THIS story begins in November 1980. If you search on YouTube there’s a video of Spandau Ballet’s first, tartan-draped, appearance on Top of the Pops singing To Cut a Long Story Short. Underneath, there’s a comment from Carl H. Carl writes: “They were the talk of our school after we’d first seen them on TOTP. ‘Did you see that Scottish band last night?’”

Down the phone from Berlin, Steve Norman, one-time guitarist, conga player and saxophonist with Spandau, could not sound more of a Londoner than he is. But maybe, just maybe, Carl H’s schoolmates were onto something.

“I’m an eighth-Scottish,” Norman is telling me. “As stupid as it sounds, my mother’s maiden name is Brown and there’s a big story there. But it’s to do with the Earl of Forfar. There is a claim to the Earl of Forfar. I told this to the band once and Gary Kemp said, ‘You mean the Earl of Forfar-fetched?’”

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He laughs. “But I’m made up. I’m an eighth-Scottish. It means I can wear a kilt.”

Norman and his band The Sleevz are in Glasgow next month, playing the Garage so the kilt might well be on show. It would be appropriate as Norman is celebrating – a little belatedly but that’s Covid for you – the 40th anniversary of Spandau Ballet’s first album, Journeys to Glory, originally released in March 1981 and the record that announced the band to the world. Within two years Spandau would evolve from the New Romantics’ tartan-wearing house band into proper bona fide global pop stars, the yin to Duran Duran’s yang. By the end of the century they’d be facing each other across a courtroom.

But today we’re talking about the time before all that, the time when five young men – Norman, brothers Gary and Martin Kemp, drummer John Keeble and singer Tony Hadley – were recording their debut record.

Well, that’s the plan anyway, but Norman, even though he’s under the weather having spent a week in bed in a Berlin hotel, is so enthusiastic, so interested in everything and anything, that he does have a tendency to stray from the point.

He’ll start answering the question and then skip off to talk about his newfound interest in Senegalese music or the thrill of seeing the Sex Pistols supported by The Clash at the Screen on the Green in 1976. (“And third on the bill, the Buzzcocks. What a line-up.”)

HeraldScotland: Steve NormanSteve Norman (Image: free)

He is clearly one of life’s inveterate enthusiasts, but you can’t help but catch the note of melancholy when he talks about his old band. It’s partly why he’s on the road with The Sleevz; to reacquaint himself with the ghost of his younger self.

“It’s that camaraderie and the stupid humour and toilet jokes, going back to when we were at school, that I had with Spandau Ballet. I miss that to death and I kind of need that.”

Plus, he says, someone needs to celebrate Journeys to Glory.

“I think if Spandau had been together we would have given a nod to this 40 years. But I just thought, ‘No-one’s going to do this.’”

Except he is, of course, though don’t be expecting a picture-perfect facsimile of the Spandau sound circa 1981. His son plays bass in The Sleevz. “He played with a band called Beast and they were like Queens of the Stone Age or the Foo Fighters. So he’s got that edge and he loves Funkadelic and all that. And so we’ve got that edge.

“We’ve been doing it for a while now and we can do the big tunes – True and Gold and all that – but this is exciting, this album, because it’s me back on guitar again before I’d ever picked up a saxophone. I can throw those guitar shapes for a while. I’ve even raised the strap up so it’s like it was [then]. It makes you move differently, it really does. That 1980s thing coming out, I can feel it.”

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All these years on, Journeys to Glory offers a different vision of Spandau than the more familiar besuited soul boys – “listening to Marvin all night long” – that they would become. It’s a portentous (at times pretentious) album that mixed synths with guitars and allowed the band to strike heroic poses in the videos for singles The Freeze and Musclebound.

“We were both punky and we were electronic,” Norman recalls.

That was DJ Rusty Egan’s influence. The music he played at the Blitz Club mixed Kraftwerk with Bowie and Iggy Pop and that all fed into the initial Spandau sound. It was music for the dancefloor, Norman argues.

“You can’t sit down and listen to Journeys to Glory. It’s wrong. You need to be up so you can move a little bit.”

Who was the young man you were back then, Steve? “Oh God, so naive and innocent. But for all the right reasons. It was all in front.

“Back then we couldn’t have done anything on our own. We all needed each other and at every point we managed to circumnavigate all the obstacles, with sheer guts and determination, self-belief and arrogance of youth – that’s a big one for me. We did have that arrogance of youth. That’s what kept me going.”

Spandau didn’t stand still in the early 1980s. They kept changing their sound. On singles like Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) and Paint Me Down, the band funked it up and Norman swapped guitar for percussion, before switching to saxophone for Spandau’s imperial phase.

“We could have capitalised a bit more on the Latin stuff I feel, because I’d just got the band to invest in congas,” Norman says, laughing again.

But the band was becoming more popular, moving from playing clubs to playing theatres. “And that’s when Gary started writing songs like True. I put the congas aside and learned how to play the sax. It did change our lives. All of a sudden we were well busy. There wasn’t a break. We were doing promo all over the world and America became far more interested in us. Lifeline, Communication, True; they were mad for that. Still are. Very loyal in America. Not so much for the UK,” he notes ruefully.

Fame, money, success. Was he ever in danger of losing his head?

“On a minor level we all struggled with that, but we always had each other. I don’t think anyone was a complete a******* for a long period of time. Just a little bit of a******* behaviour and then they were brought down to earth. It really didn’t escalate.”

There’s an argument for saying that the saxophone is as much a key sound of the 1980s as the Fairlight CMI or the gated reverb. “It was part of that time,” Norman agrees. “It’s trickier for some reason for people to go with sax now. I think it’s the closest instrument to a voice. I think people are missing a trick.”

Norman’s solo on True, the band’s signature tune, is a key 1980s signifier, you could argue. But he didn’t get a credit on the song for it. This is something of a sore point.

“I don’t want to go into any negatives, but an instrument – whatever instrument – is not deemed to be part of songwriting.

“This is my gripe which annoys me still, even though I know I have to accept it. There’s no copyright on that creative sax solo – a long solo, just over two chords on the composition of that sax solo. And it was a composition. And eventually it was a composite of two takes. And that’s not worthy because it was seen as being an improvised thing.”

Bands start as friends and then become business associates. In 1987 the band’s songwriter Gary Kemp stopped payments from his publishing company to the band’s company, a decision that would eventually see Norman, Hadley and Keeble face Kemp across Court 59 of the Royal Courts of Justice in Westminster.

Norman, Keeble and Hadley lost the court case. “Going through it was absolutely awful,” Norman admits. “People were in different places in their minds. It’s tricky. People believe certain things and their truths. I realised from that experience in court that no-one is actually telling lies. Things get so distorted over time.

“We were so close. We took the hits and shared the joys and then all of a sudden … And then to face yourself across court was heartbreaking. I was having a nervous breakdown at the time.” He pauses for a moment before his natural enthusiasm rushes back.

“I went to Ibiza and became half-Spanish. I lived there for 12 years. I didn’t even look at the saxophone for months. It was probably a year or two before I had it out of the box. And I was in Ibiza up a hill, very rural. You can lose yourself in Ibiza or you can find yourself. I always say that. And I found myself. I got into dance music. I played the clubs and ended up doing a year with Hedkandi [the Ministry of Sound’s record label]. It was fly by the seat of your pants. That made me get the sax out.”

As well as writing and recording chillout tunes for hotel bars, he was playing with Hedkandi every weekend somewhere around the planet.

“Places I’d never played before like, dare I say it [Roman] Abramovich’s club, and it was hilarious. There I was wandering around the bar with my radio mic and there were these guys thrusting roubles in my pocket and I couldn’t move and I’m trying to shake them off and they thought I was wiggling my bum at them.”

The Spandau story wasn’t quite finished, though. The band would get back together in 2009 and repeatedly tour over the following years until singer Tony Hadley announced he was leaving the band in 2017.

The chances of another reunion now seem unlikely. “It’s harder now,” Norman suggests. “I am the only one who is on speaking terms with all of them.” Are we saying it’s impossible? “I’ll be honest with you. It would have to be something incredible to make it happen because if you look at the five of us … I can’t see us working together. In the same room, yeah. It’s not daggers out or anything like that. But it’s just the thought of spending time … I don’t think it will work, knowing everyone there. Including myself.”

And so Norman and his band are on the road, reliving his yesterdays and adding an edge to it. To cut a long story short, that’s a good place for an ending.

Steve Norman and The Sleevz play The Garage, Glasgow, on February 3