Tag Archives: Take That

2019 ➤ The nerve of Neil Matthews! Offering bunny ears to those oh-so cool Eighties pop stars

Photography, book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery, Take That,

Take That in 1993: cheering to camera for a Smash Hits shoot by Neil Matthews

ANOTHER FAB BOOK OF PHOTOS capturing mainly the 80s pop scene came out this week and it’s a bit of curio. We who were there know how British music and fashion utterly transformed youth culture during the decade from 1980 onwards and among the 110+ new acts who dominated the sales charts in the first four years probably the majority achieved international fame and fortune. But Neil Mackenzie Matthews, in his beautifully printed 192-page book, titled Snap: Music Photography, also reminds us of the names of many acts we have forgotten and who had limited success.

It has become a truism that soon after the Beat Route’s Friday club-night opened in Soho and Spandau Ballet entered the singles chart, both in November 1980, virtually every young guy you met in the club was “putting a band together”, usually managed by another young guy of his own age. For every 110 new-wave acts across the UK who won the standard one-album-and-two-singles deal from a grateful record industry which had lost its way, there were probably 1,000 more who didn’t – yet they too were a vital part of the great collaborative force that was helping to reshape entertainment and media in the Eighties.

At Thursday’s book launch in Shoreditch’s Jealous gallery, Neil described how his own good luck was in attending the same Islington school as the Spandau Ballet posse, Dame Alice Owen’s, and at the very moment he missed getting a first job at the BBC, Spandau invited him to St Tropez on their first foreign booking so he took a camera along and taught himself how to shoot.

Photography, Nick Heyward ,book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery,

Neil Matthews and Nick Heyward photo-bombed by Neal Whitmore of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Just in shot at left, Heyward pictured in his woolly leggings period with Haircut One Hundred. (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

As luck had it, within months Tim Lott and Barry Cain’s chirpy new music magazine Flexipop decided its irreverent role was to prick the egos of their mates, the newly jumped-up pop stars, and Neil as its photographer was expected to rewrite the rules of the game. This appealed to his own wild ways and because he was invariably working against the clock, he injected a note of spontaneity into popstar shoots by inventing a box of larky props with which to confront his celebrity models and expect them to respond on camera. Result: pix of Toyah Willcox all smiles in floppy bunny ears, and Ian McCulloch contemptuously prodding the matching bunch of carrots after he declined to wear the bunny ears. There’s also Edwin Collins canoodling a rubber chicken and Jaz Coleman delivering a blunt message in a book to his rivals.

Impromptu set-ups catch Suggs at a fruit and veg stall on the street, Tim Burgess atop a packing case in Tesco’s, and Malcolm McLaren doing business on the phone. The book features several candid snaps following the rise of Spandau Ballet and the New Romantics including an exclusive of Steve Norman sporting speedos at home in the lounge between his fishtanks and Harry Dog. Neil offers very few live performance pix but the two best capture Little Richard bantering atop his piano and a fleeting glimpse of Nick Heyward closing his eyes in an Albert Hall performance.

Some of Neil’s best straight portraits take a traditional approach and yet clearly capture a shared moment of trust between subject and lensman: we see sexy candid shots of Madonna relaxed, of Betty Boo sultry in leopardskin and of Beyoncé Knowles as a very come-hither 17-year-old before she dropped the surname. For me the two cracking shots in this book show Take That snarling something worse than “Cheese!” at the camera (top), and Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz seated on the loo in her hotel (below). If that doesn’t testify to trust what does?

PS: Sorry, Neil, I have to reveal that I scooped you with the “first” kiss between Jon Moss and Boy George wearing Westwood a full year before Culture Club and your own shot where they both wear Sue Clowes.

Photography, book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery, Jay Aston

Jay Aston 1984: caught at her hotel by Neil Matthews

➢ Neil MacKenzie Matthews’ career went on to embrace fashion, international celebrity and advertising, but his book Snap: Music Photography (Red Planet, £30 in hardback) focusses essentially on the music scene

➢ Neil Mackenzie Matthews’ prints are visible online and for sale at the Jealous Gallery, 37 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT

➢ View Neil’s wider portfolio at his own website


Nick Heyward, live, Gibson Sunburst

Nick with his Gibson Sunburst 330, 1967

❏ One incidental pleasure at the gallery was to catch up with Nick Heyward for the first time since I snapped him with his sidekick Les as Wag club regulars a lifetime ago. Today he features in a daffy trio of Neil’s pix of Haircut One Hundred from 1982 and he’s as friendly and talkative as his ever-present smile suggests. He has been on the road this year with his UK Acoustic Tour, a series of intimate dates where audiences were treated to hits from his breezy and escapist seventh solo album, Woodland Echoes, plus others from his entire career. The album is a distinctly musical treat which Pop Matters reviewed as “a timeless, infectious gem”, adding: “He looks like that cool college professor all the students want to hang out with – and he seems to be at peace with his status as a 50-something indie pop legend”. More news at Nick’s own website .


For one year only, £75m deal reunites Take That dormice with mega-millionaire Robbie Williams

Take That and Party, Shame,Gary Barlow,£25m deal,Daily Mirror, 2010,Sunday Times Rich List, Nigel Martin Smith,Robbie Williams, reunions, Take That

First album: 1992, phew

❚ RUMOUR CONFIRMED & NOW UPDATED – Thank heavens they had nowt to do with the 80s, though what talent Take That possessed did define Britain’s archetypal squeaky-clean boyband of the 90s . . . Robbie Williams – the youngest of them at 36 – is of course the daddy financially, worth £80m at No 28 in The Sunday Times Rich List of Top 50 Musicians, 2010. Songwriter Gary Barlow, 39, languishes at No 48 on a mere £30m.

Thursday’s Daily Mirror was first to nail the potential rewards. It claimed that a new album, plus merchandise and 50-date tour next summer promoted by their pals at SJM will net £6m apiece for both Williams and Barlow as main songwriters, with £4.2m each to the three dormice, Mark Owen, 38, Jason Orange, 40, and Howard Donald, 42. So it’s trebles all round.

However, by Friday July 16, The Sun’s Bizarre editor Gordon Smart was upping the ante: “If you thought the boys were rich now, next Christmas is going to see them served up with a whole new level of wealth.”

The five men stand to make £15m each from an album deal, arena tour, royalties and other projects which have been lined up. Smart reported in detail: “A music industry expert explained how reformed Take That are set for a mega payday. The band will trouser £5m each from record sales, royalties, TV rights and endorsements – plus another £10m from their tour, which will reach out to a world record 3m people. He said: ‘One sold-out stadium will gross £2m for the band. Costs will swallow £1m per show, but after fifty dates the lads will be left with at least £50m.’ ”

Despite the smiles in pictures and news video this week, the group’s body language is stiff and unconvincing, especially in the sofa shots. Fans have been noting the cursory hugs and lack of eye contact. Orange looks conspicously sidelined. Upmarket papers have done little more than regurgitate the already well-worn publicity guff. Only the tabloids offer any inside info. Although a Sun headline on Thursday claimed Williams is “officially back for good”, there has been no such supporting claim in its extensive live online coverage. On July 16 Smart stated unequivocally: “There are no plans beyond this tour and album.”


Orange on Williams’s departure “When Robbie left I didn’t feel that much. For whatever reason, Robbie and I didn’t get on that well in the band”
Owen on Williams’s departure “I didn’t really think about it that much. I just know that I had two weeks to learn how to rap”
Williams on Barlow’s songwriting “I remember genuinely thinking he’s a genuinely crap songwriter”
Barlow on the success of Williams’s 1997 single Angels “I’ve never laid in bed wishing I was Robbie Williams, but I guess I lay in bed wishing I had his career”

Williams this week described the reunion as like “coming home” from a solo career that has lurched between brilliance and despair. He was speaking at a studio in West London where the new Take That were finishing the as yet unnamed CD, their first full album since the release of Nobody Else in 1995.

First, Barlow and Williams will release a jointly written duet, appropriately called Shame. The video for this song has a Brokeback Mountain theme, according to The Sun. The pair have been inseparable recently, and it pokes fun at the close and cathartic relationship they are said to have rekindled.

All five singers have written songs for the album, due out in November and produced by Stuart Price who is admired for his work with Madonna and Kylie. It is the first time the group has worked together since Williams walked out amid acrimony 15 years ago and went on to launch a successful solo career. The remaining members disbanded a year later but reformed in 2005. Williams went into rehab three years ago battling with addiction. Owen has also admitted to struggling with alcoholism in the past.

Hit Man and Her, UK, TV shows,pop, discotheques,Pete Waterman, Michaela Strachan, Take That, Manchester

The Hit Man and Her: Michaela Strachan and Pete Waterman presented the Saturday night dance show on British TV 1988-1992. Picture © Granada TV

Manchester manager Nigel Martin Smith brought the lads together when most were in their late teens. He hoped to emulate the success of US boyband New Kids On The Block, but only when he added 16-year-old body-popping Robbie Williams from Stoke-on-Trent did the magic kick in.

During their five-year boyband career, Take That produced one of the decade’s bestselling albums in Everything Changes. Between them, Take That and Williams have sold more than 80m albums, played to more than 14.5m people live, won 19 Brit Awards and had 13 No1 albums, 17 No1 singles, eight MTV awards and five Ivor Novello awards.

Take That first sang live as a group 20 years ago on the cringemaking television show The Hit Man and Her which stands today as an authentic slice of provincial social history. Fronted by the now legendary record producer Pete Waterman (him) and TV presenter Michaela Strachan (her), the show was recorded on Saturdays at “a disco somewhere in the North of England” and broadcast early on Sunday mornings in the local Granada region, then again three hours later to the South-East where more liberal licensing laws meant clubbers got home that much later.

Over four years the show became compulsive viewing for its uninhibited antics by crowd members participating in dance-offs and other embarrassing party games. Resident dancers included a black exhibitionist called Clive who habitually wore little more than a blond wig – another was Jason Orange himself, a member of the Manchester-based crew, Street Machine.

➢➢ Take That’s second appearance on the Hit Man and Her in 1990 was this hideously uncoordinated effort at The Discothèque Royale in Manchester, performing Waiting Around which sounds as if it were written for the dreary Rick Astley, yet became the B-side for their first single, Do What U Like. Predictably, their first three singles went nowhere . . .