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Brit Awards Monday, 15 February, 1999, 11:47 GMT
Entertaining Robbie
take that
Take That in 1994: Robbie Williams is at the back
Robbie Williams' six Brit Award nominations round off an amazing decade for the former Take That singer.

The Brit Awards
At the age of just 24, he is enjoying his second burst of fame as a solo artist, after achieving success in the boy band in the early 1990s, falling prey to drink and drug abuse in the mid-90s and reinventing himself as a credible solo artist in the late 1990s.

It all could have turned out so differently for Williams, whose showman attitude owes something to his father, variety performer Pete Conway.

Enlisted into Take That in 1991, Williams - the youngest of the fivesome - was promoted as the 'cheeky' member of the act.

But as the group grew bigger and the pressures became greater, he grew more and more unhappy with the strict rules placed on them.

Turning point at Glastonbury

liam gallagher
Liam Gallagher: A wild weekend with Oasis changed Williams' career
The turning point came in June 1995, when Williams went to the Glastonbury Festival and met Oasis. He joined the band on stage, got drunk with them, and in a weekend he destroyed his pretty-boy pop image forever. Three weeks later, he left Take That.

But he didn't leave the spotlight, and became a fixture of London's celebrity party scene - as well as the tabloid gossip columns. He put on two stone in weight while he reportedly came close to spending the 1m he had earned from four years in Take That.

His first solo single - a cover of George Michael's Freedom - was not a success, and Williams sought solace in drink, drugs and partying.

"There were cigarette butts in a bowl of cornflakes next to the bed, the sheets hadn't been changed for weeks and there were empty vodka bottles scattered about," he said of the time.

Meeting songwriter

robbie williams
Robbie Williams in 1996: A fixture of the London party scene
However, it was at this time he met Guy Chambers - the man behind his current success. Chambers, a former member of the group World Party, became his songwriter, and by the end of 1996 the two were working on Williams' first album, Life Thru A Lens.

It was released quietly in September 1997, and sold slowly until radio stations picked up on the ballad Angels. The album became a massive Christmas hit, and Angels and its glam-rock parody follow-up, Let Me Entertain You, became ubiquitous. Critics joined the public in singing the praises of Williams' talents - and his cheeky personality.

Williams started 1998 a star again, and as he began to overcome his drink and drugs problems, he began a relationship with All Saints singer Nicole Appleton. He returned to Glastonbury - cheering up soaked fans at a festival panned by the press as a rain-sodden fiasco.

Prodigious work rate

robbie williams
Visiting Sri Lanka with Ian Dury in 1998
He kept up a prodigious work rate - releasing a second album, I've Been Expecting You, in October. Featuring guest appearances from the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, the album shows him pouring out his heart and going through his emotions.

One track, Strong, hints at the old times, with the lyric: "My breath smells of a thousand fags and when I'm drunk I dance like my dad."

But some critics have warned Williams could be on the verge of losing control again. He has admitted he finds it difficult. "When you come out of rehab you usually go into secondary care. I went on Top Of the Pops," he said.

Over Christmas he was pictured lying in a hotel corridor, with toothpaste and shaving gel smeared in his hair, having apparently passed out drunk.

One music journalist reportedly told his record company, Virgin: "I was around Jimi Hendrix before he died, and I was around Brian Jones before he died. If you don't sort this out, he'll be with them by the end of the year."

Enormous pressure

robbie williams
Performing last year: Now a hit with festivalgoers
Whatever the future holds for Williams, he is still a young man under enormous pressure. His on-off relationship with Nicole Appleton keeps him in the tabloids, while topping the success of Life Thru A Lens is proving a difficult task.

Last month he played a concert in Hollywood to promote his album Life Thru A Lens, which is released in the US in May.

Record executives hope if he can overcome the temptation to slide back into his old ways, he can make it big in the US - and follow in the footsteps of George Michael and the Spice Girls.

"If I don't get big here, I have a great place to go on holiday," said Williams of his chances of transatlantic fame.

"And if I do get big, then I I'll have enough money to take a holiday on the moon."

See also:

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23 Oct 98 | New Music Releases
18 Jan 99 | Entertainment
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