Robert Peter Williams was a sixteen-year-old selling double glazing when he auditioned for a new boy band which became Take That. Twenty years later he is one of the most popular entertainers Britain has ever produced: he has recorded eight number one albums in the UK and sold 1.6 million tickets for his 2006 world tour in a day. The most successful artist in the history of The Brits, Robbie was given a Lifetime Achievement Award one day before his 36th birthday in 2010.
The UK’s leading celebrity biographer Sean Smith has followed Robbie’s remarkable journey from the unpromising streets of Stoke-on-Trent to the millionaire’s playground of Beverley Hills and discovered a vulnerable, funny, gifted and deeply complex man. Using new research and interviews, Sean Smith reveals there is far more to being Rob than just being Robbie Williams, superstar.
Robbie explains his love for his mother and his troubled relationship with his father. It chronicles his love of performing which began when he won a talent contest, aged three, and traces his need to be one of the boys as well as his first tentative steps with the opposite sex. His phenomenal success with Take That came at a price as drink, drugs and depression took hold of his fragile personality.
Everything seemed rosier when he signed an £80 million record deal and moved to Los Angeles but overnight his golden touch disappeared when critics turned on his album Rudebox and rumours began that he suffered from stage fright. But, now, drug free and with a million selling comeback album, his fortunes have again been transformed. His much anticipated reunion with Take That is finally going to happen and he has fallen in love.
Robbie’s roller coaster story will astonish you. Sean Smith’s hilarious and heartbreaking account of his life will be the unmissable showbusiness book of the year.
“Rob just wasn’t himself. His pal Zoë Hammond could hear it in his voice. This was Rob’s first big role, playing the Artful Dodger in Oliver! at the Queen’s Theatre, Burslem. It was opening night and Zoë had helped him get ready, brushing off his blue tail-coat and making sure his hair was just right. Rob was fourteen and born to play Dodger but Zoë knew he could be prone to nerves. Everything had started normally. She had stood in the wings with him, waiting for his first cue, and whispered, ‘Go get ’em’ in his ear so he would get an adrenalin buzz as he swept on stage. Zoë saw he was OK and went back to the dressing room to finish preparing for her small role as Beth. She could hear Rob over the Tannoy launch into ‘Consider Yourself’.
‘It was, like, “that’s not him” and I knew something was wrong.’ She turned to other children in the cast and remarked, ‘What’s up with him?’
After fifteen minutes Rob came off the stage. Zoë could see he was upset and put her arms around him, and said, ‘I knew the moment you sang your first line. What’s up?’
Rob started crying and told her, ‘I just said my first spiel and I looked down into the pit, like, and, bugger me, but I’ve looked up and there is my fucking old man in the front row.’ Rob had no idea his dad was coming to see him: ‘How I remembered that song and how I remembered any of the words, I don’t know. I’ve got to get a grip before I go back on.’
Zoë recalls, ‘He was all tearful. You know lads: they want to be big and bolshie with it but he didn’t. Not many lads would open up like that, would they?’
Zoë gave him a little squeeze and a pep talk: ‘“Right, come on, he’s there; he’s come to see you, so give him something to be proud of.” And he said, “Yeah!”, and he went back on. He’s put his dad on a pedestal, you see. But when he went back out he was brilliant. It made me cry because I loved him so much at that time.”
what sean says
From the moment I stepped off the train in Stoke-on-Trent I was astonished at what a small world it was. I knew Rob was from the Tunstall area so had booked myself into a local pub. The taxi driver taking me there told me of the time he had been waiting for a fare and Rob’s mother Jan had turned up in her gleaming BMW car. Out walked Rob with Nicole Appleton of All Saints, whom he had brought home for the weekend. I was told that Rob’s dad. Pete Conway, had sunk many a pint in the Sneyd Arms, where I was staying, and Rob had done a spot of karaoke there.
On my first evening I strolled out to an Indian restaurant, the Kashmir Garden, where the waiter told me his brother was in the same class as Rob at school and that he used to see him rollerblading down the pavement outside. Rob had shown his mum his famous Maori tattoo for the first time while they were eating a curry. She was not impressed.
A few streets away was the house where Rob’s beloved Nan lived and where he spent many happy childhood hours. I casually asked a man in overalls next to a van if he happened to know Rob’s grandmother who used to live in the street. He answered, ‘I used to live next door. In fact, I bought her house from Rob’s father when she died.’