a while.

We literally top and tailed the songs in the sound check before I went on. I did around an hour and fifteen minutes, got a standing ovation, and as I say to people, “after 43 years it is still nice to get a standing ovation occasionally”. It was incredible, it really was an incredible reception. After that, my manager said to me, “look, you have got the new album coming out in October, we have got all of the festivals from the late Spring through to the Summer, so why don’t you do a swing tour. You love it, you love that kind of music”. March was completely free so we said, “alright, let’s do March” and that’s it, that’s how this came about (laughter).

It is essentially the fabulous TH Band, who are my mates and amazing players; it’s those guys with a whole brass section behind us. I know all of the brass guys anyway because I have probably worked with most of them over the years (laughter). So, there really is going to be a great vibe on stage, and a lot of fun. On the Swing album that I did some years ago now, I recorded Passing Strangers but rather than going down the (Frank) Sinatra route I went down the Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Jones, kind of route, but whenever I have done swing stuff live, I have always thrown in a few Sinatra songs.

I love Sinatra, don’t get me wrong, but Robbie Williams had already done the Sinatra kind of thing. But whenever you do swing live, people really do want to hear Fly Me To The Moon, Come Fly With Me and That’s Life, so we will be doing some classic Sinatra, Jack Jones, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and we are also going to do a big Elvis (Presley) song. I want to make it swing but with a little tinge of Vegas in it too. I’m currently looking for a big, big Vegas style Elvis song with which I can have a lot of fun. That’s what it is all about.

One of the songs that we did funnily enough on the 40th Anniversary tour and one which we have just recorded is One For My Baby and everyone has been there, everyone has had a breakup, everyone has found themselves in a bar talking about their breakup, and I really do think that it is such an amazing song. So, we are recording that, together with That’s Life which we have never recorded. There will be five new tracks to go onto the vinyl album, so it really will be great and I am really looking forward to it.

Is swing the genre of music that excites Tony Hadley?

What can I say, yes, I do get excited by this type of music, simply because it is a different style. I won’t say that it is easier because it is different. Whenever you are doing the rock and pop stuff, I am singing a lot of the time in the garden, and touch wood, thank God, I have not dropped any of the keys. Whenever we sing a Queen song, I will be singing it in Freddie Mercury’s key. One of the new songs, Mad About You, that is pretty damn high (laughter) so a lot of the songs that I do really are quite high. However, whenever you do the swing stuff, although there are some big moments where you are banging some notes, a lot of it is kind of in a lower key and it’s kind of strolling along and having a bit of fun. To be honest, I love it, I love it all.

When you look at all of the great artists that you are going to cover, just how hard is it for you to put a set list together?

Bloody hard to be honest (laughter). There are so many songs that I love, and there is one particular song that I want to do that Jack Jones did, and originally Cilla Black and that is Alfie. I just love that song and I also love Michael Caine; I love that man; he is simply fantastic. So, I want to do that song as well, so we will try it out at rehearsals and see how it goes. Someone said to me, “why don’t you do Summer Wind, by Sinatra” which is another great song. The problem is with this era of music is that there are so many great songs, and the question is where do you stop. I’m not going to do a three-hour show, that’s for sure (laughter). So, in answer to your question it is going to be a hard choice. Maybe we will change it every night; I’m not quite sure at the moment. I have got to put my head to the grindstone really and work out exactly what we are going to do.

You mention Alfie and your thoughts immediately turn to the great writing partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In my opinion there simply was nobody better.

They were incredible writers. That era of songwriters, all of the Dionne Warwick stuff that they wrote, was absolutely fantastic. I actually met Dionne and got to work with her, and I have to say that she was so lovely.

Will there be any surprises?

(Laughter) well we will be doing the Paul Anka version of True. There will be a slightly swing version of Gold, and Only When You Leave actually fits well with that Vegas big brass sound. It works quite well, so we are going to be doing that as well. There will be a couple of Spandau numbers in there as well, but predominately it will be swing and Vegas really.

Are there any numbers that you would have liked to have done but they simply don’t work?

If I am being totally honest with you, then I would have to say that Bruce Springsteen is a very hard one to cover. We once did Girls In Their Summer Clothes which I have to say was really good, but having said that, Springsteen is so defined as an artist and I am a massive Springsteen fan. He really is a difficult one to try and cover. Generally speaking, sometimes, the production of a song on record is such that it just doesn’t work when you try to reproduce it live, but I have to say that is very rare. In terms of swing and the Vegas stuff, there is not a song that you couldn’t touch. They all definitely work.

Do the songs that you have chosen for both the album and the forthcoming tour set list mean something to you personally?

That’s a bloody good question. Yes, all of the songs that I have chosen in some way or another really do mean something to me, no matter how small that may be. I mean, you want to pick songs that have great lyrics, for example, the Love For Sale song which was originally done by Ella Fitzgerald and banned in America, which was then later covered by Tony Bennett, lyrically it is quite bitter, and it is quite tragic, so there are songs like that. The Tony Bennett song I Wanna Be Around, ‘I wanna be around to pick up the pieces when someone breaks your heart’, that is a really nasty lyric, it really is (laughter).

Someone recently asked me if I was going to do Wives And Lovers and I said, “yes, and bloody right as well” (laughter). That song may not be PC in this PC era that we now find ourselves living in, but it’s a song and it tells a story. I absolutely love singing That’s Life because my life has been up and down like a bloody yo-yo. My career has been up and down, so I totally relate to that song, absolutely.

You will be playing The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on Tuesday 12th March. Do you enjoy your time spent here in the city?

Yes, I do and there is also a flippin’ great curry house just opposite the Concert Hall together with some great pubs (laughter).

You must be talking about the Mogul-E-Azam which is located in Goldsmith Street, just behind the stage door at the Royal Concert Hall?

That’s the one and do you know what, we always go there and have a curry after the show. It’s the only place that I have found in the UK that serves tandoori mackerel and I have to say that it tastes a million dollars. That really is a good place. You will also be able to find us in the pub right opposite the venue. We are not one of these cocoa drinking bands, we like to go for a couple of swifties before the concert and we really do enjoy ourselves. That’s the thing about music, if you don’t enjoy it then just give it up. The minute that you start moaning about the travelling, just give it up. Music is meant to be fun and if you are not conveying that to the audience then bloody hell, do they know about it, they really do.

If you want a good pint before the show, you should get yourself down to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

I know it; I’ve been there, done that and also got the bloody t-shirt (laughter). Most of our crew are from Nottingham, and most of them in the very early days cut their chops in Rock City. So, most of our crew are all local to Rock City and Nottingham. The only problem is the number of students in the city. We all went out one night after a show, and I have to say that I have never seen so many bloody students in my life; it’s ridiculous, it’s totally mad (laughter). I’m so glad that I didn’t go to university; I just joined a band, it’s much easier (hysterical laughter).

I have checked with the Concert Hall this morning and your date here in Nottingham is already fifty percent sold out.

Oh really, well that’s good. This is the first bit of publicity that I have done for the tour; we haven’t pushed it at all. We have sold really well so far, and I think that most of the venues are already fifty percent or seventy-five percent sold out and tickets have only just gone on sale. I haven’t done any TV or radio for the tour; in fact you are the first, so there you go. So that is really good. I recently saw Tony Bennett when he was appearing at The Royal Albert Hall and I went backstage and met him. I had met him before and I have to say that he was a lovely fella, and I managed to get a picture of me, him and my mum, and I thought, ‘um not sure that you will be here again mate’ which I have to say was an awful thing for me to think, and he was wonderful in concert.

I saw Jack Jones at the Cadogan Hall a few years ago but I have to say that there really aren’t that many people doing this kind of stuff. You don’t see a lot of artists switching from pop and rock to the swing thing. Obviously, there is Michael Bublé, but he is on a totally different scale. As far as I know I am the only one singing these old songs in these wonderful theatres at this moment in time. I could be wrong; someone will most probably shoot me down but, there you go (laughter).

In my opinion there are currently two kinds of swing singers; those who can, such as Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr. but then there is a whole raft of artists who will put a Trilby onto one side, put a hand in their pocket, and think that they can sing swing; Matt Goss being one of them.

(Laughter) I have to say that I try not to go down that clichéd route; you have got to be very, very careful. However, it’s funny that you should mention Matt Goss because I recently saw a documentary that kept saying, “Matt Goss is performing to sell-out crowds in Las Vegas” so I checked it out and I saw that he was performing in a Supper Club. So I watched some of it and whilst I am not going to comment on him, his band were bloody awful. They were mucking about on stage and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, play properly as well, that would help (laughter). So, where did you see him?

It was at the Alea Casino here in Nottingham, and there couldn’t have been many more than fifty or so people there. It was just before Bros were supposed to be getting back together and they had earmarked a date here in Nottingham at The Motorpoint Arena, but I think poor ticket sales meant that they pulled the gig. They then did one show in London at the O2 Arena.

I saw Matt a wee while ago and, I don’t know, all that I can honestly say is that it really was very, very strange. The thing is that I grew up listening to this kind of stuff. My mum once said to me, “I know that you like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Queen, (David) Bowie and everyone else, but just listen to these guys and listen to the way that they sing” and although I had grown up listening to music I had never studied it in that way. Then, when you get into it, you suddenly realise just how bloody brilliant they are. They really were quite incredible.

I have read every book on Sinatra, on Bennett and Jack Jones, and I am totally fascinated by that era of music. I would love to be able to go back to Vegas during The Rat Pack days (laughter). Having said that, I’m not too sure that I would have survived (laughter). Sinatra was a 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning sort of bloke so I’m really not sure just how I would have done (laughter). It really was an amazing era for music and more to the point it still sounds good. So, I am hoping that some younger people will come along to the shows, check stuff out on Spotify, and maybe come along, fill their boots, and have some fun.

You have mentioned that you will be releasing the Swing album prior to the tour, how much tweaking is there left to do with that?

I am taking my favourite songs from the previously released Passing Strangers album back in 2006 and then we have just recorded five new songs which I still have to do the vocals for as soon as I can stand properly. There will be a brand-new song on the album, which I have to say at this moment in time is sounding like Sir Tom Jones meets Santana with a Vegas feel to it (laughter). We are going to release a mix and match vinyl album because people all seem to want to buy vinyl these days, so who am I to disappoint. I do too; I am loving the fact that people are buying vinyl once again. So, that is where we are going to go with it, and the new, new album, the contemporary album will be out in October which is great. We have got record company interest in it as well which is, ‘thank you very much’ (laughter).

Out of all of the artists that you have covered on the Swing album, do you have a favourite?

Wow, well I have already mentioned That’s Life and One For My Baby which are both brilliant songs, but I will also be recording and playing Feeling Good. I have to be totally honest with you and say that, in my opinion, the Michael Bublé version of that song really is incredible. We will be doing a slightly different version to that but I feel that it will be just as anthemic and if I can get this Elvis Presley song together, take it from me that is going to be a killer, which will be the end of the show.

In 2019 you became a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire when you received an MBE for your charitable services to Shooting Star Chase Children’s Hospice Care. How did that feel?

That’s right, Men Behaving Emphatically (laughter). It was absolutely brilliant, I never expected it. You do what you can for charity and stuff, which everybody does. I think that everyone who has had a decent life in this business tries to give a bit back and I do what I can when I can. So I honestly didn’t expect it, but I was so proud, and the old cliché I was over the moon really related (laughter). I went with my lovely, beautiful wife Alison and my mum Jo to the Palace, and then after the event we met up with all of my five kids at Monica Galetti’s restaurant in the West End and we all had a slap-up meal (laughter). It really was a great day actually, really great.

Here is a quick story for you, my two youngest daughters, Zara who was 15 at the time and Genevieve who was 10, we said to them, “look, you are going to have to come into London on your own” so they came into the city on the train. They are old enough to do that, and then they got a cab to take them to The Goring Hotel where they ordered some tea and scones and everything else (laughter). So, me, Alison and my mum walked in and there’s my two little girls happy as Larry, ordering this, ordering that, and you know what, I was so proud of them. They were not intimidated in the least (laughter). There were people in there doing high flying deals and there they were with their scones, their coke, and a cup of tea, and I just thought that was just so good to see.

Testing your memory now, what was the first record that you bought?

The very first record that my Mum and Dad bought for me was My Boy Lollipop by Millie and the first record that I bought with my own pocket money was Double Barrel by Dave and Ansell Collins.

Who did you first see performing live?

I think that would have been Genesis, at Earls Court back in 1973 or 1974 somewhere around there. I like all sorts of music, even a bit of Prog Rock (laughter).

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Oh, flip me. I’m quite emotional actually, I love that song and it always gets me, The Castle On The Hill, but not the Ed Sheeran version. It really is a beautiful song.

Which do you prefer, the indoor more intimate gigs or the big outdoor festivals?

They are all good whilst they are both different. When you have got fifteen thousand people in front of you, it is a different kind of show, but it is brilliant. Then, when you are in a theatre, you can talk about the songs. That is one of the things that I am so looking forward to on the Swing tour. If I do the song Alfie, then I can talk about Michael Caine, and I’ve already got a story ready about Michael Caine (laughter). Then you can really communicate with the audience although it sometimes pisses the band off because I can go on far too long (laughter). The drummer will start clicking his sticks and they are off onto the next song in other words, ‘shut up Tony, you have gone on far too long’ (laughter). So, in answer to your question, they are all good.

On that note Tony let me once again thank you for talking the time to speak to me, it’s been fantastic as usual. You take care, good luck with the tour and I will see you up here in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin, thank you very, very much. I’m sorry if I go on a bit but it’s much better than being monosyllabic (laughter). Please do come and say hi when we get to Nottingham.