IF YOU WERE the betting sort. would you have put your money behind Robbie Williams a few years ago‘.’ Turfed otit of Take That for frat- ernising with rock ‘n' roll ne’er-do-wells like l.iam (iallagher. Williams was well into his lost weekend by the time the rest of Britain‘s most successful boy baiid went their separate ways.

Tipsters immediately and predictably backed (iary Barlow (The Talented ()ne) as an lilton John—in-waiting. Here was the man who would outgrow his teenybop audience and cater for the lucrative cosy couples market. .\lark ()wen (The (‘ute One) was an evens shot. No one was sure if his voice was as marketable as his smile. He was last seen heading through the door marked ‘what indie credibility".”. Howard and Jason (The Athletic ()nes) weren't expected to make much of their post—Take That careers. They settled for marriage and Lynda l.a Plante dramas respectively. But Robbie (The (‘heeky ()ne)‘.’ ()ne-way ticket to rehab. surely.

;\ run of chart hits and. crucially. a mega— selling album later. who‘s laughing now'.’ Why not ask Robbie himself'.’ He‘s standing by with a mobile phone. on a train. somewhere. Robbie no need for surname to clarify his identity these days where are you'.’

‘l'm going past some bushes.‘ he says inforiiiatively. cottaging. I‘m going to call my new album (bringing l’ur Begin/wry. I want the world to know that it was me that (ieorge Michael was caught with.‘

Ah. Robbie the (‘heeky (‘happy. Actually. it is he who raises the expression first. while talking about the kind of film roles he is currently being offered at such a rate that he is no longer informed of them all. Robbie is so good at playing himself that it seems everyone wants him to do it for their movie.

'They’re all cheeky chappy parts.‘ he says. 'l‘vc been offered roles with Harvey Keitel and big Hollywood names. the parts Phil (‘ollins would play if he was my age. lf 1 was going to do some- thing. l'd actually want to play a vicious role. But I really want to establiin myself as being a musician. or at least an entertainer. and then 1 can go off and do all that stuff when people know I‘m serious about my music.‘

See. however mad—for-it Robbie Williams might appear. he‘s a very shrewd young man. He would have to be. to have pulled off his phenomenal crossover success. with his album Life 'l'liru xl Lens revisiting the Number One spot and obviously selling to more than former Take That fans. With ‘Angels‘. his (‘hristmas/New Year hit and it was a proper hit. with an extended chart life Williams even managed to invade and capture the big ballad territory. previously seen to be the birthright of his nemesis (iary Barlow. So. which ex—Take That boy is feeling on top of the world‘.’

“Well. it’s not that I wake up every morning and think. “Oh great. I‘ve beaten them all".. says Williams. ‘lt’s just that. y"know. l was right and I’m just proving that now. The satisfaction comes from being Number One and beating all the other artists in the charts. not just the boys from Take That. In print. that sounds big-headed. but if you‘re in a football team and you leave to go to another

‘I fancy doing a spot of


football team. then the ex-football team that you‘re playing against. you wanna beat.‘

lispecially if you're the underdog. .-\iiyone who watched Williams‘ descent into '.\l_\ Home Hell. and ‘yes-l-have-eaten-all-the- pies' over-indulgence can testify that his current success is at least a minor triumph over the odds.

‘l jtist wanted to go ottt and get pissed for a while.’ he says inatter—of—factly. "There was always the feeling I‘d be going back to do something. but I just had to go and fall otit with myself for a little while. and see why I couldn‘t do what I was told l couldn't do and I found out.‘

With the worst of his excesses dealt with. Williams struck tip a songwriting partnership with (iuy Chambers. The job of re—ingratiating himself to the record—buying public began gently enough with a cover of (ieorge Michael‘s 'l'i'eedonf and brash pop songs like ‘()ld Before I l)ie‘. ‘l.a/y l)ays‘ showed he could do moodier material and let Me lintertain You‘. with its affectionate Kiss parody video. proved he could do whatever the hell he wanted. really.

We are now fast approaching a (’tilt ()f Robbie. The girls screamed at him in Take That. now the guys want to be mates with this jokey. friendly guy. Doesn't he get fed tip being the genial Robbie Williams we see constantly on T\".’

‘.\'o. not at all. because it is the real me.‘ he ‘l'm a bit daft and a bit eccentric. There’s a part of me that. when I go out. I ptit on this thing that sort of protects me and gets me through an evening when I‘m working. ()thei'wise. being me. I'd probably get bored. pissed off and leave in two seconds. I do things that keep me interested and. if that‘s my persona. that keeps me interested then it‘s doing a good job.’

:\ pertinent indication of how far Robbie Williams has come in the last three years is to compare his two T in the Park appearances. ln


'I'm going to call my new album Cottaging For Beginners. I want the world to know that it was me that George Michael was caught Robbie Williams

l‘)‘)5. he turned up unofficially to schnioo/e and play the jester backstage as that years ‘have you seen who's here'." celeb.‘l‘m sure I had a good time when l was there.’ he says. ‘I

just can‘t remember any of it.‘ This time. his

main stage set is one of the most hotly anticipated of the summer.

‘I don’t know what to expect.' he says. ‘I didn't want to do festivals in the beginning. I was just a bit scared about the reception 1 was going to get from the audience. having been in a boy band. .\'ow I just think. "l’uck it. it‘s going to be a great laugh". .\'o matter if l().()()() people boo me or not. ljtist want to get up and have a good laugh.

‘livei'ything's going so well. ljust hope the momentum keeps tip. I‘m getting and I‘ve got mainly what I want in my life career-wise. I‘m probably one of the happiest people in the world at the minute which is great. That‘ll do for me.’

Robbie Williams plays the main stage at T in the Park on Saturday 11 July.

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