Dec 13

GARY BARLOW – “Forever Love”

Popular67 comments • 6,703 views

#742, 20th July 1996

Gary_barlow_forever One of the advantages of having this project take far longer than imagined is that I get to see the reputations of artists tilt and upend as the years go by. At the point where I began writing, when the Take That story was, essentially, the Robbie Williams story, “Forever Love” was pop’s most pyrrhic No.1. Gary Barlow – pop’s great white Ivor-Novello-garlanded hope – achieves his apex moment without realising how deeply pop had changed around him, and his legacy is washed away. Listen to my works, ye mighty, and despair. Or maybe just doze off.

Times and reputations change, and Barlow was more resilient and canny than I gave him credit for. But “Forever Love” does not change – it’s as tedious and cautious as ever. Gary Barlow at this point had the attention of the music world, full credit for his band’s success, a ready-made fanbase, and what he gave us was… this. The safest, most defensive solo artist play possible. Predictable enough to release a ballad, but who expected such a dishrag of one?

Great ballads – and decent facsimiles of same, like “Back For Good” – often reach that greatness by bringing to intense life an emotionally specific situation. Conversely, it’s hard to work out what’s going on in “Forever Love”, and the pace is so sluggish it’s harder to care. Barlow at first seems to be getting his Elton on, playing the wounded man emoting at the piano. But he also appears convinced he’s written an epic, and slathers the song in unearned pomp, throwing in pauses and crescendos and wordless breaks – that’s what great songwriters do, right? His voice can’t do what he needs it to – the final lurch into falsetto is ghastly – but the song is a baggy lump in any case.

With hindsight, Gary’s main error was one of timing: peek ahead a few years and we’ll see a band conquer the country with a run of lardy heart-tuggers that might make Barlow proud. But 1996 had seen pop embrace different virtues – Number Ones that were aggressive, modern and populist, if rarely all at once. What “Forever Love” – the most irrelevant No.1 of the 90s so far – showed was that Gary Barlow was lost in this world. In the immediate fight for Take That’s legacy, Robbie’s first solo single – “Freedom” – was a month off release, but he’d already won.



  1. 1
    Plum Yuleing (@tomewing) on 31 Dec 2013 #

    Ring out the old… Gary Barlow chokes, in the last Popular entry of 2013 http://t.co/qnVmWjQeD4 – and a happy new year to all readers!

  2. 2
    enitharmon on 31 Dec 2013 #

    Ooh a 1! Haven’t had one of those for ages now. Fortunately this piece of ordure never registered with me at the time.

  3. 3
    wichitalineman on 31 Dec 2013 #

    A trace memory remains of the uncomfortable shift into falsetto. Nothing of the song – lyric, melody, structure – comes to mind at all.

    Listening to it for the first time in eighteen (EIGHTEEN!?) years, I hear as much of Cliff Richard as Elton John in the vocal. He might also have had A Different Corner in mind. Either way, he forgot to write an actual song. The whole song sounds like extraneous parts of verse melody.

    The one thing in its favour is that, were it recorded now, the backing would be far more overblown. Not much of a positive, really.

    Well. That’s got the evening off to a flyer! Happy new year Tom, and to all of the Popular gang.

  4. 4
    mapman132 on 31 Dec 2013 #

    Never having heard this before I played it on Youtube last night, I was expecting to be bored to tears, and I was, uh, not disappointed. 1/10 is a bit harsh, but 2/10 is not, and I’ve already forgotten what it sounds like and have no interest in ever fixing this.

    The only interesting thing about this record is its proximity with far more memorable #1’s. Ironies abound of course about who it is that’s still having hits in the 2010’s.

    Happy new year. We all know who’s up next ;)

  5. 5
    Speedwell54 on 31 Dec 2013 #

    The intro sounds a bit ‘Theme from Cheers”/’The River’ He had done, and will do better, but personally I think a ‘1’ is unfair. Does it more reflect disappointment? It lacks a lot, but has something. I feel you could have saved the 1 for later in the year.

    This may have been he first number 1 single to come in a cardboard (as opposed to plastic) single (as opposed to gatefold) sleeve. Literally the first spineless UK number one cd single. Unless you know different… Very cheap. But a 3.

    All the best for 2014 Tom+

  6. 6
    23 Daves on 31 Dec 2013 #

    At this point in my life I lived in a provincial town and used to occasionally get sent demo tapes by aspiring local bands and songwriters. The singer-songwriter tapes (or sometimes CDs) usually all took a similar format – four sparsely arranged ballads, usually with hackneyed titles like “I Wish I Could Fly Away”, “If Only Forever”, or “When We Touch Each Other”. They would always be backed by an electronic piano, or a real one if the budget was a good, and have non-existent choruses. They’d just brood and meander away.

    So my first thought when hearing this single in 1996 was that maybe I was wrong all along. Maybe all these local Creme Brûlée songwriters I’d been ignoring had actually been tapping into a trend all along. Of course, they hadn’t, and Barlow no more deserved a number one with this than any of the others deserved a publishing contract. It is utter blandness from start to finish.

    #3 – I can definitely hear “A Different Corner” here, but I actually enjoy that single. It has a distinct, brilliantly produced eeriness to it that’s captivating. This is just a sparse, meandering ballad which has no distinguishing features at all. Even with Barlow’s name attached to it, it’s quite surprising it got as far as number one.

  7. 7
    Tom on 31 Dec 2013 #

    #5 It’s hard to think of a more tedious, sloppy record all decade. It’s not hateful by any means but sometimes I want to throw a 1 at a record just because of how BORING it is, and this is one of those occasions.

    There is, of course, no guarantee that it’s the final 1 of 1996.

  8. 8
    MikeMCSG on 31 Dec 2013 #

    The only thing I remember about this is turning off The Chart Show after the first few bars so I’m glad to read I didn’t miss anything.

    He didn’t take getting knocked off by the next one very well and said if I recall correctly “You can’t compete with shit” which actually sums up his solo career quite well.

  9. 9
    ciaran on 1 Jan 2014 #

    If nothing else this is an interesting record to cover just before the take that image is inevitably removed from the Popular homepage link.

    A great piece Tom. You’ve nailed the problem with this perfectly.Back in 1996 this was almost like the most predictable Number 1 before it was even heard.18 months of goodwill built up before it all came crashing down with Barlow watching the parade go by.

    I’d like to make an argument for even the dullest of Popular but this is just appaling. A record with Elton or George Michael in ideas but more De Burgh/Berry/Medeiros in execution.One of the blandest Number 1’s ever.In one ear and out the other. Like the forgettable sound you would hear at a night in a restaurant or wine bar.

    Its not as bad as Mr Blobby or Bombalurina and I could stretch it to 2 but I’m sober tonight so a ‘1’ seems fair.Mr’s Barlow wont be happy if she’s reading!.

    Speedwell54 thinks the intro sounds like ‘cheers/the river’ but to me the theme to Australian Soap ‘A Country Practice’ comes to mind straight away.

    Radio seemed to play this as a late-night love staple for the next year or so just in case Barlow would become a solo star but by the time Robbie won the war ‘Forever Love’ was gone from the airwaves, never to return.

    Robbie has his flaws as we’ll discover later on but recalling this and without upsetting the bunny it makes the perceived disaster of the likes of Rudebox look a lot more forgivable in reflection.’Freedom’ though was and is terrible.

    Intrigued to know what if any other ‘1”s of 1996 could be. 2 candidates for that I think.

    Happy new year to you all. It’s always a pleasure to follow popular.

  10. 10
    Mark G on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Aha, looking forward to this one now I can say what I’d been wanting to say since the days of debating “Baby Jump” as being the most forgotten number one of all time..

    That this, this song right here, is the most forgettable song of all time. Not just of the number ones.

    I can hear it one time, and as soon as it’s done, I can’t recall anything about it. Apart from that it’s a ballad of some kind. And that Gary Barlow sings it.

    I do remember Robbie saying he couldn’t understand why Gary released the songs he did, when he had “Loads” of better ones. I quite liked “Open Road” about as archetypal a Barry Garlow song as ever there was one.

    Anyways, happy new year to all the readers and writers of Freaky Trigger, we all love all of youse, yes we do.

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 1 Jan 2014 #

    GB sounds like he’s singing in his sleep – or possibly in mine, as I think I dozed off at some point. This isn’t what I want, what I really, really want.

  12. 12
    Chelovek na lune on 1 Jan 2014 #

    A mid-period Elton John B-side, untypically weak single, or cast-off album track; and so very immediately obviously not the future, nor for longer than its duration, the present, of pop.

    To damn with faint praise: neither the most forgettable nor most disagreeable single of Barlow’s initial solo career.

    (I too have a soft spot for ‘Open Road’, even if it is, frankly, Music for Alan Partridge, with characterless production values, dialled-in preplayed backing music suggesting an unanticipated lack of ambition – or record company support? -, and which so rapidly became unavoidable wallpaper music in charity shops across the land as a loyal fanbase discovered they’d been sold a pup….but I digress…and more of that later).

    To damn with even fainter praise: VERY far from being the sappiest or intensely, objectionally forgettable ballad no 1 of 1996.

    The case for the defence, however, is brief, mostly concentrating the almost overblown League Two grandeur (albeit one that seems aimed more at Blackpool in the wind and rain, rather than Las Vegas: no long-term performer at any venue of note there would have touched such a half-baked number) of the cadence that closes the chorus of ‘Forever Love’, which, at least, sticks in the mind, even if little else about the composition does.

    Although ill-formed sentimental dross….well, seems to fit well with some key aspect of the Cool Britannia-linked political movements on the ascendancy at this time, just awaiting their chance in the following spring…

    But in general: I don’t wanna go on with you like that. Think I can stretch to a 3.

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Also…..it takes some nerve for such a weak song to have a video that, in its second half, so very blatantly copies (or simply rips off) the promo for Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ (the successive images of couples embracing): now THAT is a song of real emotional depth, narrative/meaning and substance. THIS is none of those things…

  14. 14
    swanstep on 1 Jan 2014 #

    New to me… and, wow, The Phantom Song! FL feels like a bunch of the sort of early noodlings one does en route to something that can be taken to the rest of a band, not close to any sort of finished product. And how odd it must be to (at least for a short time) have literally anything you excrete go to #1.

  15. 15
    AMZ1981 on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Getting a little bit ahead but it is worth noting that Gary Barlow will trouble the blog once more before we go into the wilderness years for all members of Take That bar one. I wanted to like this at the time and managed to persuade myself to – with hindsight it is bloody awful BUT I still prefer it to the record that entered at number three the same week and will be under discussion shortly.

    A couple of observations. All three members of Take That chose to launch their solo careers with dreadul records. Robbie’s cover of Freedom was a messy attempt to make a statement and Mark Owen emerged in November with a wet ballad that misrepresented a surprisingly strong album. In the case of Gary Barlow, however, he didn’t actually have anything better – his first solo album had one decent self penned song which he would eventually release four singles in.

    Finally, with regard to Robbie Williams the battle was not yet won; it’s too conveniently forgotten his chart trajectory started 2,2,8,14 and an album that vanished into the bargain bins within three weeks – then Angels.

  16. 16
    snoball on 1 Jan 2014 #

    I remember this song being released, but I have no memory at all of what it sounds like, other than it’s very dull.

  17. 17
    Mark G on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Does he still play it live, I wonder?

  18. 18
    wichitalineman on 1 Jan 2014 #

    I’ve got a soft spot for Open Road too, for its comedy value, its clumsy Partridge-esque take on Man In The Mirror – “the man is me.” More of this blatant punchline stuff to come with Britney’s non-Popular The Girl In The Mirror in a few years.

    I always thought the first line of Open Road was “My life is extraordinarily plain”, which would make sense as it not only rhymes with the next line but explains the black holes in Forever Love which would have been filled by a songwriter with anything of import to say.

    At one GB gig in ’97, reviewed by the Guardian, someone’s bum in denim shorts appeared on the screen behind him. Gary turned around, saw this, and said “I like a bit of that… maybe later”. Around this time, I also took to doing impressions of Gary Barlow, saying this line but giving him the voice of Greengrass from Heartbeat. I realise none of this makes much sense written down.

  19. 19
    anto on 1 Jan 2014 #

    I must have been clearing out the shed when this was at number one.

    In the words of Tony Blackburn ‘the fabulous 5, you want ’em , they’re on the way’ (cue joke about ‘the title of this next song is what people often say about my career hahahah’)

    New years resolution – stop listening to radio 2.

  20. 20
    bob stanley (@rocking_bob) on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Tom Ewing’s Popular blog reaches one of the most forgotten/forgettable no.1s, the Baby Jump of the 90s: http://t.co/1LAAdj6w5F

  21. 21
    weej on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Amazed that nobody’s commented on that CD cover so far. It looks like he’s just realised he’s left his wallet at home, and is going to have to walk back and get it, AGAIN! The video is equally inexplicable – he gets up, wanders around for a bit, goes to a cafe where people stare at him, then takes a taxi to a photo studio where he watches someone take photos of couples. The whole time they’ve styled him to look as much like Tom Cruise as possible. Seems that the director was as mystified about the song as everyone here.

    I have nothing to say about the song, except that I’ve just listened to it twice and already I’ve forgotten 95% of it.

  22. 22
    Erithian on 1 Jan 2014 #

    As far as I can tell he’s in some casting exercise where he’s on the panel while couples try to look interesting and engaging for him. A strange echo of what he ended up doing a decade and a half later, and much the most interesting thing about the whole exercise. For some reason the song I had going round my head a few seconds after listening to this was “All Out Of Love” by Air Supply – maybe a little piano trill did it.

  23. 23
    Erithian on 1 Jan 2014 #

    And since it’s that time again, the annual review. Here’s where we’ve been at the end of each calendar year:
    2003 Great Balls Of Fire (#66, Jan 58 – 5 years 2 months, 66 entries in the year)
    2004 A World Without Love (#167, Apr 64 – 6 years 3 months, 101)
    2005 Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine (#222, Aug 66 – 2 years 4 months, 55)
    2006 Get It On (#302, Jul 71 – 4 years 11 months, 80)
    2007 Lonely This Christmas (#362, Dec 74 – 3 years 5 months, 60)
    2008 This Ole House (#477, Mar 81 – 6 years 3 months, 115 (plus the Pistols!))
    2009 I Want To Wake Up With You (#575, Aug 86 – 5 years 5 months, 98)
    2010 World In Motion (#646, Jun 90 – 3 years 10 months, 71)
    2011 No Limit (#685, Feb 93 – 2 years 8 months, 39)
    2012 Doop (#703, Mar 94 – 1 year 1 month, 18)
    2013 Forever Love (#742, Jul 96 – 2 years 4 months, 39)

    Back to the rate of 2011 after 2012’s slow period, and it’s been a fun year revisiting Britpop and reaching the cusp of a new era. One of the bunnied five was on Jools’ Hootenanny last night on fine form. Happy new year to the Populista crew old and new, and looking forward to Tom’s next twelve months.

  24. 24
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Gary of course also had the plum slot of the lead in to the bells yesterday – we avoided all before but stuck around to see him sing a couple (go on, guess) of the Take That tunes. He is slowly turning into Robbie.

  25. 25
    punctum on 1 Jan 2014 #

    I took a look ahead at the rest of 1996’s number ones and it’s a season of extremes to be sure. Score-wise these would include the following:

    Three which I would score 1 (both by the same act, to nobody’s surprise, and not counting “Forever Love” – no comment by me on the latter here as I’ll be writing about the whole Open Road album, other than to say that I agree with Tom’s rating);

    Two to which I would give a (generous) 2;

    Two to which I would give the full 10 (plus three 9s!);

    One which I would personally score zero (no redeeming factors whatsoever);

    And one which I regard as ungradeable.

    Happy New Year to one and all.

  26. 26
    Tom on 1 Jan 2014 #

    #23 thanks Erithian, it’s actually really heartening that I managed twice the rate of last year, I felt things had fallen off a bit (big project at work just leaving me very tired). The aim for this year is to top 100 – only the 3rd time I’ll have managed this, if I do it.

    I’m a fast writer but a very slow starter.

  27. 27
    @23Daves on 1 Jan 2014 #

    Freaky Trigger’s Popular project actually got around to talking about “Forever Love” last night. 1 out of 10. http://t.co/TDpYO9kzhA

  28. 28
    punctum on 1 Jan 2014 #

    #25 (self-correct): Two of my three 1s are by the same act. The third one I thought about for a moment before deciding “nope, it’s a 1.”

  29. 29
    mapman132 on 1 Jan 2014 #

    #25 Interesting. I’ll have to see if I can predict which records are which :)

    Here’s how I see the rest of 1996 in non-chronological order:

    Three records by you know who.

    Two each by two different acts I’m unfamiliar with other than a strong suspicion I’ll hate them (Two of your 1’s are lurking here, I suspect…)

    Two different relatively obscure (in America) followups to much better known songs (in America).

    One record which wouldn’t be that bad if not for its inane lyrics.

    One somewhat unusual #1 that only got minor notice from me at the time, but I’ve since decided I quite like.

    One 3-songs-in-1 that I’m really dreading.

    And finally, one that simply makes me sad, not because it’s a bad record, but because it makes me feel ashamed of…well we’ll get to that I guess.

  30. 30
    thefatgit on 1 Jan 2014 #

    I can fully understand the temptation to look ahead, when faced with such unmitigated turgidity from Barlow. Happy New Year, btw. Lest we forget, by 2014 Barlow has already overtaken Cliff and is miles ahead of our next Popular entry with his tally of #1 singles (11 with TT, this and 2 other solo bunnyables). Robbie isn’t very far behind. The tally of #1 singles is of course no indicator of quality (ask Macca. Of course you’ll need a clairvoyant to ask Elvis, but even his tally is disputable depending on whose chart you follow) but it does tell us that he’s a very marketable artist. Perhaps the UK’s most marketable artist of the modern era*. And singles like “Forever Love” are little more than a tally-mark. I’m not really trying to defend Barlow for FL. It’s almost as if the song was constructed by focus group. If FL were a car, it would be a VW Golf. Nothing exciting, but you’ll find staunch defenders of this song on the video’s YouTube comments thread, like a bunch of proud Golf owners. And that’s perfectly OK for them. Speaking of the video, was this tossed off by Richard Curtis, by any chance? It seems like a rejected montage from Notting Hill, Actually, or something.

    “Baby Jump”? Yeah, I guess so. But after a few listens, “Baby Jump” can charm you, where this lacks any charm whatsoever. Unless this was your and your significant other’s theme tune, or you were a TT fan pining away for some output – any output from Robbie or Barlow, I can’t imagine ever wanting to go to all that effort of taking a trip into town specifically to buy the CD single or the cassingle from Woolworths. I think I could state with some confidence that Barlow never picked up any new fans with FL. Next.

    *If you count the modern era beginning in 1990.

  31. 31
    Ed on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Having been out of Britain for a few years, and being back (although not for good) on New Year’s Eve, I was amazed to discover that Barlow is now not just pop royalty, but some kind of god-emperor. That NYE special really looked as though he needed someone behind him murmuring “remember you too are mortal”.

    How and when did this happen? And why?

  32. 32
    AMZ1981 on 2 Jan 2014 #

    With regard to the guessing game there is one record coming up that I suspect is heading for a low mark – and I’m quite looking forward to defending it.

  33. 33
    Kinitawowi on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Not quite utterly inoffensive enough to actually be offensive. Dull, utterly forgettable (but then so was most of Barlow – I thought his solo career started with Open Road, to be honest), with no features, redeeming or otherwise. No reason to like it, no reason to hate it, no reason to care about it at all. Usually that’s a recipe for a 1 on my criteria (it has to actively offend me in some way to get a 0), but on the Popular scale I think I can stretch to a 2. But it’s a big stretch.

  34. 34
    punctum on 2 Jan 2014 #

    #31: The puzzlement is why the BBC allowed GB an hour’s worth of free advertising for his new album on NYE.

  35. 35
    Cumbrian on 2 Jan 2014 #

    It’s not quite a 1 for me. The piano to start had promise, which means I found one slight redeeming feature to lift it to 2. The rest of it is pretty much dreck though, as described eloquently elsewhere.

    Are we really sure that Gary Barlow is a good songwriter? His reputation in this regard seems to rest entirely on Back For Good and maybe a couple of the TT comeback songs. Otherwise, the TT stuff that we’ve come across thus far that I have any time for had Jim Steinman and Brothers in Rhythm involved or were covers. Is it really just a nostalgia factor or am I missing something here.

  36. 36
    Chelovek na lune on 2 Jan 2014 #

    #35 I, too, am unconvinced of the man’s track record as a songwriter (a few, mostly well-known, standouts, aside -although a quick run through his back catalogue inspired by this post has persuaded me that the second and, intended but then cancelled third singles from his flop second album are pretty, surprisingly, strong too)

    I wonder if Barlow’s rise towards becoming almost The Younger Paul McCartney, Unimpeachable National Treasure, is more to do with his quasi-managerial-organisational-networking skills (certainly his role in the recreation and renovation of Take That demonstrates great competence here), rather than the songwriting stuff, which has been inconsistent. And, I guess (?), being a Bloody Nice Bloke and being able to get things done (and not being waylaid by an overly artistic temperament) is not to be sniffed at….

    Either that, or he has some really juicy insider information about senior figures in the BBC and/or the Royal Family/etc , which give him great powers of blackmail….his rise to impeachability, while, to be fair, neither rapid nor handed on a plate, has been so meteoric that one almost, just almost, wonders….

  37. 37
    Andrew Farrell on 2 Jan 2014 #

    #30 – in fairness, you’ll find a bunch of defenders of any song on the video’s Youtube comments.

  38. 38
    Izzy on 2 Jan 2014 #

    I think we’ve already discussed Gary-as-songwriter a number of times on Popular. My view is that he’s always been pretty mediocre and was very lucky that when TT pushed that angle, it stuck. He can write a verse, but Back For Good is the only worthwhile chorus he’s ever managed, maybe Sure at a push – not iirc the consensus round here, as Never Forget got a surprisingly good reception even though I can’t imagine it’s a song anyone’s ever caught themselves singing. If he was genuinely good their key records wouldn’t largely be covers.

    Anyway, for hooks Robbie beats Gary out of sight (who’s responsible for those I guess we’ll come on to). Angels alone does this pretty much. As does Tony Mortimer, but then songs are only part of what a band’s about ultimately.

  39. 39
    punctum on 2 Jan 2014 #

    The question of who actually wrote “Angels” is still a clouded one. Was it Ray Heffernan, or Guy Chambers, or Robbie himself? Each says something different though all three get songwriting credits.

  40. 40
    @TriffidFarm on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Popular keeps its scoring bell-curve fleshed out with a hard line on dreadful ballads http://t.co/txpgBLIRi7

  41. 41
    Izzy on 2 Jan 2014 #

    There was a short comedy series about a boy band, whose name I’ve forgotten but I think was on C4, who had a talented songwriter in their midst – the problem being that it was actually one of the eyecandy who was the genius, and so they had to push the ugly bloke at the back forward instead because there was no way of justifying his presence otherwise. Whether this pre or post dated the rise of Robbie I’m afraid I don’t know.

  42. 42
    weej on 2 Jan 2014 #

    That was ‘Boyz Unlimited’, still quite funny a couple of decades on – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/boyz-unlimited/4od

  43. 43
    Another Pete on 2 Jan 2014 #

    #31 Simply because they can’t wheel out Macca playing ‘Hey Jude’ forever.

    I think it’s sitting on the X-Factor panel that does it. The now rosarium bottomed Geordie was apparently the most desirable woman on the planet during her stint.

  44. 44
    punctum on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Wonder which planet that was.

  45. 45
    iconoclast on 2 Jan 2014 #

    I have absolutely no recollection of this whatsoever. Will my life be any worse if I don’t bother to listen to it?

    #41: I remember “the fat one who writes the songs”, played by James Corden, and (Glaswegian accent) “no, let’s call him Sane Bob”.

  46. 46
    Another Pete on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Planet Redtop

  47. 47
    Patrick Mexico on 2 Jan 2014 #

    Happy New Year all. Great to see Popular going full steam ahead in this mid-nineties era of extremes.

    1?! Ahaha, poor Barry Garlow and the Good For Nothings*. It’s offensive by being inoffensive. It’s just.. Not much, really, is it? There are many fake-sombre, deathly dull number ones but can’t recall this one being abhorrently inescapable as a kid of eleven. Three.

    Something I can’t say about the Christmas 2003 treatment of a cathartic classic on the next TPL album. A disturbing bunny from a (relatively excellent) film about a disturbing bunny..

    * A genuine rock covers band from Burnley

  48. 48
    hardtogethits on 2 Jan 2014 #

    I’ll start with a tortuous* fact. Gary Barlow was the first act whose first week of UK singles chart action** was at number one AND whose second week wasn’t. Put more punchily, this didn’t win him any new fans, did it?

    And I’m not blinking surprised. A friend of mine and I used to disappointedly enquire “all that, for that?” whenever we saw an expensively created comedy sketch on TV, wherein the punchline was poor or obvious or both. All that expense and time invested in such a poor output. It might seem like an incredibly specific set of circumstances, but in the heyday of Little and Large, Russ Abbot etc, it happened quite a lot. I think we got the disdainful catchphrase from his Dad – we approved of the way he expressed disapproval.*** Over the years, the phrase became a little more versatile. I tread carefully here, because I recognise now the esteem in which Jesus To A Child is held, but I vividly remember my friend and I both reacted to JTAC with “All that, for that?” Meaning all that time, all that anticipation, for such a slow, hook-free record, and one which seemed to remain so firmly within the boundaries that the artist had achieved before (had either of us known what the record was about, we may have reacted differently). When Forever Love emerged, I got the impression Gary Barlow had been thinking that JTAC was a near-perfect comeback single**** – and decided to follow suit with some kind of competitive gamble. “I see your drawn-out, downbeat, ponderous, sombre***** balladry – I can be far more of all of those things.” And boy did he succeed. At the time I used to think the song would break into something like “Hard Habit To Break” – not glorious, not exciting, but maybe appreciable, tolerable. But it doesn’t, does it? It just goes on and on and on. 1 is right.

    And by now you may well be thinking “All that, for that?”

    Happy New Year everyone!

    *Or should that be torturous.
    **As the main credited artist
    ***Apologies, friend, if you read this and I’ve misremembered that bit.
    **** Even if this were true, GB may still have understood what JTAC was about, in a way that I didn’t.
    *****re edited to include “sombre” because I like Patrick Mexico’s “fake-sombre” description at 47

  49. 49
    wichitalineman on 3 Jan 2014 #

    re 48: Good point mentioning Chicago. All of Forever Love feels like it should be about to break into the chorus of Hard To Say I’m Sorry. Some kind of modulation, at least, some slightly unexpected chord change, something slightly salty. But the listener spends the four minutes gradually realising that, at some point, they must have already heard the chorus. All we get to distract us from the meander is that awful attempt at falsetto.

    HTGH, I love tortuous facts like that.

  50. 50
    AMZ1981 on 3 Jan 2014 #

    #48 That’s interesting; first act whose first week was at number one but whose second wasn’t. It had me skirting on ahead to see who was the second – technically it was Dunblane but the next artist in the conventional sense was White Town early in 97. Of course such a distinction is far from uncommon now.

    #41 I remember Boyz Unlimited (although didn’t realise it was James Corden) and the digs at Gary Barlow were the only thing I found particularly funny; the show’s other good laugh was incidental and this blog will reach it in due course …

  51. 51
    fivelongdays on 6 Jan 2014 #

    I listened to this again for the first time since I was 14. And I can’t remember anything about it two minutes after listening to it. It’s just…nothing.


  52. 52
    EndlessWindow on 7 Jan 2014 #

    Whoever mentioned that this sounds like it could have been written by any one of thousands of unknown singer-songwriters the country over, tae a bow, because you’ve got this one spot on.

    That Ivor Novello clearly went to his head, because this is utterly dreary, uninspired stuff: constantly reaching for something profound, in the firm belief that it surely must get there, that it’s earnt some gravitas just by virtue of turning up and pulling the right mopey face, but instead it just clutched at fistfuls of air. A song that says nothing, in slow motion.

  53. 53
    Rory on 7 Jan 2014 #

    Ye gods, this is awful.

  54. 54
    Mark G on 7 Jan 2014 #

    It’s like “Jesus to a child” as “Every loser wins” is like “The winner takes it all”

  55. 55
    iconoclast on 7 Jan 2014 #

    I still can’t bring myself to want to listen to it, not after all the, er, adverse comments.

  56. 56
    hardtogethits on 9 Jan 2014 #

    Mark G I think that’s perhaps true in terms of quality, but I was making the point about influence. Although I’m postulating about Gary Barlow looking to JTAC specifically, he really was taking his cues from George Michael in a very structured way at this point – including by using his former producer.

  57. 57
    hardtogethits on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Additional chart fact (that I’d forgotten). This was the first single in UK chart history to debut at #1 and fall out of the top 2 in its second week.

  58. 58
    mapman132 on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #57 What was the first single to debut at #1 and fall to #2 the following week? Is there a definitive list somewhere of which singles debuted at #1 (I know there’s a lot of them)?

  59. 59
    Speedwell54 on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I think ‘Innuendo” by Queen is the answer to your first question. That info is just from my records, but I can’t think of an earlier one.

    There is a list in the back of one/some of the ‘Guinness Book of Hit Singles’ (Volume 7 for certain ) This is now 25+ years out of date, but maybe a starting point.

  60. 60
    hardtogethits on 16 Jan 2014 #

    #58, 59. It was Let’s Party by Jive Bunny!

    Innuendo first #1 to spend only 2 weeks in the Top 10.

  61. 61
    iconoclast on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Heartfelt, sincere, tasteful, and almost totally bereft of merit, a nothing of a song. Thankfully not actually offensive too. THREE.

  62. 62
    mapman132 on 17 Jan 2014 #

    #60 For some reason, I thought “Desire” by U2 had debuted at #1, but a look in the official chart archives confirms not. So Jive Bunny it is! Thanks!

  63. 63
    Tom on 10 May 2014 #

    We can expect a few more Greatest Hits packages, then? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27356896

  64. 64
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    It is long and tedious and agree it came out at the wrong time however it was still a major global success especially in Europe and Asia.
    This is often overlooked because of what became of Robbie my point being the track is good not great but it wasn’t a disaster internationally.
    He got off to a good start but fell away.

  65. 65
    Garridio on 2 Dec 2020 #

    Tom is spot on with this one. An utter damp squib of a record deserving of 1/10. Barlow clearly bottled it, and handed the initiative to Robbie Williams straight away; although Barlow somewhat redeemed himself in latter years.

  66. 66
    benson_79 on 19 Jan 2021 #

    I laughed out loud at the 1 for this; a mark that’s both harsh and eminently justifiable. He really has had quite the 21st century rehabilitation…

  67. 67
    Gareth Parker on 6 May 2021 #

    I could probably just about stretch to a 2/10 here, but blimey what a tedious record!

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