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Gary Barlow: My ‘beef’ with Robbie Williams? He’s just got a gift

Gary Barlow has spoken about his ‘beef’ with former Take That bandmate Robbie Williams (Matt Crossick/PA)
Gary Barlow has spoken about his ‘beef’ with former Take That bandmate Robbie Williams (Matt Crossick/PA)

Gary Barlow has spoken about his “beef” with former bandmate Robbie Williams.

The singer revealed that the pair had been in “competition” with each other while in Take That, with naturally-gifted pop star Williams wanting to take centre stage.

Barlow formed the group alongside Williams, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Jason Orange, who together were hailed as Britain’s biggest boyband in the 1990s, evoking hysteria reminiscent of The Beatles.

They notched up eight number one hits and sold 10 million albums in the 1990s but tensions began to show between Barlow, seen as the serious songwriter of the group, and Williams, the rebellious joker.

Speaking with Jay Rayner on his podcast Out To Lunch, Barlow said: “He (Williams) was talented very naturally, he was. It’s possibly where we were in competition and the others (bandmates) weren’t, really.

Take That visit Radio 1
Take That – (L to R) Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Jason Orange and Robbie Williams – leaving Radio 1 in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

“Rob was wanting to get to the front. He had a great voice, very natural given talent he had. My beef with Rob, and we still talk about this, is that I’ll spend six weeks rehearsing a five-minute piece to perfect it, every move and note I’ll know what I’m doing.

“I’ll go out and I’ll get a great response. Robbie gets given a song four minutes before he goes out. He learns it and goes out and gets a better response.

“That’s what annoys me about him. He’s just got a gift. He always calls it the Freddie Starr syndrome. He loves going out and doing five minutes, the audience go crazy and he walks off and he’s gone.

“I prefer a two-hour thing where I can warm people up, that’s got highs and lows. I love that, an evening of taking the audience on a journey.

“It’s a funny thing. To watch him and witness him, you can be a Robbie fan or not, when Rob walks in the room, there’s a presence.”

After Williams left to pursue a solo career in 1995, Take That called it a day a year later, having cemented their place as one of the most successful boybands of all time.

Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams At Radio 1 – London
Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow arrive at Radio 1 before the first broadcast of the track Shame, which the reconciled artists recorded as a duet (Ian West/PA)

While Williams continued to find success on his own, Barlow’s career entered a lull and he quit singing in 1999 to act as a producer for other artists.

On the podcast, Barlow discussed being dropped by his record label at the age of 27.

“At the core of it all, it’s a wonderful lesson, that is. And possibly a lesson that was needed, in a way. It’d all gone my way for years and years and, as we all know, you don’t learn much from success, but you learn an awful lot from failure.

“I didn’t realise it at the time. I wish I had and I’d have enjoyed those years much more than I did, but it was all a great starting point to build myself back up to coming back and doing some of my best work that I’d ever done. But it didn’t feel like that at the time. It felt like the end.

“I was tired all day. I was smoking at the time, I was drinking a bit, I was eating a lot… and busy working. It had all just got out of control. And I felt, I just felt shit and thought ‘I’ve got to do something about this’,” he said.

The 50-year-old has established himself as one of the most successful songwriters in British musical history, proving popular both as part of Take That and as a solo artist.

In the last few weeks he has been on tour, released his first Christmas album and starred in Simon Cowell’s new TV project, heading up the judging panel on Walk The Line, alongside comedian Dawn French, singer Alesha Dixon and UK garage star Craig David.

Cowell broke his back falling off an electric bike that he was testing at his house in Malibu in August last year. Walk The Line was meant to mark his TV return, however he decided to step back for the first series.

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