The lyrics for this song were inspired by a crush Spandau Ballet's Gary Kemp had on Altered Images singer and Gregory's Girl star Clare Grogan. "I was infatuated with Clare Grogan," he told The Guardian. "I met her on Top of the Pops and, at one point, traveled up to Scotland to have tea with her and her mum and dad. Although my feelings were unrequited and the relationship was platonic, it was enough to trigger a song."
Some phrases in the lyrics were adapted from the novel Lolita
, a copy of which Clare Grogan had given Gary Kemp. "The lyrics are full of coded messages to Clare," Kemp told The Guardian
. "I'm still berated for the line 'Take your seaside arms' but it's straight out of Lolita
by Vladimir Nabokov, which she had given me as a present – although in the book, it's 'seaside limbs. The line 'With a thrill in my head and a pill on my tongue' is also a bastardisation of Nabokov."
One of the song's producers, Tony Swain, recalls in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "We made the True album in the Bahamas and I am sure that a lot of that place got into the album. True was not a complicated song but it has really got something. There is something timeless about it: it has had over 2 million radio plays in America and it has been used in the wedding scenes for lots of films. It's very nice to have made a record that has lasted that long and I still feel good about it."
"True" was a huge worldwide hit, going to #1 in 21 countries. Released on Spandau Ballet's third album, it's their only big hit in America, but one of many in their native UK and other parts of Europe. Their next single, "Gold
," went to #2 in the UK and #29 in America.
The video for this song helped its chart fortunes considerably. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, it got lots of airtime on MTV, which was just two years old at the time.
There was plenty of production value, but no real storyline in the video, which was intentional. Gary Kemp explained: "I didn't want to dictate what 'True' should be like. I'm sure when people hear that record they've got their own idea of what it means and what it looks like. So we just performed it, and lit it well – shooting light through water and broken glass – and it worked."
This was featured in several episodes of The Simpsons, including "Bart the Bad Guy" (2020), "Future-Drama" (2005), and "A Millhouse Divided" (1996). It was also used in these TV series:
Single Parents ("A Radiant Cloak of Sexual Irresistibility" - 2019)
Suits ("Bad Man" - 2018)
Lucifer ("God Johnson" - 2017)
The Flash ("Attack On Central City" - 2017)
Family Guy ("Run, Chris, Run" - 2016)
Master Of None ("Parents" - 2015)
Modern Family ("Great Expectations" - 2009)
Ugly Betty ("The Kids Are Alright" - 2008)
Psych ("Psy Vs. Psy" - 2007)
Cold Case ("Gleen" - 2003)
Gilmore Girls ("Red Light On Wedding Night" - 2001)
The Office ("Judgement" - 2001)
Spin City ("Yeah Baby!" - 2001)
And in these movies:
The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)
Little Boxes (2016)
Sausage Party (2016)
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
50 First Dates (2004)
Charlie's Angels (2000)
The Wedding Singer (1998)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Gary Kemp wrote of the song on his website: "I wanted to write a soul song a la Al Green or Marvin Gaye. I still remember sitting on my bed at my parents' house writing it on guitar and calling Martin (his brother and Spandau Ballet bass player) in to listen to it. It became a song about trying to write a love song to someone who didn't know your true thoughts, but how difficult it is to spell out your feelings without seeming too foolish."
"We never realized the full potential of this song until we started to record it at Compass Point. On the ECD's home movie footage of Nassau you can see the moment where we're playing back the song, half finished, in the studio, and everybody, including the roadies, are singing along to it. It was at that moment that I knew we had something special."
The saxophone solo was by the band's Steve Norman. He told The Guardian
: "The solo is actually a composite of two takes. I'd only been playing a year and was listening to Grover Washington Jr's 'Just The Two Of Us
' with Bill Withers, over and over. The solo is a reply to that: at the key change things just lift off, giving the song a moment of elation."
This song is such a wedding staple that Bank Of America used it in a 2022 commercial
that takes place at a wedding reception. In the spot, guests are on their phone using the banking app.