This story begins in the late 90s – right before my early teens – in a community school in Rome, Italy, where myself and a classmate called Valentina S. shared a huge love for Take That.
But we were massively frustrated by the state of things, and especially by the state of English.
I remember I was in Year 6 aged 11 when I had the brilliant idea of showing the lyrics of Take That song Babe to my then English teacher. I was trying to translate it from English into Italian, but was stuck at Babe, where have you been? We’d only studied the past tense until then, and I’d never met this form of present perfect before, but I wanted to make sense of my favourite song anyway.
The teacher stared at the CD cover with empty eyes, scratching her nose. She said that this stuff wasn’t included in our course syllabus, and returned the booklet to me as if it was a piece of crap.
To this day – if I think that we were being assigned (poor) grades in English by an incompetent idiot who couldn’t bloody understand where have you been – I would bang my head against the wall.
There was no home Internet at the time, and especially no Google Translator, so everything we could hope for was our print teen magazines to come up with a handful of translated pieces. But this didn’t stop us from learning every single Take That verse by heart.
And believe me, you really need to be insane to pick up foreign words you don’t have the slightest clue about.
But we refused to let the total inadequacy of our state-funded schools prevent us from adoring Take That.
As the band released the video clip of Never Forget in 1995 with footages taken from The Pops Tour that took place that same year – showing thousands of Italian girls doing just whatever – Gary Barlow & co. confirmed that the craziest fans in the world were actually the Italians together with Japanese girls.
I have no idea about the Japanese, but I can confirm that my people are totally nuts and that everything changes but us.
In our teen years, my old Valentina S. spent weeks stalking the national radio until they finally let her on the phone with Gary Barlow for 10 seconds; I managed to hack Mark Owen’s home address and shipped a million love letters to the Lake District in England, and we all would fall asleep in front of MTV recording Take That music videos on VHS tapes.
This day, a younger compatriot of mine I recently met queued for hours outside a gate in Milan with the purpose of throwing a bag full of gifts right in Mark Owen’s face, just the day after having thrown him her bra during a live show.
Real fans are fantastic at throwing items.
Today, as well as yesterday, and always, there are no rules, no personal space, no good manners – there isn’t a single thing in the world that will calm Italian fans down.
Not even the police.
What our security do in most cases is making a big fuss out of it all, and then letting you do exactly whatever you want to do.
They know their daughters and sisters are the same.
Following a boyband in your teenage years is nothing but educational for you, and it’s something that will shape your personality: not being afraid to face gorillas just to throw a teddy bear at your personal Gary Barlow means that you won’t hesitate to take risks in life.
Tepid feelings have never encountered burning passions, and hearts are made for yearning, this is why you may enjoy a lot of different music, but you’ll eventually find your purpose only between The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Queen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2, Rem, David Bowie and all the other eternally magnificent ones I forgot to mention.
And by singing your heart out, you’ll suddenly remember that you do have a heart.
“What would you do for love?” – should be a compulsory question in every date or job interview, because at the end of the day, authentic cravings – not mere hobbies – are what define us.
Don’t ever let that sparkle fade away.
Together, we will rule the world.
PS: I am proud and thrilled to announce that this article has made the subject of debate in a wonderful podcast (the mention is at the beginning, from minute 5.00 approximately) called I’m with the boyband by “boybandologists” Amy and Zoe. What an hour!
PPS: If you liked this post, you’ll LOVE All the rules I broke to meet Take That 😉