MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- Promoters trying to organise a reunion concert for seminal early nineties boy-band Take That have finally admitted defeat due to the hectic schedules of the group's former members since they went their separate ways in 1995.
Jeff Bray, chief publicist for the RetroPop celebrity PR firm said that he first approached song writing maestro Gary Barlow six months ago with a view to arranging an all-day extravaganza in Hyde Park followed by a lucrative world tour.
“Gary was really enthusiastic at first,” Bray recalls. “He said he’d write a couple of new songs and gave me a list of dates that were good for him, but then he got this big promotion at Burger King and things got a bit tricky after that. We’d proposed the last weekend in August for it, but I guess his bosses got wind and fast-tracked him to middle management to keep him sweet.”
“I can understand their thinking – Gary’s a good worker. He’s only been there two years and he’s already been awarded his fifth gold star for excellence in customer service which he wears with pride on his Burger King cap.”
“That’s a record, apparently,” Bray added.
“Anyway, we’ve tried to work around it, but he’s a difficult guy to pin down – most of his Saturdays are taken up playing piano at weddings in Burnley. He’s getting pretty popular – A Million Love Songs is obviously a favourite, but he’s expanded his repertoire to include most of the Elton John back catalogue and Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh. Free time is at a bit of a premium for Gary at the moment, I’m afraid.”
Bray has found most of the remaining members of the group equally reluctant to commit to the project.
Following a successful stint on Big Brother, Mark Owen has been approached by several companies keen to exploit his reinvigorated celebrity. Famously straggly-haired, Owen will be appearing in a light-hearted advertising campaign raising awareness about the contagiousness of nits, while a straighter series of commercials for Saga will seek to cash in on his popularity with women of a certain age.
Despite showing an interest in the Take That reunion, Owen has had to decline after signing up for UK Living’s keenly anticipated reality show Celebrity Speech Impediments which will spend the next two months following stars on an intensive speech therapy course in the Lake District. Owen has spoken movingly of his desire to finally pronounce his “r”s correctly, and is hoping that battling his demons in the public glare will further aid his personal catharsis after his success in the Big Brother house.
Also slated to appear in the series are squeaky-voiced comic Joe Pasquale, stammering singer Gareth Gates and ample-chested model Jodie Marsh. UK Living were keen to downplay suggestions that Marsh doesn’t actually have a speech impediment and her inclusion is merely an attempt to up the flesh content: “Jodie has suffered terribly throughout her career, blighted by dropped aitches and a debilitating estuary twang,” a spokesman said. “This is an ideal opportunity for her, and indeed for all our contestants to overcome painful afflictions in front of the television cameras. Any bickering, nudity or desperate, short-term romances between fading stars looking to boost their media exposure will be purely incidental.”
Dimpled utility singer Jason Orange has proved similarly indisposed. He has been especially productive in the years since the Take That split, touring the country modelling Pringle knitwear and appearing in numerous pantomime chorus lines where he has displayed a particular aptitude for standing near the back, miming, and generally not being noticed.
Orange is keen to get back to his dancing roots and has approached gruff music impresario Pete Waterman and elfin beauty Michela Strachan with the idea of breathing new life into cult eighties music show the Hitman and Her. The programme, which provided a late night TV audience for dance anthems and gyrating youths, was a veritable production line for pre-fame boyband members including Orange, and he is keen to give something back.
“Wearing vests and dancing on podiums is what I was put on this earth to do,” he said, “and if I can be on hand to advise the next generation on how to handle the pressures of life in a boyband, the so much the better.”
Howard Donald, too, believes he has found his ideal occupation.
“I’m getting more action as a grease monkey than I ever did as an international popstar,” the KwikFit fitter said from a garage in Wigan. “I think we all had the wrong attitude back then with our smouldering homo-erotic photoshoots, baby oil and matching outfits. Sure, we had our share of groupies, but most of them were 14 year old girls and gayers.”
“Now I’m attracting real women - chicks seem to dig the overalls – all I need is a bit of gentle self deprecation, a quick tweak on the carburetter, a cheeky wink and a couple of bars of Back for Good using the old spanner as a mic, and bang, I’m in business.”
“It’d be great to meet up with the lads again just like the old days. I’d do it this weekend if I could, but I’ve got to fix a new exhaust on a Ford Mondeo and I don’t think it’ll be ready until Tuesday week.” He looked at his watch and tutted. “Actually, better make that Wednesday.”
Thus far, the only ex-member of the band to firmly commit to the project has been tattooed firebrand Robbie Williams. He has cleared his schedules for the rest of the summer and was looking forward to performing with his old colleagues once again. He acknowledged, however, that while the rest Take That have furthered their careers in diverse and fulfilling ways, he has found it difficult to figure out his true calling.
“I’m still confident of getting something going,” he said from his mansion in Beverley Hills. “But the boys have moved on and I suppose I should too. You can’t keep living in the past.”
Barlow: Burger flipper extrordinaire
Take That in more uncertain times, before they found true employment fulfillment