Sep 13

TAKE THAT – “How Deep Is Your Love?”

Popular32 comments • 7,484 views

#735, 9th March 1996

The UK media has, for the most part, a tolerant, condescending view of pop fans. The girl sobbing and screaming over a band is part of the grand, cyclical parade of British life, to be filed next to thermos-clutching ladies camping out for the Harrods sale, or lardy men mournfully setting alight a season ticket. Every so often, though, the mood turns, shifting to concern, distaste, even fear as the fans go too far for their patrician liking.

Take That’s break-up was one such moment. Fans howled and shrieked on the national news. The Government (grateful perhaps for the break from its own long deathwatch) set up helplines. Others looked feebly on, asking the same question the fans were: why? These observers meant – what’s all the fuss about? Why the rending and wailing? This bit is easy. Because Take That really had revitalised the idea of the boy band, and because – with half a year and more since Robbie left – the fans had been given plenty of time to dread and anticipate this inevitable moment. Perhaps even to rehearse it.

Their why? was more of a why right now? This is fairly easy too. Even if a four-piece Take That was viable, Gary Barlow must have realised that now was the time to make the break. There was little sense yet that Robbie’s solo career would be more than a sideshow, but his leaving had put the stayers on the wrong side of a credibility gap.

One last single, the band announced – as nailed-on a Number One as anything ever has been. It’s a Gary Barlow showcase, as you might have guessed. On “Never Forget” – their obvious and better finale – he’d given the spotlight to Howard. No such generosity this time – the other three are already ghosts on “How Deep Is Your Love”, there to fill ropes and chairs in the ridiculous bondage-themed video. Attempts at harmonies would have been unflattering besides the gorgeous shagpile singing on the Bee Gees version, but then so is Barlow’s flat, tasteful performance and the low-fat acoustic arrangement he’s picked.

There’s no romance here – on the record at least, everything is calculated for minimum vulgarity. This is Gary’s pitch as a pop star – grown up but still warmly nostalgic, classy but humble. It wasn’t hard to spot subtext in the song choice – how loyal are you, fans? Will you follow me? – because that’s what the entire record was saying. Serious, Ivor Novello winning Gary Barlow was singled out after the split as the factor which had made the difference, elevating Take That above the ordinary. He played a part, but you could as easily argue he held the others back – pulling them towards earnestness, letting their mischief, sweetness and sexiness show more on film than on record. The solo careers and reformation would help settle those arguments. For now, this is a fine song, but a lazy record and a desultory goodbye, wholly undeserving of the passion their fans had just shown the country. Take That had already given us the bang. Here was the whimper.



  1. 1
    Kinitawowi on 9 Sep 2013 #

    I remember hearing at the time that four people apparently committed suicide when Robbie Williams left the band, but only two when the rest broke up. The review says it all, really.

  2. 2
    mapman132 on 10 Sep 2013 #

    Saw the video for this for the first time a couple days ago. It was mildly amusing with the context of the crazed fans and impending breakup, but “Never Forget” would have been a much better first half career swansong. Obviously, this was never a hit in America. 5/10.

  3. 3
    JLucas on 10 Sep 2013 #

    A fairly spot on summary of this one – it feels quite inconvenient in the context of the first phase of their careers. Never Forget was such a superior farewell, this one made commercial sense but was really a single too far.

    The video is silly, but quite funny. At least they went out on a modicum of humour in that respect, and considering the hysteria surrounding their split, to heavily imply that they all die at the end (especially Gary), was fairly gutsy.

    Poor old Paula Hamilton. Life after this wasn’t kind.

  4. 4
    swanstep on 10 Sep 2013 #

    I love the original (one of a number of tracks that built directly and well on ‘I’m Not In Love’), hence predictably this pallid version seems utterly redundant to me (never have I missed tasteful electric piano so much!). Reasonable fan service I suppose though, esp. given the amusing vid.: Take That put their lives in the hands of a fan who put her life in their hands:
    3 or 4.

  5. 5
    hardtogethits on 10 Sep 2013 #

    Hi Tom, are you sure THE GOVERNMENT set up helplines when Take That split? For many, many reasons I’d like to believe this was the case, but I’m not at all sure.

    (ps I know charities and TV shows set up helplines – I know they existed)

  6. 6
    Mark G on 10 Sep 2013 #

    I see we are boldly in the era of CD1 and CD2, what was on these souvenird? Remixes? Live tracks?

  7. 7
    Izzy on 10 Sep 2013 #

    I rather like this, but bowing out with a cover was such a cowardly move. I see now that the idea must have been to place Barlow in the lineage of supreme songwriting pros, but if so then having to borrow someone else’s lines undermines any sincerity. I’m reminded of Kurt Cobain and ‘it’s better to burn out than to fade away’, not entirely fairly.

  8. 8
    Mark G on 10 Sep 2013 #

    I’m not convinced they recorded this specifically as a ‘last track’, more likely it was something left over.

  9. 9
    Cumbrian on 10 Sep 2013 #

    Others have already said it, but I’ll chip in and agree that The BeeGees version is lovely. The Take That version seems a bit “will this do?” – the rhythm track sounds like another one of those pre-sets that you get on a keyboard and the backing vocals lack the warmth of the original. A bit of a dud. At least they had the humour to have themselves killed at the end of the video – being pushed into a quarry if memory serves. On their comeback, do they climb out of it?

  10. 10
    Mark G on 10 Sep 2013 #

    Had a quick butchers at the CD1 and 2: three live tracks per disc, all are quite long versions (CD2 has 7 min versions of Back For Good and Never Forget)

  11. 11
    Kat but logged out innit on 10 Sep 2013 #

    I remember being rather puzzled about Take That covering a Bee Gees song and NOT opting for one of the disco ones, seeing as they’d had a decent bish at Relight My Fire (which = still amazing). It would have been a good start to the impending Full Monty disco revival (aka the first time anyone my age had heard of Hot Chocolate) but I guess real life narratives are never that straightforward.

    The video was a bit alarming. TOTP stool watch: standing up for both of them! Amazing eyebrows from Louise Wener as well.

  12. 12
    James BC on 10 Sep 2013 #

    The “I really need to learn” line clunks a bit for me.

  13. 13
    @tomewing on 10 Sep 2013 #

    Death of a boy band, on Popular. http://t.co/holvcMAsrP

  14. 14
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Sep 2013 #

    The last sentence of the review sums this up well. Or in one word: tiresome.

    Not only on TOTP stoolwatch (in both senses), but “dire cover version attack”: far more of a nod to W***life than to the future Take That Renaissance. (As for Gary Barlow…his time will come here. A roofer may be required for the degree of slating that will be called for)


  15. 15
    thefatgit on 10 Sep 2013 #

    “How Deep Is Your Love?” was as stately as The Bee Gees ever got. A masculine love song, (although it had been the intention for Yvonne Elliman to sing this on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) delivered as a challenge: how much do you love me? Start counting the ways, and peel me a grape while you’re at it. More assured and confident than “Massachusetts” with Robin’s coy doe-eyed stares into the audience on early TOTP. HDISYL? was an hirsute Alpha-Barry love song, his lover drawn to him and his sexual magnetism, and John Travolta’s Tony Manero as well. If this song were released now, today, it would have to be a female voice singing it. That’s how far the tide has turned. No machismo hidden under the finest veil of sensitivity. That’s not acceptable any more. But that’s what made the song so listenable in the first place. Here, Gary Barlow is the cowering Scar to Barry’s Mufasa. Here he’s too weedy, too needy. The production too shoddy for this to count as anything lasting or valuable, like The Bee Gees version with its tension between machismo and sensitivity. All of that is erased by Gary here. And TT dolefully exit the stage, wiping away the panstick to the cries and gnashing of teeth of their loyal fans.

  16. 16
    Steve Williams on 10 Sep 2013 #

    #7 – I remember at the time Barlow said that they chose to do a cover version because he thought they hadn’t done one for a long time and he felt it was important that the band proved they could take A Classic Song TM and Do It Justice. A bit like Rod Stewart working his way through The Great American Songbook or something, I suppose, a bit of dues paying.

    And, of course, the rumour they did it to pay back Barry Gibb for secretly writing Back For Good.

  17. 17
    swanstep on 10 Sep 2013 #

    @James BC, #12. For what it’s worth the ‘I really need to learn’ line makes complete sense in the film where the song plays over the final scene: after a long dark night of the soul riding the subway, Tony arrives on Stephanie’s doorstep in Manhattan and really needs to learn whether she’ll have anything more to do with him given that he tried to rape her the previous night. (I always thought that T&S wouldn’t be a couple at the end, rather, still somewhat amazingly, they’re just going to try to continue to dance together on the understanding he’ll be moving to Manhattan and leaving his even more rapey buddies behind… but maybe I misunderstood; at any rate the song taken by itself *sounds* more strictly romantic than the in-film scenario allows – maybe it fits the SNF in people’s heads and in TV versions better than the pretty dark actual film).

  18. 18
    James BC on 10 Sep 2013 #

    The problem is that that usage of ‘learn’ is a bit archaic. “When the king learnt of Sir Mordred’s treachery, he was sorely displeased.”

    If they couldn’t think of a more contemporary synonym, they could have just put a third “how deep is your love” in place of that line and the song would have been better.

  19. 19
    Andrew Farrell on 10 Sep 2013 #

    That’s … pretty much the regular meaning of learn?

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 10 Sep 2013 #

    the production sounds thin compared to the lushness of the original – instead of a rich chorus of voices there’s a nasal buzzing that isn’t pleasant. The video is kinda fun.

  21. 21
    Brendan F on 11 Sep 2013 #

    Yes, the video saves this, for me. After all those years straining for credibility beyond their teen-girl fanbase now they knew it was over and could do something a bit off the wall and whereas they play it safe with the song, the video at least amused me so I think it deserves a 5.

  22. 22
    Alan on 11 Sep 2013 #

    90s semi serif fonts – great days

  23. 23
    weej on 12 Sep 2013 #

    Re: fatgit @15 – relevant Simpsons quote, in fairly poor taste (sorry) – http://download.lardlad.com/sounds/season1/busted1.mp3

  24. 24
    thefatgit on 12 Sep 2013 #

    Yeah, there was definitely something about the TT fanbase, wasn’t there? It makes me wonder what would happen if 1D suddenly jacked it in?

  25. 25
    Will on 12 Sep 2013 #

    After the big farewell single that wasn’t a farewell single, this is the low-key coda to the TT story. Interesting to wonder whether there would have been room for them in a post-(bunnied summer Number One) world. Probably not, I would have thought.

    Also…just look at how indie they look on that single sleeve. Both Gary and Little Mark are wearing shirts that look like they’ve been lifted from Jarvis Cocker’s wardrobe circa Babies. Another sign of the times..

  26. 26
    Patrick Mexico on 12 Sep 2013 #

    I’d say it’s clockwise from the bottom left: Pulp; Suede; The Smiths; Duran Duran circa New Moon on Monday.

    “Take That dress up as bands who are better than them” raises a smile, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers did it so much better on Dani California.

  27. 27
    Patrick Mexico on 13 Sep 2013 #

    Paul Weller on the Bee Gees, 2006: “Good songwriters. But grown men on helium, it’s not good.”

    Patrick Mexico on Take That, 2013: “Not-so-good songwriters – except Back For Good. But covering disco-camp classics, it’s hilarious, especially when so much raw emotion’s invested over someone with bleached hair from Stoke.”

    I have warmed to Take That over the years, but God, the ten-year-old me hated them. It wasn’t even because they were a boy band girls would back their school textbooks with. It was because 1992-96 was culturally such a diverse and exciting time to be a kid, especially on TOTP – and they felt like they weren’t preventing the future from happening, but preventing the nineties from happening and all the mums and dads going back to the church fete, satisfied that their cultural tentacles didn’t extend beyond a provincial nightclub (with plastic palm trees) in 1979. Next!


  28. 28
    AMZ1981 on 14 Sep 2013 #

    I once read (in a quickie biography on Robbie Williams) a conspiracy theory that Back For Good was actually written by the Bee Gees on the condition that Take That covered one of their songs – this was doing the rounds BEFORE this release was announced.

    At the time it was actually their second biggest seller.

    I actually liked this at the time and seventeen years later can live with it – it’s easy enough on the ear. I wonder if anybody at the time dared predict that this would have an absolute corker of a follow up …

    There was an obvious reason for releasing a cover of course; Gary Barlow was holding back for the solo push. When his solo album eventually emerged it would prove to have five covers. Without wanting to get too far ahead this would not be the only number one of 1996 to feature Gary Barlow, nor would it be the only Bee Gees cover – this is arguably better than both and it will interesting to see if Tom’s scores concur.

    Finally for the third time in as many singles Take That found themselves in the top five simultaneously with Boyzone and keeping their Irish rivals at bay; Coming Home Now would be Boyzone’s only nineties record to miss the top 3, it was crowded out by Take That, Oasis and Robert Miles’ Children (the biggest selling non number one of the year)

  29. 29
    Musicality on 14 Dec 2014 #

    A quick cover done a bit differently at least but would have been better going out on an original song.

  30. 30
    Erithian on 5 Jan 2016 #

    Don’t remember the video at all from the time, which is strange, but not half as strange as the video itself – and not in an endearing way. You just wonder how many takes they needed for that fork-in-neck shot. Song is OK of course, but not done half as well as the original and the only way they make it stand out is in the different inflections – different rhythm and emphasis on a line here and there. In fact the overall effect is like hearing one of the new people they’ve got on Sports Report reading the football results and remembering how much better James Alexander Gordon used to do it.

  31. 31
    Gareth Parker on 1 May 2021 #

    It all sounds rather flat to me. Not too much to say about this one. 3/10.

  32. 32
    Mr Tinkertrain on 8 Feb 2022 #

    I only have vague memories of this one and Take That’s split, mostly from the reaction of girls in my primary school class rather than the actual music. There are some TT songs that have grown on me over the years (and some future ones which this project may get to eventually), but not this – the video is the most interesting thing about it. I don’t even like the original much. 3.

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