‘1001 Songs’ random pick

Take That – Back For Good (1995)

Usually with the ‘1001 Songs’ random pick game, I expect to get something obscure that I don’t know. So I’m always a bit surprised when I get something I know so well that I don’t even have to listen to it.

Back for Good is one of those songs that I associate with my childhood so strongly, that I’ll always have a soft spot for it. I know it’s not considered to be the coolest but I do feel that it’s one of the best love songs, always making my heart swell and strain against my chest. The crescendo, leading up to the final chorus,  never fails to make my eyes sting just a bit. 

The blurb in the book says that the song came to Gary Barlow in ten minutes, after a friend said that the greatest songs were usually the most simple. As a result Barlow tried to see where three or four chords would take him, and this was the very lovely result. 

As a child of the 90’s, growing up in England, Take That were just the biggest thing ever. They were One Direction big. Though to be honest, I wasn’t a popular kid and was a bit slow off-the-mark and embarrassed when it came to bands, boys and things like clothes and Smash Hits magazines. I used to watch from afar, with much curiosity, when the other girls in my year at school were obsessing over them. They all had the official Take That duffel bag. It was black and had all of the members signatures on it in pink, with a big ‘TT’ logo emblazoned, in the centre, in white. 

My next door neighbour, Janine, who was a year younger than me, had the Take That calendar, dolls, t shirts and her bedroom was covered in posters of them. She loved Howard and it was very controversial when, around the time of Back For Good, the band got makeovers and Howard reappeared with dreadlocks and an eyebrow piercing. It was positively wild. Janine’s mum did not approve.

My Mum was also into That That. She was in love with Gary. Janine and my Mum used to have huge chats about them whenever Janine came over to our house to play. It always felt weird to me, like they were in a cool gang that I wasn’t part of. I’d get a bit angry and jealous that my Mum and my neighbour were having gossipy, girly, heart-to-hearts that I should have been having instead.

Janine’s Mum was mean and always shouting, and I was quite scared of her, so there was no chance of her and I starting our own cool gang.

For Christmas 1994 I was given a ten pound Woolworths voucher. I decided that I was too old to use it on sweets or toys, so instead I used it to buy my first ever cassette – Take That’s ‘Everything Changes’. It was the first, and only, time that I gave into musical peer pressure and it’s always been one of my greatest regrets that this was my first album – especially as music has been such a dominating force in my life ever since. Whenever people ask me what my first album was, I always hesitate and have a second where I consider lying and saying something cool…but I never have the heart to do that to Take That. Deep down I quite like them. They seemed like nice guys and lying always feels like some kind of betrayal to them.

Back then, the release of a new music video by a group as big as Take That was a huge deal, that’d get hyped for a week. One Saturday morning on the live variety show, Live and Kicking, it was announced that they were going to be playing the World Premiere of the Back For Good video. For three hours they kept hyping it up, teasing with little sound bytes and two second flashes of the video. The audience of teenage girls were in hysterics, screaming at every mention of it. 

We all crowded around the TV to watch the debut screening of the video, in all of its romantic, black and white, glory. 

The song was tender and sad, but with swells of hope. To 10 year old me, it sounded like what love was meant to be. Longing and aching, all grand gestures and reunions. I liked the way Gary pronounced words “lipstick mark still on you coffee cup”. Whoever he’s singing this for, I thought, must be very beautiful and cool to be wearing lipstick. I pictured her with long flowing hair and a black leather jacket.

The band were all wearing very good winter coats, and were sitting about in some kind of bus shelter. Howard had a ridiculous fluffy hat on and there was lots of splashing about in muddy puddles. I didn’t really understand what that had to do with love, but I guess the rest of them needed something to do. 

Gary looked very hurt and vulnerable, like he was about to cry, all the way through. His hair suddenly looked quite nice – longer, that it normally was, and swept to the side, grazing his sad eyes. I felt a little pang in the base of my stomach. Could he be…cute, even? This was very confusing. No one had ever really seemed cute before. I could now start to understand what my Mum meant about Gary and decided that from now on, Gary was definitely my favourite. He was the sensitive, talented one. But that was a secret that was just for me. 

I could never tell my Mum that. She couldn’t know I thought the same as her. She’d tell Janine, and Janine’s grumpy Mum, and then all of the other Mums at school. 

Instead, when she  asked what I thought, I told her, “I like Robbie the best”.

She seemed very pleased with my response – happy  that I picked the cheeky, upbeat and funny one. 

I guess I finally seemed like everyone else’s daughters.


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