On the eve of their 30th anniversary since formation, I have to say it. Take That are the best boyband ever. Don’t agree with me? It’s OK, BTS and Phixx fans the land over. I can understand your protestations you’re hurling from behind your screens right now. But I must tell you categorically that you are wrong. And here’s why.
At the height of their early 90s mania/hysteria/whatever you want to call it, I was between the ages of 3 and 5. I was 6 years old when they broke up in February 1996. I knew their songs of course, because my own dear sister Mairi, two years older than me, was a fan. She had the ‘Everything Changes’ album on cassette for her 7th birthday. But I was too young and more interested in playing Pingu videos and looking for woodlice under logs in our garden then pop music.
In fact, prior to their 2005 renaissance, the most I knew about them was a handful of their songs at wedding and birthday discos, the fact their urchin-esque ‘cute’ one, Mark Owen, had won the 2002 series of Celebrity Big Brother, and the fact that the biggest British male solo artist of that time, Robbie Williams, used to be part of their number.
The moment it all changed for me was when I saw their 2005 reunion documentary ‘For The Record’. That’s when 16 year old me finally caught up with the fact that at one point, they were absolutely bloody huge. So huge that their army of followers camped outside their houses, and phone lines had to be set up to help their traumatized fans when they split. And that their captain and de facto leader, Gary Barlow, was the pen behind their majestic pop classics. It was something I also realised when tickets for their ‘Ultimate Tour’ in 2006 sold out at lightning speed.
Cut to October 2006. I’m on holiday in a cute little riverside cottage in Angers in France with my parents and my sister, seeing my eldest sister who’s out there on her gap year for her French and Communications degree. I had Chris Moyles on the breakfast show on Radio 1 on my MP3 radio. He played Take That’s first brand new single for 10 years that morning.
That song was called ‘Patience’, and I must have listened to it more than 100 times over from the grainy radio rip I made for the whole week we were there. And I remember quite clearly saying that it was going to go to number one. Which sure enough, it did, for four weeks in November 2006, heralding the start of the gold standard for pop comebacks.
I’ve continued to follow their career through the years that followed – watching my DVD of the ‘Beautiful World’ tour over and over again, ‘The Circus’ album (and in particular their chart topping ‘Greatest Day’) soundtracking my first visit to the university I did my degree at after getting my unconditional offer from them.
I’ve followed them as Robbie rejoined their ranks for the record breaking ‘Progress’ album and tour in 2010, and when they became a trio of Gary, Mark and Howard Donald, following the departure of Jason Orange before the release of their ‘III’ album in 2014. No matter if it’s been a three, four or five piece, they have quite simply remained a brilliant band.
As their new BBC One documentary shown over the Christmas break ‘We’ve Come A Long Way’ proved, and likewise their new ‘reworked’ hits package ‘Odyssey’ has illustrated, they are as ingrained into British pop culture now as David Beckham and Princess Diana.
They have remained honest, charming and relatable grafters throughout, from their cod piece toting early schools and nightclub days to their epic stadium filling jaunts of the present. Songs like ‘Back For Good’, ‘Pray’, ‘Rule The World’ and ‘Shine’ are some of the finest pop songs ever written and recorded, but could have only come uniquely from them.
No one else comes close to them for their legacy, or that it was they who broke down the barn door for others to follow all those years ago. They remain quite simply one of pop’s all time classic bands, who I’m sure will keep going for years into the future. Here’s to Take That, 30 years of success and hopefully many more.
Take That’s chart topping new album ‘Odyssey’ is out now via Polydor. Their BBC One documentary ‘We’ve Come A Long Way’ is available for UK viewers to watch back now on BBC iPlayer. Their UK tour starts in Sheffield on 12th April next year – tickets on sale now. Twitter: @TakeThat