WHEN Take That broke up on February 13, 1996 at the height of their fame, teenage girls throughout the UK were literally in mourning.
So much so that the Samaritans set up a telephone hotline dedicated to talking to distraught fans who were overwhelmed by the news that Britain’s biggest boy band were no more.
The rot had began six months earlier when Take That’s naughtiest member Robbie Williams quit after he was issued with an ultimatum to clean up his drug abuse.
In the space of five years Take That – Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason Orange, Howard Donald and Williams – scored eight UK No.1 singles and three No.1 albums to become undoubtedly the country’s biggest pop act.
While Take That never reached the same levels of hysteria in Australia, their 1995 single Back For Good cracked No.1 on the ARIA charts.
Owen tells Weekender in hindsight it was the perfect time to break up.
“The first time around was wonderful - and please don’t get me wrong - we were very grateful, but on many levels we were quite immature mentally and physically,” Owen says.
“We were quite naive. Rob was 16 and I was 17 when I joined the band. As people we were still learning and it didn’t all go great the first time.
“We struggled with various things, but didn’t know how to discuss it, talk through it, and didn’t have the experience in life to handle it in certain ways.”
Following the split, Barlow, Owen and Williams all attempted solo careers with varying levels of success.
While Barlow and Owen soon flickered out, Williams’ cheeky brand of charisma made him a massive international star with songs like Rock DJ, Angels, Better Man, Let Me Entertain You and Kids with Australian pop star Kylie Minogue.
Eventually in 2006 Take That reformed as a four-piece without Williams and returned with a No.1 album Beautiful World.
Williams made a brief return for their album Progress in 2010, and its subsequent world tour, before returning to his solo career.
Orange then left Take That amicably in 2014, leaving the group as a three-piece.
In the past decade since Take That’s second coming the hysteria has subsided somewhat and Owen, 45, and his bandmates aren’t quite the photogenic pretty boys they once were.
However, they’ve still managed another four No.1 singles and maintained a worldwide audience. Owen says even losing Orange hasn’t damaged Take That.
“Now it feels normal,” he says of being a three-piece. “I don’t forget, but it feels like the normal number now. It would feel weird if Jason came back tomorrow.
“We’ve gotten used to it now and settled in. Initially I’d look at our picture and it looked weird seeing three of us, like someone was missing. It doesn’t look like that to me now.”
The comeback hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Take That and its members.
In 2010 Owen publicly admitted to having multiple affairs and later checked himself into rehabilitation for alcohol abuse.
The affable lad from Lancashire has since emerged with renewed focus on his family, that includes actress wife Emma Ferguson and their three children Elwood, 11, Willow, 8 and Fox, 5.
“I’m trying to be a good dad, that’s what I do when I’m not working,” he says.
“I’m still learning about that. I’m enjoying spending time with them and making sure I don’t feed them as much sugar as I used to eat when I was growing up.
“I’m trying to be a good support for them as they go about their lives and experiences.”
Take That only toured Australia once in September 1995, just months after Williams quit. They returned in 2006 on a promotional tour, but played no concerts.
November’s tour with Aussie pop star Dannii Minogue will also mark Take That’s first visit to Newcastle.
“I think we’ve neglected these places where we haven’t been for such a long time and I don’t know exactly why,” Owen says.
“Our aim is to get to these places that we haven’t been to in a long time and say hello.
“When we do shows in Europe and the UK we see so many flags from Australian people who come over and see us.
“It’s our duty to go and visit them. They no longer have to get on a plane and see us.”
Take That and Dannii Minogue perform at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on November 19.