This story begins shortly before my early teens, in the mid-1990s, in a state school in Rome, Italy, where a classmate called Valentina S. and I shared a huge love for Take That and were massively frustrated by the state of things, especially the state of English.
I remember I was in Year 6 aged 11 when I had the brilliant idea of showing the lyrics of the 1993 Take That single Babe to my then-English teacher. I was desperate to translate my favourite song from English into Italian, but I couldn’t get past 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.
The teacher stared at the compact disc with empty eyes, scratching her nose. Then she said this wasn’t included in our course syllabus and handed the booklet back 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 even understand where have you been – I would bang my head against the wall.
There was no easily available home Internet at the time, and especially there was no Google Translator, so everything we could hope for was for our print teen magazines to publish some translations. Meanwhile and just in case, we would still memorise every single Take That song word by word.
And believe me, you really have to be crazy to learn by heart hundreds of words you don’t even know how to pronounce.
But we refused to let the total inadequacy of our state-funded schools ruin our Take That fandom.
In 1995, the band released a video clip for the single Never Forget with footage taken from the 1994 Pops Tour concerts in Rome and Milan that showed the Italian girls screaming, crying, climbing walls and nearly getting arrested. Around the same time, Gary Barlow & co. confirmed that the craziest fans in the world were actually the Italians together with the Japanese.
I have no idea about the Japanese, but I can confirm that my people are nuts, and that everything changes but us.
When we were like 12 or 13, 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 would all fall asleep in front of MTV whilst recording Take That music videos on VHS tapes.
This day, I heard of a younger compatriot of mine who 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.
Italian fans are fantastic at throwing things.
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 stop the Italians.
Not even the police.
What our security guys do in most cases is telling you off, patronising you, making a big fuss out of it all, and then letting you do exactly whatever you are doing.
They know their sisters and daughters are the same.
Following a boyband in your teenage years is nothing but educational for you and will shape your personality for the better: not being afraid to face gorillas just to throw a teddy bear at your personal Robbie Williams means you won’t hesitate to take risks in life.
Tepid feelings have never encountered burning passions, and the heart is made for yearning, this is why you may enjoy a lot of different music, but in the end you’ll probably find your purpose only in The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Queen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2, R.E.M., David Bowie and all the other eternally magnificent music makers 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 at 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.
★ If you enjoyed this, you’ll also love All the rules I broke to meet Take That
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