Kanya King is a legend, in the music industry and beyond. Since founding the MOBO Awards in the mid-’90s, she has elevated Black music to unprecedented heights, inspiring wave after wave of artists and executives to break boundaries in the ...
The penultimate No.1 single of Take That’s first incarnation, the 1995 classic Never Forget was sent into overdrive by the production fairy dust of the late, great Jim Steinman. Here, the one and only Gary Barlow recalls the origins of an emotive pop masterpiece that has truly stood the test of time...
WORDS: James Hanley
Whenever I’m writing for an album, songs don’t come out as songs; they come out as big clumps of music – three or four, or even five or six songs at a time. I remember doing a big batch and the one I always look back and go, ‘Christ, what was going on in my brain?’ is Never Forget.
With Take That, what used to happen was that we’d go off on a world tour and then, when everyone got home, the label would say, ‘We need the new album in two weeks.’ The lads would all go off to Greece and I’d be stuck at home writing a bloody album! So these records would happen very quickly.
I was 15 when I wrote A Million Love Songs, but it was kind of on its own. I’ve got those old tapes and there was nothing else of that standard. I really started songwriting in 1988/89, about two years before the band got going. I’d left school by then and was writing all day and gigging all night, every night. I’d listen to pop music with my headphones on, studying what people were doing. Then in the evening, I was going out and singing Neil Diamond and Lionel Richie songs and it was like another world.
I love to listen to music; it refreshes what you’re looking at and I like that as a writer. The idea of coming into the same room and hitting C on the same piano every day is not inspiring; there isn’t going to be anything new and interesting that comes from that. So by listening to music, or going into a key you don’t normally write in, it keeps the palette fresh.
Never Forget is a very poignant song that is definitely about where we were in our lives. But when we sing it at concerts, I always think, ‘Good god!’ I was only 24 or 25 at the time, right? And it still amazes me when I read those lyrics back. So little life had been lived at that point and there are lines in there where you think, ‘Where does that even surface from?’ Looking inward wasn’t really me at that time and that’s what I think is amazing about it; you’re writing these things on the fly and it just unconsciously appears on the page. But that’s songwriting – so much of it is unconscious and a feeling.
Howard [Donald] sang lead vocals because we’d reached the point where we were a vocal group and were sharing.
When we started, there was only really me and Rob [Robbie Williams] who could sing proficiently. But the other lads came on so quickly, so it was about sharing it around and giving everyone else a bit of a voice.
We were keen on making the single version different from the album version, and my brother used to listen to Bat Out Of Hell all the time, so we came up with the idea of sending it to Jim Steinman. The original Never Forget was like new jack swing – there was no choir and it was very simple. It was big, but nothing like it became when Jim Steinman got hold of it.
We went to New York and I turned up at his studio but was told, ‘Oh, Jim doesn’t arrive until midnight.’ I said, ‘What?’ They said, ‘No, no, he only works in the dark...’ You know what the jet lag is like after coming over from England – you’re in bed for 8pm – so I actually went to bed and then returned to the studio at midnight. Anyway, he turned up with a big cloak on and left as soon as the phone started ringing in the morning. He basically went crazy on it. He put the kids’ choir on there... Essentially, all he kept was the lead vocal. I think he had a reel-to-reel [recorder] all hooked up and it ended up having over 100 tracks. I had never seen anything like it.
A couple of years ago, when we were putting the Odyssey [re-imagined greatest hits] album together, we got all the multi-tracks transferred from the reel-to-reels and I tell you what, it was an education listening to it – every single track is just precision. Jim was a real master and a lovely guy. Very strange, but so talented and he made that record what it is. And do you know what? As we said our farewells, he said he had another meeting and as I walked out, Celine Dion was waiting to come in. She did It’s All Coming Back To Me Now [written and produced by Steinman] and that was the start of them working together.
‘Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream.’ Did I know then that the band was close to splitting? It must look like it was really well planned out, but it really wasn’t. I’m sure that it’s the same for any artist – you do the best work you can in that moment and just hope that people engage with it.
The last time the Manic Street Preachers were No.1 it was September 1998, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours beating Step One by Steps to the summit by the small matter of 95,000 copies.
Almost 23 years to the week since that chart battle, the Welsh icons finally top the charts for the second time and by an extraordinary coincidence they beat the same act once again. This time around though the competition was far tougher and indeed a mere 330 chart sales separated the two acts by the final midweek update on Thursday. Their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament did eventually come good and sits proudly at the top of the charts, notching up 27,345 chart sales of which 24,881 were physical. After six further Top 3 albums (including two No.2 records with their last two releases), the Manic Street Preachers are finally back at the top of the charts once more.
Commiserations then to Steps, who nonetheless fought strongly and eventually finished just over 2,000 copies behind on 25,285 sales. Originally envisaged as the deluxe version of its predecessor which coincidentally also peaked at No.2 when released last December, What The Future Holds - Pt2 has been issued in its own right as their seventh studio album. Steps were looking for their fourth career No.1 but also oddly enough only their second with a full studio album, their second album Steptacular from 1999 the only non-hits release in their catalogue to make it to the top of the charts.
Just below the clash of the ’90s icons at the top, Drake's Certified Lover Boy album sheds 61.7% of its first week sales but still clings on at No.3, posting 17,469 sales this time around.
Their first studio album in over nine years, The Stranglers' 18th record is a poignant one, their first without retired drummer Jet Black and which also features the final musical contributions of keyboardist Dave Greenfield who passed away from Covid-19 last year. But they too enjoy a return to chart form, Dark Matters reaching No.4 (11,494 sales) as their first Top 10 album since a 1990 Greatest Hits collection peaked at the same position. It is their first studio album to scale these heights since 1983's Feline - also a No.4 record.
Back after three years away are the suddenly topically named The Vaccines, their fifth studio album Back In Love City maintains their 100% strike rate of Top 10 records and enters at No.5 with 11,346 sales.
Making its first chart appearance since 2014, Metallica's self-titled 1991 album benefits from a deluxe 30th anniversary reissue (complete with an album of quite extraordinary cover versions) and duly enjoys its highest chart placing since its second week on release, re-entering at No.8 with 7,452 sales. Meanwhile, Kacey Musgraves' fourth album becomes her second British Top 10 record in a row. Following the success of 2018's Golden Hour which peaked at No.6 she returns with Star-Crossed whose 7,001 sales are enough to make it No.10 this week.
One of the more critically well-received releases of the week, Saint Etienne's 10th studio album has now become one of their biggest for some considerable time. Bob, Pete and Sarah moved 4,859 copies of I've Been Trying To Tell You and the result is a new entry at No.14, their highest-charting album since their brace of Top 10 records with So Tough and Tiger Bay back in their 1990s heyday. This is no market fluke either, its predecessor Home Counties sold just 3,215 copies when it debuted at No.31 back in 2017.
Amid a frantic week for new releases, Australian rockers Amyl and The Sniffers debut at No.21 (3,417 sales) with Comfort To Me, while American indie-rock band Low are No.23 (3,137 sales) with Hey What, their 13th studio album becoming only their sixth to chart here. Essex ska revivalists Death Of Guitar Pop are No.24 (3,112 sales) with Pukka Sounds, just ahead of Marillion's 1984 album Fugazi, which charts for the first time in 37 years at No.25 (3,112 sales) following the release of a deluxe edition.
Steve Hackett's Surrender Of Silence becomes his second chart album of the year at No.31 (2,626 sales) and following her Mercury Prize win last week Arlo Parks' Collapsed In Sunbeams is boosted back to No.36, adding a further 2,447 sales. Finally there's just room to mention Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized, the 1997 space-rock classic re-issued and back on the charts for the first time in over two decades at No.32 (2,156 sales), taking its career total to 206,610.
Albums sales nudge upwards by 0.55% to 1,797,721. Physical sales however surge 14.96% and hit a seven-week high of 356,893 and a 19.85% market share.
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