* The recent Take That revival has brought them up as a topic of conversation in my flat. My American flatmate saying to me that she was surprised the Take That had been quite so big over in the UK. I replied that Take That were like Wham!, N’Sync and The Jackson Five all rolled into one: and they were. But without Back For Good, there would be no big revival now, no number one albums. Back For Good is both the high-point of Take That’s career, and the millstone around their neck. It was the song that cemented critical respectability, it was the song that stopped them being just a boy band.
Which is a problem because at the heart of it, Take That were already not just a boy band. They were THE boy band. Back For Good turned them into a “proper” band (albeit one which didn’t play their instruments which in 1994 was pretty important). There had always been the “Gary Barlow = good songwriter” strap-line before, but Back For Good is a sentimental classic, and one which he was never able to recapture solo. Back For Good, not unlike Careless Whisper for George Michael, suddenly grew the audience for Gary’s songwriting. He didn’t follow through and Robbie Williams stole his thunder**. A ballistic missile aimed right at the heart of Radio Two, it was for the mums, for the girls and for the boys who didn’t mind gruffly saying “aye, they’re shite but I quite like Back For Good”.
For all of Take That’s five man boygroup set-up, they had always been quite ropey at inserting harmonies and intertwining vocal lines into their songs. Back for good not only showcases Barlow’s hesitant falsetto, but allows even the dullards of the band to throw in the odd line. Initially plodding, the music builds in a way which couches the song in a comfort zone which the words require. Not since the double whammy of Beat Surrender and The Bitterest Pill had a band so effectively written the song for their own closing titles. And while they went off do have failing solo careers, looking enviously at end-of-pier variety Robbie (whom the song could have been written about – no hard feelings), they knew that even vs Angels, Back For Good is the better song.
Patience, the comeback single, was very much an answer record to Back For Good. Its not as good, but it reminds you how good Back For Good is. But also it says that they were always coming back, but you had to wait. Without Back For Good we wouldn’t have Take That now, we wouldn’t have hip new Radio 2 (and therefore no Radio 6), the Spice Girls would have floundered and the Sugababes definitely would not have existed. None of which make it a good song. One listen is all you need for that.
*A Take That tribute act which appears to be made up of four Robbie’s. Which make no sense.
**On the George Michael career-o-meter, Robbie is about a year away from coming out!