ROBBIE – 2004 BIOGRAPHY
ROBBIE WILLIAMS – Entertainer, showman, hit machine. At the age of only 30, Robbie has already been a household name for 13 years, transforming him from boy-band pin-up to the nation’s favourite entertainer.
For five years in Take That and the last eight years as a solo performer, he has produced a constant stream of nearly 30 hit singles. Robbie’s solo songs soundtrack the soap opera of his life and the times in which he has lived it, chronicling his rise to superstardom and his struggles as a man.
Back in 1995 Robbie’s pop career was looking done and dusted by the time he was barely 21. That summer he walked out on Take That, the boy band with whom he enjoyed eight straight number-one hits and became a teen idol. A result of refusing to be controlled as a pop puppet any more, his departure prompted the group’s split a year later.
Boys who break up successful bands seldom prosper on their own. And true to form, solo success proved hard to find at first. Robbie’s first few singles and debut album brought only modest success by the chart-topping standards to which he was accustomed. Then, as Christmas 1997 approached his epic soaring ballad ‘Angels’ became the anthem for a generation. Before long his first solo album ‘Life Thru A Lens’ hit number one – six months after its release.
The summer of ’98 saw Robbie conquer Britain. He suddenly started winning a new generation of grown-up admirers. He was voted the year’s best male singer not only by his old Smash Hits, fans, but also the discerning readers of NME and Melody Maker. The defining moment of the year – indeed of Robbie’s entire career – was Glastonbury’s mass singalong to ‘Angels’ and ‘Let Me Entertain You’ by the biggest crowd ever gathered in front of the Pyramid Stage. Followed by similar scenes at Slane, V98 and T-in-the-Park.
The ego really had landed. And with the Britpop bubble bursting, Britain had finally found a new star.
From then, it’s been a story of unparalleled success. His next single, ‘Millennium’, gave Robbie his first number one single. A month later his second album, ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’ (October 1998), followed it to the top of the charts.
The following year was his most successful yet. In January 1999 he became the first act for seven years to have two albums in the top ten at the same time – and in November ‘She’s The One’ (a double-A-side with ‘It’s Only Us’) gave him his second chart-topping single. In between, he took his third sell-out tour to 13 cities around the UK and Ireland, with all 220,000 tickets selling out in hours. His show at Slane Castle sold out faster than any previous headliner, among them Queen, REM, Bowie and Springsteen.
In the new millennium, success kept on coming. Another number one single with ‘Rock DJ’ – equally memorable for Robbie’s controversial video – paved the way for another new entry at number one for his next album, ‘Sing When You’re Winning’ (August 2000).
For his next project, Robbie indulged his love of old-time swing music, paying tribute to the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr – with ‘Swing When You’re Winning’ (November 2001). A collection of old standards, it featured duets with a host of guest superstars including, thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and the permission of the Sinatra estate), Old Blue Eyes himself. Robbie ended the year, as it had begun, at the top of the charts – with his fifth number one single, ‘Somethin’ Stupid‘, a duet with Nicole Kidman.
Leaving London for Los Angeles in search of peace and the chance to recharge his batteries, Robbie planned 2002 as a well-earned year off. Instead He spent the year writing and recording and by the end of the year he had another new album. Released a year to the day after its predecessor, ’Escapology‘ (November 2002) followed all four of his previous albums straight to number one.
Robbie returned with a bang in the summer of 2003, a massive world tour including three days at Knebworth, which drew close to 375,000 fans to the Hertfordshire estate in August, and have been hailed as the biggest open-air shows ever staged in the UK.
The last notes had barely echoed into the distance before the shows were swiftly followed by ’Live At Knebworth‘ (September 2003), which instantly became the fastest-selling live album in UK chart history. Likewise, ’What We Did Last Summer‘ became the fastest-selling and biggest-selling music DVD of all time.
The stats continue to pile up. Robbie’s global album sales now stand at 32 million and he had accumulated 19 top ten singles in the UK before the release on Monday (4 October) of ’Radio‘ – one of two new songs on his Greatest Hits. Meanwhile, his bulging trophy cabinet includes a record 14 Brit awards and an especially-prized Ivor Novello award for songwriting (with Guy Chambers).
So where next for Robbie Williams? Well, there’s the just-published biography, ’Feel‘ (written by Chris Heath): essential reading not just for fans but as an insight into a superstar’s struggle with his personal demons. There’s the new single, ’Radio‘, sporting an infectious synth-pop style forged with new co-writer Stephen Duffy (original member of Duran Duran). And in December there will be another new single, the epic ballad ’Misunderstood‘.
But for now there’s ’Greatest Hits’ – a collection that comprehensively documents one of pop’s most extraordinary careers. So far…
UK Greatest Hits track listing:
1 Old Before I Die
2 Lazy Days
4 Let Me Entertain You
6 No Regrets
8 She’s The One
9 Rock DJ
12 Let Love Be Your Energy
14 The Road to Mandalay
16 Come Undone
17 Sexed Up