TV 'gold': When Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet faced off on 'Pop Quiz'

Lyndsey Parker
Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran appear on the TV show Pop Quiz . Back, from left: John Keeble, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp. Front, from left: Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes. (Photo: Virginia Turbett/Redferns)

Duran Duran’s new documentary, Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know, premieres this weekend on Showtime, but let’s not forget that 35 years ago, on Dec. 28, 1984, an even more epic New Romantic televised event took place.

That was when the United Kingdom’s two prettiest, pinuppiest, and pouffiest new wave bands, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, faced off in a TV war of wits and wingtips on the British game show Pop Quiz, answering trivia questions about Howard Jones, Tracey Ullman, the Eurythmics, Cyndi Lauper, and even each other’s music. Television “gold” was created that day.

The rivalry between the two superstar groups in ‘84 was as fierce as Nick Rhodes’s eyeliner. Duran Duran had become the more successful band internationally, especially in the United States, but the BBC’s Pop Quiz offered a chance for Spandau to settle the score. Duran were hungry like the wolf for victory, but Spandau had the power to know they were indestructible. This episode, which you can view in full below, was nothing less than a historic battle for new wave supremacy.

“I think we had a little dip at the beginning of the ’80s, and [Duran Duran] popped in with a few hits then. So, we’d open the door, and then they’d come in and there was that moment,” Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp told Yahoo Entertainment back in 2014, when the reunited band was promoting their own documentary, Soul Boys of the Western World, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. “I think it’s great to have that whole classic rock history about rivalry, whether it’s the Beatles and the Stones or Blur and Oasis, and actually at that point, it was us versus Duran.”

“Interestingly, in all that time that we were producing records, Spandau and Duran never released a record at the same time,” noted Spandau multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman.

“That’s because they were scared,” joked drummer John Keeble.

Spandau-versus-Duran mania had already reached a fever pitch that ’84 holiday season, just a month before the Pop Quiz episode, when both bands participated in Bob Geldof’s all-star Band Aid charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Kemp recalled to Yahoo Entertainment, “There’s a bit in the film [Soul Boys of the Western World ] when we turn up at the Band Aid recording, and the night before we’d been in Germany on a TV show with Duran. It was the first time we’d ever been brought together since really early on, and we had a bit of a drinking competition. I think that’s why we all look so awful in that Band Aid documentary.”

“The competition between us and them was so strong when we left that bar the night before Band Aid, we both had private planes waiting; we even had a race to London, to see who could get there first!” laughed Spandau bassist Martin Kemp.

The Spandau guys didn’t divulge who made it to Trevor Horn’s SARM Studios in London first, though “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” producer and co-writer Midge Ure later told Yahoo Entertainment that the two bands were in a race to gain first access to the on-set makeup artist at the Band Aid session, of course. However, Spandau frontman Tony Hadley was the first person to volunteer to record a vocal that day, so in a way, Spandau Ballet did win the Band Aid challenge.

However, Duran Duran ultimately won Pop Quiz, with 52 points to Spandau’s 40. Gary Kemp admitted in Soul Boys of the Western World that he and his hyper-competitive bandmates were actually “truly gutted” that they lost on the game show. But ironically, Duran Duran won Pop Quiz because they had better knowledge of Spandau’s lyrics, while the Spandau guys couldn’t even answer a trivia question about one of Duran’s most recognizable hits, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” So in a way, Spandau Ballet were the real Pop Quiz winners that evening.

Decades later, however, there seems to be no hard feelings between the two groups. “There was always rivalry, whether it was Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Culture Club, Duran, Classix Nouveaux, whoever it might be,” said Hadley, who left Spandau Ballet in 2017. “There was all that chart rivalry that goes on, but when bands and musicians get together, it’s all ‘Hi, let’s get to the bar and talk nonsense,’ you know. … We’re good friends with them to this day. I love Duran. I’ve got every Duran record. I’m actually a big fan.”

Well, since Hadley seems so familiar with the Duran discography, we suggest he reunite with his former Spandau bandmates in 2019 for a trivia rematch against Duran Duran to commemorate the anniversary of this landmark Pop Quiz episode. Surely Hadley — who, in another cause for year-end celebration, was just named a a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on Queen Elizabeth’s New Year Honours list for his charity work — will get those lyrics right this time.

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