Formed in Manchester, England, this vocal group arguably came closest to emulating the Beatles’ legacy of phenomenal mass popularity. Teen pop can be a fickle career, but one similarity they displayed in common with their Liverpool cousins was the rare ability to unite both young and middle-aged music fans. The group was led by lead vocalist Gary Barlow (b. 20 January 1971, Frodsham, Cheshire, England), with Mark Owen (b. Mark Anthony Owen, 27 January 1972, Oldham, Lancashire, England), Howard Paul Donald (b. 28 April 1968, Droylsden, Manchester, England), Jason Thomas Orange (b. 10 July 1970, Manchester, England) and Robbie Williams (b. Robert Peter Williams, 13 February 1974, Stoke on Trent, England). As a child Barlow was a talented musician, and backed Ken Dodd shows on the organ by the time he was 14. His first break came when he submitted a song, “Let’s Pray For Christmas”, which was short-listed and played on the “A Song For Christmas’ competition on BBC Television’s Pebble Mill. Owen had failed soccer trials for Manchester United before taking work at an Oldham bank, while Orange was a former breakdancer brought up as a Mormon. Williams’ mother was a singer and his father a comedian and prior to the commencement of Take That he had a small role in Channel 4″s Brookside.
Donald’s parents, too, had a musical background, before he took up work in a garage and joined Orange in a breakdancing unit, Street Beat. Barlow, Owen and Williams were formerly part of the Cutest Rush.
Take That released their debut single, “Do What U Like”, on their own Dance U.K. label in July 1991. Much of the publicity they initially attracted surrounded the risqué video that accompanied it, featuring the band revealing their buttocks. The furore helped to make up the minds of RCA Records, who signed the band in September, and “Promises” reached number 38 in the UK charts two months later. In February 1992, “Once You’ve Tasted Love” reached number 47, coinciding with a “Safe Sex” club tour undertaken with the support of the Family Planning Association, before June brought their UK chart breakthrough with a cover version of the Tavares’ “It Only Takes A Minute”. By the time it reached number 7 in the UK charts the country’s pop press swooped on them for their clean-cut (with the exception of the bearded Orange) good looks, dance routines and simple, catchy songs. Barlow also stepped up his reputation as a songwriter for the ensuing Take That And Party, which debuted at number 5 in the UK album charts.
October’s A Million Love Songs EP, led off by its powerful title ballad (originally written by Barlow aged 16), also reached number 7. Their popularity was confirmed by the receipt of seven trophies at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party Awards in December, as effective a barometer as any of the prevailing tastes of the UK’s youth.
By the following year the fortunes of the group’s debut album were resuscitated as it climbed to number 2 in the UK charts, following the number 3 success of their cover version of Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic”. This also won them a BRIT Award for Best British Single in February, before “Why Can’t I Wake Up With You” rose to number 2 at the end of the same month. By April the group’s debut album and “It Only Takes A Minute” had been launched in the USA, with the help of a Take That cereal box, but initial forays into the American market proved unsuccessful. “Pray” became their first UK number 1 in July 1993, a feat repeated with “Relight My Fire”, featuring a guest appearance from Lulu, in October. In the meantime the band were concentrating on recording their second album, and when Everything Changes emerged on 23 October 1993 it debuted at number 1 in the UK charts.
Proving that their popularity was not impinging on their prolific release schedule, “Babe” became a third successive UK number 1 in December, though it eventually lost the coveted Christmas number 1 spot to Mr Blobby. The band’s success continued throughout 1994 and into 1995, when “Everything Changes”, “Sure”, “Back For Good” and “Never Forget” earned them four more UK number 1 placings. “Back For Good” demonstrated much more substance than their usual lightweight pop, and was also a US Top 10 hit. There were strong signs that Take That were finally being accepted by the music critics. Fans were shocked when Williams announced his departure for a solo career in mid-1995, although the writing had been on the wall for some time – his participation in Nobody Else had been minimal. Further disaster ensued when, after weeks of rumours, it was confirmed at a press conference in February 1996 that the band members were going their separate ways, and they bowed out with a chart-topping cover version of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” in June. Barlow, Owen and Williams all embarked on solo careers, with the latter’s proving the most spectacular.
Encyclopedia of Popular Music
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