There was only one place for Take That to go after The Circus, it almost seems written in their destiny that the group would become whole, it would heal itself, and Robbie Williams would be welcomed back. The story has been told that way because that is how it looked. Beautiful World may have been something of an unknown step but the fact that it was a massive success almost automatically routed Take That’s internal GPS through The Circus and all of the content on that album, back to Robbie. Speaking to James Corden in 2014, Gary Barlow said getting Robbie back involved was something the boys “always knew” would happen. While it was always something the band may have wanted to happen, and there are examples on both previous albums where the boys had worn their hearts on their immaculately well-dressed sleeves, knowing that it would happen is something very different.
The Circus may have been therapeutic on some levels but there was going to have to be serious work done, if the boys were going to make Progress.
Before Beautiful World was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, they met up to see what would happen if the band got back together. The world certainly found out, If was not just possible, it was magical. In 2009, two months after the four boys had played and dazzled Wembley Stadium on the Circus tour, they met up in New York with Robbie Williams with much the same sense of wonder, and asked themselves the question once again; What would happen if?
In truth a large step forward had already been taken by the time everyone was in that room, because Gary and Robbie had their come to Jesus meeting, during the mixing of The Circus. In an interview given to Radio One and reported in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph (August 2010) they said the pair had a ‘big chat’ and importantly both said sorry to each other. Listening to each other give their own truths and hearing each other say sorry seemed nearly impossible when the five members sat and gave interviews to camera on ‘For The Record’ in 2006. Robbie said at that time that he would be fine in a room with everyone except Gary, doubting that he could find any closure there because Gary “couldn’t see how he was, what he did or how he acted”.
Writing in 2018, Gary said that Robbie’s contempt for him at that stage left him with a bad feeling and certainly a reunion had absolutely “no pulse”.
On November 24th 2008, a year after the UK release of Beautiful World, Take That released the single Greatest Day.
The twelve months preceding this single’s release had seen them ask questions of themselves and their support, questions that were answered emphatically by Beautiful World. Did Take That still have what it takes? Yes, indeed they did, and the proof was on that album. Was there still a space for Take That in the music world? Yes, indeed there was. Beautiful World was a big bold success and songs like Patience and Shine were the dot on the exclamation point.
Greatest Day is the type of single a band releases when they know they have an album coming to equal that quality. Greatest Day showed everyone that the quality was not about to dip, although by this point no-one seriously thought that it would.
Certain things go through your head when you hear that a band is going to reform. Can they still do it? Do they still have it? Does anyone still want it?
It is very important, crucial you may say.
When you hear that a band are going to reunite your mind may find itself relaxing in many varied presumptuous locations.
You may think you know what is going to happen. If said band are reforming on stage, you’ll probably write it off as a smash and grab affair; the band will stand up there, sing the hits maybe in a lower key, bang a few of the songs that weren’t quite as good in a medley in the middle.
This concert, on 14th December 1986, before eleven thousand people in the Sydney Entertainment Centre, was the last in a series of twenty seven performances covering all of Australia… You are joining the concert after the interval, just as the eighty eight-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is heard and seen for the first time on this, the last night of the tour…
There are absolutely no overdubs on this album.
Taken from the liner notes of the album, released in 1987.
Those words give this performance quite a build-up, don’t they? Twenty seven performances covering all of Australia, an eight eight-piece orchestra behind him, the last night of the tour. It was reportedly the first time anything like this had been attempted by a pop or rock artist and it took months and months of rehearsal, Elton himself paid a heavy price for this performance. During the tour, which began in in Brisbane on November 5th, specialists discovered nodules on his vocal cords, and he would go for surgery on them within a month of leaving this stage. Elton has since said that there was a very real fear that the last song he sang that night in December ’86, would be his last ever; Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was then, a rather fitting choice.
The Seldom Seen Kid album will go down as a moment. A moment when critical acclaim and the eyes of the world found them. Their journey from Asleep in the Back through Leaders of the Free World was full of ups and downs and anyone listening since day one will know they always have the songs. The question was never about whether they could deliver, they always could, and they always had people by the ears and the hearts, they carried on despite, and sometimes fuelled by what was happening to them.
A lot of the album was written while the band had no record deal, after the collapse of V2. They were creating without knowing whether any of it would ever be heard outside of the elbow bubble. Guy Garvey said in 2009, “when we were doing the initial bit of writing for this record, we kind of knew our record deal was at an end and we didn’t have a new one. We didn’t know how we were going to sort out all the legal stuff”
The album contains reactions to love, death and friendship and there is as always a beautiful sense of place in the songs featured.
Bands sometimes sell out a little and depart from their core ideas to have the sort of success elbow had with Seldom. Elbow never did, they wrote here about the same things they were writing about in their debut, their debut that was lest we forget, nominated for a Mercury music award. They won that award for this album, and never lost what was important to them.
The Seldom Seen Kid is the result of a band with their backs to the wall, again, and it is creation that comes with cost.