The International Writers Magazine:Pop Idols

Devastation in the Nineties: Take That Split
Sara Richardson

My tale begins on the ominous day of Friday 13th February, 1996. Actually, it was a Tuesday, but it was such a gay day, it may as well have been Friday 13th. I was at school with my then mates, Lucy and Alex, who were my friends because we were all in love with Take That.

I especially loved Mark. He was beautiful. O.M.G. In case he needs an introduction, Mark Owen was Take That’s dreamiest member. Lucy liked Gary Barlow and Alex had a thing for Jason. We were the biggest Take That losers at school and we were mightily smug about it. We were the authority on Take That. We were completely smitten and convinced we were going to marry them.

After a dull day a school, during which we all wrote our married names on our notebooks in French when we were supposed to be revising the old avoir and etre basics, we strolled back to my house to plan our weddings. This little exercise is always a mood-lifter when you are spinster, as I was when I was thirteen. I still do it now, actually. Anyway, you research all the bridal magazines and pick out a dress, honeymoon, venue… It’s bloody great. We would end the fun by sticking our faces and our husbands’ faces on the pictures in the mags. Voila! Instant Take That wedding album.

We were having bags of fun when my mum came home with my stupid little fat sister, Beth, who came charging in wearing her grubby football kit and a really annoying grin on her chubby face.
"Jenna, Take That has split up," she said, then stood there, panting. Ugh.
"Whatevs, don’t lie," I answered. "And get out of my room, you dirty little brat."
"I’m not lying. Ask Mum. It was on the radio when she picked me up from football."
"Take That hasn’t split," said Lucy. "I would know. I would feel it in my waters."
I do not know exactly what she was on about to this day. Anyway, I wasn’t worried. Beth was always playing mean jokes on me. I would get her back.
"Beth, say nuspi fives times fast," said Alex.
Then Mum came in. Oh, God. She actually looked a bit weird. Sort of grave and like she was trying to be dignified.
"Beth, go away," said Mum. Oh no, she looked really serious.
"What’s happened?" I asked, hoping Dad had died or some other family tragedy.
"Take That has split up," said Mum.

I cried all night. Mum brought us hot chocolate with squirty cream, and she even left us the squirty cream to finish, but nothing could ease the pain. We cried and clutched our wedding photos and played our beloved tunes. We watched the news and it was all true, so we cried some more. Then, I cried myself to sleep and dreamed that it hadn’t happened, but I woke up the next day and realised that it had, so I cried again. All I had were my memories and my merchandise and my CDs and my wedding photos. I stared at the fake photo of Mark and me getting married and thought about how happy I would have been. Looking back I was being a knob, but if thirteen year olds weren’t all idiots they’d be allowed to vote so I was just doing my job.

School was a no go. Lucy didn’t go either; we stayed in our beds of tears in protest. Mum was being unusually understanding and didn’t bother me, but Lucy had to have a tantrum to get her mum to believe she wasn’t up to school. Lucy was well a bit thick, though, so her mum was strict about her going to school so she’d become educated and be less of an embarrassment. I digress; the point is, Lucy stayed home, I stayed home and bloody Alex went to school, and I copped, of course, and her excuse was that it was cooking that day and she’d already bought the ingredients for her korma. Keeno alert! It’s stuff like this that makes me glad I missed school that day. What’s the point of learning to make something you can get in a jar or have delivered to your door by people that already know how to make it? Also, right, if you make your own you are only robbing the take-away proprietors of a living. Alex was well out of order going to school just to make curry, and I rejoiced in my knowledge that she would have no one to sit with in maths, meaning Fat Jo and Gay Ben (who we hated) would call her a loner.

Lucy and I met up to discuss the traitor at her crib, since she was too ill to leave her bed and I could just manage if I thought about how Lucy needed me.
"I talked to Bec and she said Alex was fine today," Lucy told me. "She is blatantly not even bothered. Maybs she doesn’t care as much as she makes out when she’s with us."
"She has betrayed us; she should be in mourning at home," I said. "She should be wearing black and crying and not eating. I haven’t eaten today."
"Me either," said Lucy, who was practically anorexic anyway. Then, and this annoyed me, Alex turned up.
"Hi," she said. "I called on you after school, Jenna, your mum said you were here. Look what my dad got me; it’s a Tamagotchi. It’s a virtual pet! You should have come to school. We made curry. Mine was well a bit nice."
"Whatevs," I said, scathingly. "I see you have forgotten our heroes in Take That before they are cold in their graves."
"Well, they are blatantly all going to make solo singles, and they were heading for a split ever since Robbie left."
"Never did you just say that," I exploded. "Don’t make light of this tragedy. Take That is no more. It is not a joke."
"I didn’t say it was a joke," said Alex. "O.M.G. You are being melodramatic. Why don’t we start liking the Spice Girls? Times are changing; maybs girl bands are in for a revival. Girl Power, innit?"
"Girl Power?" spat Lucy. "You are well a lezzer. You want to marry Baby Spice."
"Yeah, don’t come in here, brandishing your Tamagotchi and your Spice Girls, like it’s fashionable," I said.
"For some of us, amazingly, after one day, the pain is still too raw. I’m going home to my bed of tears. I heard they set up special Samaritans hotlines for people that want to kill themselves because Take That split. Some people know what’s important." With that, I stormed out.

That night, I rang The Samaritans. They were rubbish. All they wanted to talk about was whether I wanted to die. I did and they didn’t even try to talk me out of it. Anyway, I spent the evening after that in my bed sighing, then sobbing, then telling Beth she was adopted, then sighing loads… I had never felt miserable like that before and I haven’t since. It went on for a long time, and I did think about killing myself, even taking three Nurofen one night and then chickening out, but eventually, very eventually, it turned out that the Spice Girls were a bit cool after all. Take That, however, always had a shrine in my wardrobe. I swore I would never forget them. Three girls apparently did top themselves, which made me feel inadequate, but I decided I was a better fan by keeping them alive in my shrine.

Now, many long years went by and the boys came to realise that they were better off together than trying to forge crappy solo careers (apart from Robbie, of course) so now I find myself in front of the TV watching an audience with Take That: the boys are back together and life is groovy. As for those nutters that killed themselves back when they split? Well, I just bet that they are well gutted now.
© Sarah Richardson December 2006

Sara is studying for her Masters at the University of Portsmouth

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