Saturday 21 October 2017

'When the Ecstasy was Good, I was Brilliant'

HAMMING IT UP: A long list of musical stars turn up alongside Robbie Williams on his new album, including Lily Allen, Rufus Wainwright and his buddy Olly Murs
HAMMING IT UP: A long list of musical stars turn up alongside Robbie Williams on his new album, including Lily Allen, Rufus Wainwright and his buddy Olly Murs
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

'I like drugs and sex," Robbie Williams told me earlier this year. "I like seeking oblivion. And I don't think there has been a day that has gone by really in the last however-many-years that I haven't have had some form of drug in some form of way. I don't mean your street drugs. I don't mean necessarily your doctor prescribed drugs. You know, it could be anything from coffee to chocolate to coke to Ecstasy to weed."

I asked him what was he like on Ecstasy.

"When the Ecstasy was good," Robbie replied matter of factly, "I was brilliant. But Ecstasy isn't very good now," he continues. What was far more interesting, however, is that the former Take That star has finally found what he has been looking for all his eventfully screwed-up life: love and security with his wife Adya, and their young daughter Theodora.

"I am very, very happy. And Adya has an awful lot to do with it. I can't take anything away from what her partnership has given to me," he said adding about his daughter: "I get the feeling she is going to be some sort of entertainer, or a comedian of some sort."

On his new song Go Gentle, Robbie sings some advice for the future for Theodora, still only one year old: 'So when you go dancing with young men down at the disco/ Just keep it simple/ You don't have to kiss though.'

Theodora's dad, now 39, still looks like, as The New Yorker once dubbed him, a young Sean Connery gone to seed. His razzmatazzy new album Swings Both Ways – his follow-up to 2001's similarly retro-themed Swing When You're Winning – is equal parts karaoke Frank Sinatra and pungent X Factor hold-your-nose cheese. The album swings between big band-era croon of covers like Minnie The Moocher and Puttin' On The Ritz and some original songs written with Angels co-writer Guy Chambers.

It is insufferably hammy in parts but that is possibly part of the fun. On the kitsch title track, guest vocalist Rufus Wainwright attempts to put the star of the show straight, so to speak, about something: "Face it, Robbie, you're a little bit gay." Lily Allen (Dream A Little Dream), Kelly Clarkson (Little Green Apples) and Michael Buble (Soda Pop ) also put in guest-turns elsewhere variously scat singing, finger-clicking, high-fiving and generally hamming it up like they were at a charity ball in front of their mates. Olly Murs duetting with Robbie on I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book is about as pointless as an ashtray on a motorbike. That Murs is here at all is ironic on so many levels, not least because Olly has practically made a career out of being a yellow-pack Robbie Williams impersonator.

The album closes with No One Likes a Fat Pop Star and Williams emoting: "No breakfast, no luncheon, just carpet I'm munching". It isn't quite in the same class of droll as his 2000 duet with Kylie Minogue, Kids, when he sang, with his tongue in the region of his cheek: "Single-handedly raising the economy/ ain't no chance of the record company dropping me/ Press be asking 'Do I care for sodomy?/ I don't know–yeah, probably."

No doubt some day Robbie will have to explain this, and other choice, lyrics to his daughter when she grows up.

Robbie Williams' Swings Both Ways is out now.

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