The three fortysomethings left in the hugely popular band Take That (TT) first met in 1990, brought together by a manager who wanted to create a Brit version of US pop group New Kids On The Block. They went on to become one of the most blockbusting boy bands ever: 56 Number One singles and 37 Number One albums worldwide and the quickest-selling tour in UK history.
“No one was sure we were going to last two seconds,” reflects Gary Barlow during our lunch break, as Howard Donald distributes magma-hot chilli sauce across his plate.
“Acid house was huge and lads like us weren’t being signed because male vocal groups were seen as being from an earlier time,” Barlow continues. “The industry was crying out for some new blokes.”
Nowadays the band consists of three-fifths of the original line-up, with ex-members Robbie Williams and Jason Orange hokey-cokeying in and out for cameos. It doesn’t appear to have lessened TT’s TNTesque capacity to make fans’ hearts explode. The boys just launched album Wonderland.
Despite their continued success, there’s not a whiff of “jaded diva” about the band. And just as the threesome have grown up into fathers, many of their hardcore fans from the ’90s are now parents, too. So, on Mother’s Day, we invited TT-lovin’ mamas to get in touch with their own questions for their favourite band:
Katie: “What are your earliest memories of your mums?”
Mark Owen: “I walked out of school one December day to see my mum pedalling down the street on a BMX Ultra Burner. She’d bought it for me on a savings scheme and decided to ride it home from the store. A week later the bike turned up under the tree for me. She was so strong. She’d regularly walk three miles back from Oldham town centre with 30 Tesco shopping bags under her arms.”
Howard Donald: “And a bucket of water balanced on her head.”
Mark: “On a Thursday she’d have extra bags from Park Cake Bakery, where for 10p they’d give you cut-offs bits of spare cake.”
Gary Barlow: “My earliest memory of my mum is her razzing about on a moped. None of the other kids’ mums whizzed around on a Vespa.”
Anita: Robbie Williams recently rejoined you to sing live on Let It Shine. What was it like to reunite?”
Howard: “Brilliant! Robbie can come and go whenever he pleases, the same as Jason can. We’re more relaxed about it than people think.”
Rah: “Have you got any tips to maintain your creative space outside of school runs and nappy changes?”
Mark: “For every record we try to get away on our own. We head to New York, to Electric Lady Studios built by Hendrix. The time difference works – we say goodnight to everyone in the UK, then still have hours to focus
Delia: “What did your mums used to shout at you for as kids?”
Mark: “One time I was playing football in my backyard with my brother in goal. I decided I was going to smack a penalty at him as hard as I could, but the ball went straight through the window behind him. I got it into my head that if I just pulled all the glass out, and drew the curtains, mum wouldn’t notice that there was a gap instead of a pane of glass. That plan didn’t work.”
Lisa: “What mementoes from your childhood have your mums kept?”
Howard: “My mum’s got my first little head hair golden curl.”
Gary: “My mum’s got lots of home movies of me [but] my dad’s never in them, because he was filming. I make a point of getting in the shots when I’m making films with my family.”
Jill: “What’s your favourite book to read as a bedtime story?”
Howard: “I bought We’re Going on a Bear Hunt the other day for my son Bowie. He’s discovered that trick where I get three pages in and he decides he’s picked the wrong story and wants another one...”
Gary: “A story called The Daddy Who Went to the Dentist, about a dad who eats too many sweeties and has to have a root canal.”
Bronwyn: “What would you do if your kids wanted to go into music?”
Gary: “I’d tell them to go for it. My parents were always really supportive, even though I come from a background where you’re usually expected to get a ‘proper job’, and being in Take That is not what I’d class as ‘a proper job’.”
Howard: “My mum was so upset when I told her I was leaving my role as a vehicle painter and panel beater to join a band. She knew what I was paying towards the rent was about to disappear!”
Wonderland is out now.