David Thomas: Who needs a knighthood when you can be a National Treasure?

Gary Barlow was reinvented as an all-purpose Good Guy of Pop

Share
Related Topics

So who were the winners from the Great British Jubilee Thing? Her Majesty has played a blinder, of course. And anyone in the bunting or Union Flag business must now be leafing through brochures for fast cars and luxury holidays. But no one, surely, has done better than Gary Barlow.

It doesn't seem so long since he was just the chubby one in a boy band aimed, in a not entirely comfortable way, at the twin markets of teenage schoolgirls and adult gay men. Then Take That split, Robbie Williams took over the entire known universe and Gary Barlow sank into an ever sadder and porkier obscurity made all the more bitter by Williams's habit of singing appalling versions of "Back For Good" at his shows, while seated on a prop toilet... or possibly a real one he was actually using at the time.

In 2005 came a bathetic TV documentary, Take That: For the Record, in which the four non-Robbie members got together to talk about the past. The idea, for which they longed with embarrassingly obvious desperation, was that their megastar mate would join them for the retrospective. But he never turned up and when the idea of the quartet getting together to record more material and perhaps even tour was then mooted, few – least of all Take That themselves – saw it as a sure thing.

I interviewed them at the time and discovered that a decade of obscurity had created a bunch of genuinely nice, humble, thoughtful men. There wasn't one of them you wouldn't want to have a beer with, and Barlow, in particular, came across as someone who'd learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I left our confab hoping that if they did decide on a reunion, it wouldn't go too badly.

It turned out there was no need to worry. Take That stormed back into the charts, sold millions of concert tickets and, in a classic showbiz narrative, their resurrection coincided with the implosion of Williams's solo career.

Even more significantly, the group became critically respectable and Barlow himself was reinvented as an all-purpose Good Guy of Pop. If you wanted someone to rustle up a charity concert, play a gig for William and Kate or use his address book to do good, then Barlow was your boy. He's become a sort of sanitised Bob Geldof: all the good intentions, but with a lot fewer swearwords and a lot more hits.

And now, of course, he's provided the official soundtrack to the national festivities by making the chart-topping Jubilee album Sing and curating last night's concert outside Buckingham Palace. As I watched the documentary-of-the-making-of the-song-of-the-Jubilee, it became clear that he is approaching the status of a British National Treasure.

This unofficial, yet unbeatable honour signifies a sort of spectacular Good Chapness, or Game Girlhood that allows people of all ages, classes, races and political opinions to agree that the holder is a thoroughly good egg. The Queen Mum was the greatest of all Treasures, of course, closely followed by her musical equivalent Sir Elton John. Stephen Fry thinks he's one, but isn't. David Cameron will never in a million years be one, but Boris Johnson already is. I think Peter Tatchell certainly should be, Joanna Lumley has been one for ages, Jools Holland is right on the cusp and David Beckham is only a whisker away. Judi Dench has a very good shout and Maggie Smith is certainly one, but only when playing that dowager in Downton Abbey.

To be a National Treasure is to have a sort of invisible knighthood. Gary Barlow is now, I think, in definite Treasure territory. And the knighthood can't be far away, either.

Hard to care about Euro 2012

Here's a flag we're not seeing much at the moment: the Cross of St George. England's footballers are off to the European Championships. Their first game is on Monday and we should by now be buried under a tacky mound of newspaper pullouts, supermarket beer promotions and souvenir coins, while sunburned slobs in ill-fitting England shirts fill the centres of Continental cities.

Instead, there's a perfect storm of "so-what". As the Daily Mash website put it, "England fans gripped by the opposite of fever". A team that wasn't much cop to begin with has acquired a manager with an impressively highbrow taste in literature and the charisma of a soggy cardboard box. Several mediocre players he originally selected have been injured and replaced by even worse ones, and his main tactic is: defend forever, bore the opposition into a deep coma and then hit them on the break.

And there'll only be about 17 supporters because the usual hordes can't stomach or afford a trip to the obscure Ukrainian cities where England will play. We're rubbish. No one cares. And so, for once, I think we might actually win.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality

Farhana Khan
 

Daniel Craig needs to get over himself – there's a reason 007 isn't a right-on geography teacher

Jane Merrick
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests