Thursday, June 2, 2011

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Spandau Ballet's "True"

It was 1983. People drove to work in horseless carriages. They used telephones with wires attached to them. They wondered how Ronald Reagan's hair got so darned black. It was also the year that we learned the truth about truth. Spandau Ballet's tasty piece of "sophisto-pop," "True," is easily one of the most mind-blowingly brilliant singles ever committed to any recorded media. Gary Kemp, the song's writer, penned the perfect melody for the group's baritone singer, Tony Hadley, who articulately communicates, to his audience, the essence of truth. In the process, he makes a mockery of Western philosophy with brilliant ease.

Philosophers had been contemplating truth for years, from the Platonic ideal to the Nietzschean will to power. A breakthrough occurred in the 1930s, when philosopher Alfred Tarski gave the following example: "Snow is white if and only if snow is white." You can't argue with that logic. Well, Spandau Ballet decided to revise this precise if nonsensically coined formula by way of a fruitful combination of British New Wave and Yacht Rock. Tony Hadley seemingly non-verbal singing during the chorus actually packs plenty of meaning. "Ah ah ah ahhhh ah," he sings, in sexy croon-breaths. What most listeners fail to realize upon first listen is that this utterance is the crystallization of all truths. He explains, "Why do I find it hard to write the next line? / Oh I want the truth to be said," continuing, "Ah ah ah ahhhh ah / I know this much is true." What could quite plausibly be understood as an admission of writer's block is really a profound, mind-blowing truth in and of itself: "Ah ah ah ahhhh ah" is truth and truth is "Ah ah ah ahhhh ah." Suck on that, Alfred Tarski.

The key to understanding the perspective of Spandau Ballet is hidden within its chorus as well. Hadley sings, "I bought a ticket to the wor-or-orld, but now I've come back again." Clearly, Spandau Ballet was collectively abducted by a super-intelligent race of skinny tie-wearing aliens who taught them their culture and all of their knowledge. The only thing they couldn't teach Spandau Ballet was how to alleviate homesickness and how to give up the desire to feel sexy. So, after some time spent in space, probably in the months between their 1982 album Diamond and the one this appears on (clearly also titled True), they purchased tickets to return to Earth. Fueled by this new knowledge, as well as months of pent-up sexual frustration, they were inspired to tell us "this much is true" as well as include one of the decade's hottest slow-burn sax solos during the bridge.

It cannot be denied, ever, that "True" has fundamentally changed both the perceptive and linguistic truths of humankind. In the years since, we've had Madonna's "True Blue," P.M. Dawn's "Set Adrift of Memory Bliss," as well as The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Probably the most telling way it has affected culture, at least in the United States, is that when a witness has to take an oath in the courtroom, they now just sing, "Ah ah ah ahhhh ah."