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Posts Tagged ‘Howard Donald’

I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years in this one particular area of life! It all started back in 1995, when I was a hormonal just-slightly-older-than-a-teen, crazy in love with the premier boy band of the day, Take That. There was a competition in one of the tabloids and the prize was to meet and greet the band backstage at one of their concerts that summer. I must have put in at least 50 entries, if not more. Somehow, I had a *knowing* that this was for me. And I was right! I found out on my 20th birthday that I had won. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The only spanner in the works was that Robbie Williams left the band before I got to the concert. However, undeterred, I picked my outfit, bought a disposable camera which was the only type we were allowed to take, and marched off to meet my favourite band and my absolute heroes at the time, with my then best friend Mandy. It was kind of a defining moment, because for all I may cringe at my rather more hormone-driven musical tastes back in the day before I discovered rock music, it showed me that dreams really can come true. There was a backstage tour, and I even had the chance to stand on the stage in the Manchester Arena and look out at all the empty seats, and experience for a second what performers do – and was it scary, even without all the faces looking back at me!

Take That were always painted as such a family-friendly, boy-next-door kind of group, and I have to say that the guys I met were indeed the perfectly genuine, kind, friendly and down-to-earth people they had been painted to be. That seems rare with celebrities. I wouldn’t mind betting that the guys are exactly the same today as they were back then, despite their amazing comeback and their renewed popularity at this time. For once, the photography worked out for me. It certainly does not always! In fact, it was the beautiful photos I found (when going through all our old photographs to make an album of Grandad pictures for Daniel) that inspired me to make a blog post about the day…

Here is me with Jason Orange. Jason was a big surprise, very friendly and extremely good-looking in real life, and intelligent but down to earth with it. I hadn’t imagined Jason that way, or perhaps I had never considered him very much until that day. I was very nervous on the day, it was pretty mind-blowing when they poked their heads round the corner of the room, these guys who had been my heroes with their unique brand of pop music, energy, tireless patience with the fans, amazing live shows, and charity work for the best part of 4 years by then. He very much put me at ease, giving me hugs and complimenting me on my sexy dress. Jason has since developed exponentially as a musician and now plays guitar on some tracks, which always makes me weak at the knees. My favourite of their recent songs is “Wooden Boat”, a touching musing on life and love which was penned, played and sung by Jason. He has opened my eyes in so many ways.

And here I am with Howard Donald. I didn’t get a lot of chance to speak with Howard but he was perfectly friendly and lovely. It made me cry when I watched a documentary about the band a few years ago – shortly before their comeback – and I heard that Howard had been so upset when the band had broken up back in 1996, he had contemplated committing suicide. However I can understand his intense love of his band. Howard has a beautiful falsetto vocal which featured on many of my favourite songs back in the day.

I was extremely shy about speaking to Mark Owen. Funny because it was always Mark who was my heart-throb, but when I met him in real life I didn’t remotely fancy him – there was no chemistry in that way! Mark was very kind and told me not to be shy and put his arm round me, resulting in the most fabulous picture of the four – I don’t know if I’d have had the patience in his shoes! He worked hard that afternoon to try to speak to everyone who wanted to speak to him and collected presents we had brought. I went on to see Mark perform his own solo songs in concert and very much enjoyed watching him on Celebrity Big Brother. He was always the caring one of the band and that still shines through today. I love that he has come into his own as a band member, and his track “Shine” is one of my favourites from their new repertoire. Not sure about his dress sense here though! (Only kidding!)

And finally, here is a picture of me with Gary Barlow. While it’s not as good a picture, it was my favourite moment from the day. Gary had always been my biggest hero of the band. Although I’m not into that kind of music now, at the time I was, and he is a superb musician. There was a certain something about his songs that got me. To get to tell Gary how much his music had inspired and helped me was amazing. It was a moment of love emblazoned on my heart forever, and imprinted in my psyche to the extent that I now have a fixation about getting to tell people when they have made a difference to my life. He must have appreciated what I said because I was absolutely pressed into his chest here as you can see, and he kissed my hair. Love attracts love. Unconditional love for someone who has truly touched your life is a really beautiful thing. A quiet but talented, soulful guy, Gary continues to be a hero of mine to the present day and I love the song “Rule The World”, which always brings his energy to mind for me: “Yeah you and me we can ride on a star, if you stay with me girl, we can rule the world…”

Incidentally, the guy in the background there was their photographer, Phillip Ollerenshaw. He did our tour. He is an incredibly nice guy whom it was also a pleasure to meet.

The story doesn’t quite end there on 15th August 1995. Robbie Williams was one of my heroes too. And as fate would have it, it seemed that it was still written in the stars for me to meet him too. I came close in December 1996 when I managed to get into the Christmas Top Of The Pops filming and see him mime his hit single “Freedom” close up, but did not get to speak to him. It was around the time when he was launching his solo career. My then best friend Amanda (different to the first Amanda) and I had got to know his lovely mum a bit and had her address. We used to go there to drop off presents or letters for him periodically. For his birthday in 1997, I had found a picture frame which said “Life is beautiful – You add to it” in Afflecks’ Palace. And on 22nd  February 1997 when we went to see his mum to drop it off, she rolled up in her car, and he was in it.

After giving him his present, I said I’d let him go inside, because it had started to rain. Instead, he asked me to wait and popped inside to get a tape (how old does that make me feel! tapes are all but redundant these days!) and we sat in Amanda’s car. He shared the tape with us. It was bits and pieces of demo songs which ended up on his first album, “Life Thru A Lens.” The one that sticks in mind is “Ego A Go Go”. He was so excited about his new music and seemed to enjoy sharing it, although he was also pensive and talking about having had a bad year. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stroked his arm. I did not ask for a photograph, as I didn’t want to spoil the exchange for what it was, especially not at his mum’s home when he was clearly not “on work time”. He called us both “ducks” and gave us a peck goodbye. I think I spent about a week in total disbelief. We told very few people at the time. However my memory is getting to the point now where I really want to record what happened so the memory is there for me forever.

I never did go and see Take That again when they came back together for their reunion tour. I didn’t want to spoil the memories. However I think I might crumble if they do tour again, just purely for nostalgia…

Notice the date when I met Robbie. It will become significant when I post part 2. 😉

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