Cosmic Slop #20: Gary Barlow as economic doppelganger

Coronation Street's Ken Barlow

Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow

Gary Barlow’s continued success is bad for the UK economy, or at least Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby seems to think so.

Blame it on a busy schedule, blame it on a lack of anything I felt I could get my teeth into, blame it on a pending deadline, blame it on the boogie…but I’m writing this week’s Slop at the eleventh hour. All week I have found it difficult to find a news music news story I gave enough of a shit about to ramble on about for your reading displeasure.

Not that it really matters. How often do you click on this column, you ungrateful denigrate? Last week I brought religion into this mix in an attempt to stir up some controversy, but our readers are either mature enough to accept differing views or not mature enough to read a column that focuses on religion in relation to hip-hop and, alas, there was no backlash. Damn!

So with a lack of fun/interesting stories to report on, I’m stuck with doing something that I don’t enjoy doing, but find very easy. Basically, I’m going from religious iconoclasm to cultural iconoclasm. In the spirit of that, I have a question for you all; when did Gary Barlow become acceptable again?

Recently, Barlow – who, for the purposes of a snarky swipe because I’m bitter that he has achieved more than I ever will, I will henceforth occasionally refer to as Ken – has been showing up at fans’ weddings to sing A Million Love Songs for the brides. I’m still not sure if that is a Take That song, or the number of love songs he is singing. If it’s the latter he will be singing for an average of five-to-six years per wedding, which theoretically has both its positives and drawbacks.

In at least some of these instances, a Barlow lookalike has been booked, before the real Ken makes his way through the crowd to sing, and then everyone at the reception loses their shit.

What strikes me about this is that we’ve reached a point in civilisation where not only is there demand for the real Ken, but for Ken tribute acts too. But it used to be oh so different.

Do you remember the period between 1996 and 2005? As far as the world was concerned, there was no such thing as Gary Barlow. And we were happy. Do you remember that decade of bliss? Sure, his former bandmate was a huge star, but to give Robbie Williams some credence, he is a pretty charismatic guy, so he can kind of get away with it.

We can’t let Ken keep believing he’s a national treasure. Really, it’s for our own good. I’m talking economically here, and not just when it comes to his dodgy tax arrangements. It goes deeper than simply finding a loophole to allow you to be a rich, pampered, privileged sod. If you look at the basic trajectory of the British economy since Barlow appeared in our lives, it mirrors the highs and lows of his career.

Take That’s debut album, Take That & Party, was released in August 1992. We can see the effect immediately, as almost exactly a month later, Britain plunged into Black Wednesday, a mini-crash of sorts that cost the UK an estimated £3.3 billion, damaging the Conservative Partys standing with the British public so badly that, having held office since 1979, they lost the 1997 general election to Labour and the then-considered-vaguely-likable Tony Blair, and the economy soon began booming.

A year before the Labour landslide victory, Take That split up after four years of making girls scream and bad Mark Owen vocals (how Ken could justify judging people’s vocals when he’s in a group with Owen is beyond me), and Ken’s solo career tanked, making him a pop culture punchline. The economy continued to boom.

And that’s how it continued for years. Ken disappeared from the public eye, and everyone had loads of money.

Then ITV had a bright idea. “I know, let’s make a documentary on Take That.” It was successful, so Take That went back out on tour. That was successful, so they released a new album. That was successful…and then just as Take That mania hit again, we experienced the recession. The worst crash since the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Meanwhile Take That were playing stadiums.

Then Robbie Williams re-joined the group and they had their most successful tour ever (in the UK anyway, they’re not that big anywhere else), and we had a double dip recession. Ken released a successful solo album was awarded an OBE for services to sucking up to the next Prime Minister and the Royals by putting on a massively shit concert with massively shit acts to celebrate the jubilee, and around that time we entered a triple dip recession.

Furthermore, what little recovery the UK economy has experienced has happened during a period where Take That have been fragmented into a three-piece.

Now, this could all be coincidence, but is Gary Barlow really a good enough songwriter for it to be worth the risk? The answer is undeniably; no.


If you give a frig about that dog on Britain’s Got Talent, take it as a sign that you need to re-assess your priorities.

The Persuasions co-founder Jimmy Hayes claimed that Jamie xx didn’t clear a sample of Good Times on his new album…and then remembered later that day that, actually, he did.

I saw The Replacements this week. The fucking Replacements. The motherfucking Replacements. Did you see The Replacements? Cos I did!