“Unfortunately the rumors are true,” said Gary Barlow on February 13, 1996. A shock to languishing teenagers across Europe; Pastoral care and emergency hotlines have been set up.
25 years ago sobbing teenagers all over Europe were in desperate arms. In Germany, the “Bravo” set up an emergency hotline. In the UK, a suicidal foundation comforted grieving teenagers. The boy group Take That, which delighted its predominantly female fans with hits like “Babe”, “Pray” or “Never Forget” and stormed the charts in Europe, announced their split at a press conference.
The pain was probably so great because the band had so many longings at play:
The y could always take several directions. Among the band members there was a cheeky, an attractively meaty, a slightly weird, a perfect swarm of girls and one that nobody notices.
The indulgent melody was added. Throughout their career, Take That have been able to sell out stadium concert tours in half an hour. In addition, the group always showed a certain irony.
Not that day, of course: MTV and BBC broadcast live on February 13, 1996 when band leader Gary Barlow spoke to journalists the words that shook Take That fans. “Unfortunately the rumors are true,” said the then 25-year-old. “It’s over from today.”
The tabloid media had speculated that the singer and his bandmates Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Jason Orange would go their separate ways in the future.
Ironically, on Robbie Williams’ birthday, Take That confirmed the end. Williams had left the boy band a good six months earlier in a dispute (during a sold out world tour) and thus triggered the first big fan drama. Even then, the “Dr. Sommer” team from “Bravo” had to give consolation.
“I guess we are sorry”
In Take That’s homeland, the reactions were not long in coming. During the press conference, a BBC reporter reported on desperate teenage girls who had turned to the station. “A 14-year-old fan just called in tears. What message do you have for her?” He asked the quartet. “I guess we’re sorry,” Mark Owen squeezed. He looked embarrassed.
The last joint single was a cover version of How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees 1977) was released on March 9, 1996.
It wasn’t just fans who suffered. For the musicians themselves, the separation was “a real low point”, admitted Barlow in an interview with the German press agency in 2018. “That was actually a ten-year low.” Only Williams was able to establish himself immediately and permanently as a solo artist. Barlow at times completely retired as a singer after his second album flopped.
The band got back together – and still exists today. “We had to split up to come back,” said Mark Owen in the dpa interview. In 2005, Take That actually returned. Band leader Gary Barlow had activated the boy band and was successful with the comeback album “Beautiful World” even without “Bad Boy” Robbie Williams.
From 2010 there was even a temporary reunion with Williams including a celebrated tour and successful album. Many assumptions have been made in British tabloids as to why adults who have long since grown up are still reflecting on the characters of their boy band that accompanied them through puberty.
Whatever the case:
The fans seemed to be longing for self-referential “Take That” songs that would continue to write the band’s history and thus the youth of the old fans. And so it was no surprise that the antagonists Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams created the first song together with “Shame”, which makes their tricky relationship with one another an issue.
Zu warm tönenden Gitarrenakkorden offeriert Gary Barlow Ursachen des Disputs: „Well there’s three versions of this story: mine, yours and the truth. And we can put it down to circumstance, our childhood, then our youth.“ Williams sonore Stimme setzt theatralisch schuldbewusst ein: „Out of some sentimental gain, I wanted to feel my pain, but it came back return to sender. I read your mind and tried to call, my tears could fill the Albert Hall – is this the sound of sweet surrender?“ Dann überwältigt ein saccharinsüßer Refrain: „What a shame we never listened. I told you through television. And all that went away was the price we paid. People spend a lifetime this way – oh, what a shame!“
The old bandmates are good friends today. Take That is currently a trio. In the UK, the three of Barlow, Owen and Donald continued to fill stadiums with their concerts. Bandleader Barlow, who has long been successful as a solo artist, apparently expects that Take That will be back on stage with five at some point. “We’ll do that again,” he said. “I’m sure.” An emergency hotline is probably no longer needed.
A concert in April 2019: Gary Barlow Howard Donald and Mark Owen. (c) imago images / ZUMA Press (Myles Wright via www.imago-images.de)
Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my [email protected] 1-800-268-7116