The year was 1988, my walls were plastered with posters ripped from numerous magazines, namely Smash Hits and Fast Foward. Alternating around my eleven year old self’s bedroom; Kylie, Jason, Kylie, Jason. Neighbours was big but these two were bigger.
It had begun earlier than this. I remember my parents saving up tokens from The Sun newspaper for a huge Adam Ant poster which hung proudly on the chimney breast in my bedroom. I remember every Sunday plugging my headphones in to listen to the Top 40 on the radio, and later trying to record my favourite songs without Bruno Brookes talking over them. I remember my friend Maria and I kissing my Rick Astley poster good night when we had sleepovers…yes, Rick Astley. I was destined to be a fangirl. I always was a fangirl, come to think of it.
Every week I would fastidiously cut out lyrics from Smash Hits glue them on to paper, slip them into plastic wallets my dad had stolen from the stationary cupboard at work and file them away in my red and white heart ring binder that matched my wallpaper (what you could see of it) and my curtains. The late eighties were really the time to be alive! This weekly ritual continued way into my teens and into the nineties. The artists changed so did the posters. Next came Bros (Craig was my favourite), then New Kids On The Block (I liked Jon – I had a habit of liking the least popular member as I felt a bit sorry for them) and then I found Rock music, and then Grunge.
No time for teeny bopping, I was a lumberjack shirt, Doc Martin, floral skirt wearing grunge girl who could be found at college band nights (getting nits from headbanging – true story!), in garages where my teenage boyfriend’s band where practising, watching Nirvana Unplugged and saving up for Extreme, Guns N Roses, and Little Angels gigs. It was THE BEST. We went to Wembley, Milton Keynes Bowl, Bournemouth International Centre, Southampton Guildhall (Okay, those last two are not so impressive) to see bands…always accompanied by our parents; was usually my dad and my friends’ mums. We were living the dream, the dream of a 14 year old rocker.
As I got older Indie music came into my life. My Saturday job was at HMV. I started on an hourly wage of two pounds and thirty four pence, having turned down a better paid job at British Home Stores. CDs were cooler than towels and clothing, and I was right. I got a 30% discount at HMV and basically every single penny I earnt went straight back in the till, minus some beer money for the weekend. I learnt so much there though from the people I worked with, heard so many different kinds of music and had my ears and eyes opened. The gigs continued but were more small venues with new and up and coming bands. My 17 year old self would follow along with my older colleagues after work on a Saturday. They would buy me drinks but look after me and it was a great time.
So you see, I missed out on Take That the first time round. I knew their music of course, but it wasn’t my time to be a Take That fan. At Uni we would listen to Never Forget loudly, very loudly, at house parties on repeat, and Back For Good was a staple on my excessively large boom box, but I wasn’t a Thatter.
Then just as I was about to emigrate to New Zealand they reformed. I remember watching Take That For The Record and everyone talking about it next morning in the staff room at work. It made a real impact on everyone. The nostalgia was there, even for those of us who thought we had missed it the first time round. Somehow without us knowing Take That had got into everyone’s psyche. They really are a British Institution. That year I got married and one of our wedding gifts, from a friend who I had often drunkly watched the Pray video with, was The Ultimate Collection DVD. The husband laughed ironically, I was smitten.
A million love songs later, listening to TT4 albums in the car, watching The Circus DVD on repeat while breastfeeding an infant going through a growth spurt, chatting lots to my friend who was a big fan the first time round, I found myself really liking the music, but still not a fangirl.
Then about this time last year I saw the new incarnation of Take That; Take That as a threesome. Everything changed (pun intended).
Over here in New Zealand, we get The Graham Norton Show a week after it airs in the UK. I saw Gary, Mark and Howard and fell in love. It was at that moment I became a fangirl again. It was like being a kid again. But what was different now? It was the notion of a fandom.
I have been an avid twitter user for seven years now. I didn’t realise the potential on twitter for being a fangirl. A quick search found Gary Barlow’s profile and it was quickly evident that he uses it to engage with fans a lot. The search continued and I found the other band members and then what was actually more interesting is the fans. I started to follow people from all over the world including UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Germany…everywhere. Together we share pics, links and chat about the band. I have lived vicariously through them as they have gone to dates on the UK tour, the European Tour, Dubai. I have smiled with joy as they have finally met their idols, got their autographs and their selfies. I have also been slightly jealous, but mainly happy for them!
So, I quickly caught up with what I missed. Being a fangirl on the other side of the world to your favourite band must have been hell before the internet. YouTube is my friend. The technology frustrates me sometimes (like this morning when a live stream failed) but for the most part it makes me a very happy lady.
What I have really loved about the fandom is how accepting they are. They don’t care if you have liked the band since day one or if you have only just found out about them yesterday. A fan is a fan, and any support for their favourite band is good. (A side note here, maybe that is because I choose who I follow on Twitter carefully and make sure I follow positive, friendly people, but that really has been my experience of the fandom.) I would love to meet some of these people in real life, but I know that’s unlikely, as unlikely as it is for me actually seeing Take That live…New Zealand really is the other side of the world.
And what about Take That? Why them? Well, for me it is more than the music and the performances, it is about their story, twenty five years in the making. I find their friendships, the break up, the make up, their chemistry intoxicating. Their engagement with their fans is second to none and they do so much for others. If you don’t know about it all check out Take That For The Record https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoR-SPdMOyo and Look Back Don’t Stare https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvfSRMJEFg you might surprise yourself.
So what have I learnt from being a fangirl? Passion. It is good to have passion. Find something you love, and it makes you happy. I know Take That are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for goodness sake, find something YOU are passionate about. I have learnt to not judge other people’s tastes. I stop myself from criticising other people’s tastes. If they’ve got a passion, and it makes them happy, then good on them.
There you go. I was destined to be a fangirl from an early age, maybe it’s in my DNA, but right now I am proud to be a Thatter, so I’m off to listen to the new songs, look lovingly into the eyes of Gary Barlow and read some fanfiction. Isn’t the internet wonderful?