That ruled the first half of the 1990’s in the music industry.
As one of the most popular boy bands since the 1960’s, Mark
Owen, Robbie Williams,
Gary Barlow, Jason Orange and
Howard Donald became a pop sensation. Their boyish good looks enabled
them to appeal to both teenyboppers as well as the adult audience
with their range of adult ballads. They were often marketed to teenage
girls but songwriter Gary Barlow
kept adults serenaded with his ability to produce sensitive ballads.
He received the ‘Ivor Novello Award’ for the best contemporary
song ('Pray') and also title songwriter of the year whilst he was
with Take That. However, his amazing ability to produce lyrics would
not be able to match the popularity of his fellow band member Robbie
Williams when the pair later launched their solo careers.
Manc lads, Mark
Owen and Gary Barlow met
whilst working at 10cc's Strawberry
Studios in Stockport in the late 1980's. Together they formed a
band called the Cutest Rush. They were approached during 1990 by
Nigel Martin-Smith who was trying to put together a UK version of
New Kids On The Block. They held auditions in Manchester and three
more band members joined, Mancunian break-dancers, Howard Donald
and Jason Orange, together with Stoke-on-Trent lad,
Robbie Williams. The group received a new name and Bob's your
Uncle; Take That was formed.
Take That began
their career by concentrating on an (especially gay) adult audience
wearing none other than leathers with studs on and boots to match
(which Robbie would become
accustomed to in later years). To launch their careers they travelled
around England in their managers Ford Escort playing in gay nightclubs,
schools and at radio road shows, hardly the luxury they would come
to expect in the future. However all the hard worked paid off and
the group’s first single was released in July 1991 with the
hit title ‘Do What You Like’. It may have only reached
Number 82 but it was an achievement based on their low-key touring
Take That finally did break the charts though
four months later, albeit only Number 38, with the track 'Promises'.
Their next single though, 'It Only Takes A Minute' (a cover of the
100 Ton & a Feather 1976 number 9 hit) saw them hit the Top
10, reaching number 7 in the UK charts and plenty of television
coverage in the process.
Their debut 'Take That and Party' album went
onto reach UK number 2 and also spawned the UK number 15 hit single,
'I Found Heaven,' in August 1992 and was the bands only non-cover
version not written by Gary Barlow.
It was followed by a number 7 hit, 'A Million Love Songs', penned
by Gary when he was only 15.
It sent Take That into the big time and proved there was more to
their music than just dance.
Take That undertook their first British tour
and returned with the Christmas number 3, a cover of Barry Manilow's
'Could It Be Magic', which featured the lead vocals of
Robbie Williams for the first time.
'Why Can't I Wake Up With You' was released
in February 1993, just beaten to the top of the charts by 2 Unlimited's
'No Limit'. The moody ballad was a refreshing change from the uptempo
dance tracks that had dominated the charts for so long and set a
pattern for Take That's future success with slower tracks and initiated
a very definite style in backing vocals which was later to become
one of the trademarks of the group.
By July 1993, Take That's popularity had grown
massively and they hit the Number 1 spot in the UK charts, where
they remained for 4 weeks, with the beautiful ballad, 'Pray'. The
single showed a maturity and foresight which set the group apart
from the any contenders to the pop throne and heralded their brilliant
Number 1 album, 'Everything Changes'.
Teaming up with Lulu in Septemeber 1993, Take
That went straight to Number 1 with a funky cover of Dan Hartman's
'Relight My Fire', which was accompanied by a raunchy video of Howard
Donald in the shower. He also made headlines by flashing his bum
on stage when performing the track live.
Their beautiful next single (and also next
Number 1), 'Babe', showcased the vocals of group heartthrob, Mark
Owen in December 1993 and was cruelly knocked off the Christmas
Number 1 spot by the dreadful novelty 'Mr Blobby' single. Gary
Barlow returned on lead vocals though in April 1994 for the
band's next Number 1 single, 'Everything Changes', the title track
from the album, which proved the band could appeal to older fans
'Love Ain't Here Anymore' was the summer ballad
of 1994. Released in June, there wasn't a holiday jukebox or radio
station that wasn't playing it to death. Vocally demanding it demonstrated
the true vocal dexterity of Gary
Barlow, bringing him further appreciation from the public. It
reached Number 3 in the Uk and was to be Take That's only non-chart
topper in what was to become a 3 year run of number 1 singles.
Take That returned to the top of the charts
though with their next single, the soulful, easy swing, 'Sure',
which was the only single to be penned by a collaboration of Gary,
Robbie and Mark.
Take That mania had taken over Europe, but nothing could have prepared
them for what was to follow.
The single 'Back For Good' catapulted Take
That to an even greater height of fame and success. The song was
initially unveiled by the band at the 1995 Brit Awards and stole
the show. Such was the demand for the single that the release date
was brought forward and made available an amazing 6 weeks before
it hit the shops in March 1995. As a result, it went straight into
the charts at Number 1, having sold over 300,000 copies in the first
week alone. It remained at the top for 4 weeks and also heralded
the bands number 1 album, 'Nobody Else'.
On the 17th July 1995, the world was shocked
by the news that Robbie
was leaving the group after stating that he had ‘no more commitment
to the band’. After joining the band at the age of sixteen,
the final decision for him to leave was mutually decided between
Robbie and his manager,
as both had made the decision that it would be best if he were to
leave the band. After leaving Take That, Robbie
spent most of his days being a partygoer and bad mouthing the rest
of the group and his ex- manager. The worst verbal attack, including
the song 'Ego A Go Go', being aimed at Nigel Martin-Smith and Gary
Barlow, for which he later apologised.
The bad boy of Take That as he was regularly
known, was always the outspoken one amongst the group, the joker
with something to say. This was often a disguise used by Robbie
to overcome the strict regime that was Take That: no girls, no alcohol
and only £150 pounds pocket money per week all though they
were earning millions. Robbie wanted more than to be obedient and
be told what to say and when to say it.
A week later the band released the poignant
single, 'Never Forget' which remained at Number 1 for 3 weeks and
featured all five original members on vocals. It marked a farewell
to the past and embraced a new era that wasn't to last long.
On the 12th February 1996, The Sun newspaper
ran the story that Take That were to split after a farewell tour
allowing Gary Barlow to launch
a solo career. Most fans did not take the story seriously, given
the notoriety and sensationalism of the tabloid newspaper. The Manchester
Evening News stated that the bands record company, RCA, were not
sure of the bands plans in the long term but there was no split
going to happen in the short term. The article also stated that
manager, Nigel Martin-Smith was very angry about the reports. The
announcement of a press conference to be held the following day
on 13th February 1996, ironically Robbie
Williams's 22nd birthday, gave many fans expectation the lads
were going to reassure the fans there was nothing to worry about.
The official press conference that had half
the world jet setting to Manchester, and thousands of teenage girls
around the globe bunking off school in nervous anticipation will
go down as one of the most famous in Manchester's rich music history.
To the utter shock and dismay of fans all over
the world, Take That confirmed that the rumours were indeed true.
They also said that they had planned to make the announcement the
following week, but the leaked story and fast-spreading rumours
had brought their plans forward by one week. They said they'd even
hesitated just before doing the press conference to double check
that they were doing the right thing but then agreed that it was.
stated that the next single, 'How Deep is Your Love', originally
a Number 3 hit for fellow Mancunians, The
Bee Gees, in 1977, would be their last one. He went on to say
that all of the boys had further plans, but hadn't ruled out the
possibility of getting back together at some future date. He said
Take That had gone as far as it could at the time.
went onto annouce he planned to continue with a solo career and,
with the material that he had, release a single later in the summer
with an album following shortly after. Mark
announced his possible plans included a solo project, but would
probably involve Television or radio presenting. Howard and Jason
did not state their intentions.
went on to reveal that the time was right, and they'd done all they
could do but there were also problems behind the scences. The decision
to split was 50% their own and 50% due to problems back-stage.
The aftermath of the press conference left
fans in deep despair. A Samaritans hotline was set up in honour
of the group to help grieving fans, some of which threatened to
commit suicide. Meanwhile Robbie
Williams couldn't careless, "to be honest, I'm more worried
about whether Port Vale will win their match tonight" (his
beloved hometown club did go on to beat Everton in the FA Cup 2-1).
On 3rd March 1996, 'How Deep Is Your Love'
entered the UK charts at Number 1 where it remained for 3 weeks.
It was followed in April by the chart-topping 'Greatest Hits' album.
A fiitting farewell.
Take That had scored four Platinum albums and
eight Number 1 hits in less than 5 years, selling over ten million
albums in the process, making them one of Manchester's most successful
bands of all time.
see our profile of the band]