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..take that - the boys that relit manchester's pop fire
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Take That
 
"I was only 14 at the time. I was a massive fan of Take That, and went to see their concert. 'I have to say that it was one of the best days of my life because it really inspired me to go into pop. If it weren't for you I wouldn't be here now!" - Hear'say's Suzanne Shaw in 2001
 
   

'Take 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 schedule.

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 as well.

'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.

Gary 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.

Gary 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.

Mark Owen 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.

[also see our profile of the band]

 
..manchester music appeal
 

Manchester Music news wanted
(December 2002)
Pride Of Manchester

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