Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave

Layin’ in the afterglow

I only wanna learn what you know…

As a child of the 1980s, British band Spandau Ballet was one of the first artists I came across. Their songs ‘True’ and ‘Gold’ are generally regarded as their most successful hits – they are catchy melodies which easily slip into your brain. Once listened to, never forgotten. Tony Hadley was a smooth singer with a unique voice. Hence, when I heard ‘Only When You Leave’ (OWYL) on the radio for the first time, I had a good feeling it was Spandau Ballet because of Hadley’s voice. Released in 1984, OWYL is the first song on the band’s fourth album, Parade. All of the album’s songs are written by band member Gary Kemp. Unlike ‘True’ and ‘Gold’ which reached #1 and #2 respectively, the song peaked at #3 in the UK.

I’ve come to enjoy and prefer OWYL a touch more than ‘True’ and ‘Gold’. The beginning of ‘Gold’ is wonderfully haunting but its chorus sometimes sound amateurish. ‘True’ is fantastic but the outro is more interesting than most of the song; however, its basic riff is unforgettable. Yet, OWYL has a much tighter arrangement with a more jumpy, bouncier melody. The song overflows with passion. Like many songs from the decade, it is really upbeat and impossible not to dance to, despite the fact it’s about the pain of separation and misunderstanding between lovers. In addition, the electric guitar’s funky riff (as heard at 9 seconds for example) makes the song distinct and brilliant – it’s a tightly-packed and contained riff bursting with energy which zaps the song as it moves along. This is apparent from 2:44 to 3:04 with the exciting exchange between the electric guitar and saxophone.

Finally, the part from 3:04 to 3:36 is the typical 1980s song’s interlude where most instruments take a backseat. During this exceptionally dreamy section, the pace slows right down and the focus is on the vocalist, keyboard but also the drum – it has a beat and echo similar to one’s heart, beating in nervous anticipation.

Layin’ in the afterglow

I only wanna learn what you know…

A beautiful couplet. At this point in the song, it has a wistful and sublime quality. It evokes the image of two lovers: one desiring to know their other, to truly know their deepest longing. But this doesn’t happen and so the protagonist has regrets. It appears that only once the lover leaves, the protagonist will then love them.

Hope you enjoy.

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