Gary Barlow’s tax avoidance strategies have hit the headlines in the UK recently, with MPs calling for the return of Barlow’s OBE*** which was awarded for his charity work. The baying for Barlow’s blood from MPs follow revelations that the singer invested in tax avoidance schemes now declared invalid, reportedly leaving Barlow owing HMRC tens of millions.
Greedy, selfish, unprincipled and thinking only of feathering one’s own nest, the MP’s nevertheless recognised one of their own in the Take That singer and former X-Factor judge.
Cynically designed purely for financial gain whilst Britain still recovers from a global recession, Gary’s song writing has generated him millions of pounds. The income from those records has been stashed in structures that offered little of value except to avoid paying tax. A judge said “in this respect they were very similar to the comedian Jimmy Carr”.
Yet despite HMRC saying about their tax money “we want it back, want it back, want it back for good”, Barlow is officially Britain’s Greatest Ever Songwriter, having beaten both John Lennon and Paul McCartney in a 2009 OnePoll survey which surveyed 3,000 people: dozens of whom, possibly, were of sound mind. It’s certainly hard to argue against such a verdict, with the likes of Take That’s “Pray”, “Shine” and “A Million Love Songs” all head and shoulders above Beatles songs such as “In My Life”, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday”. Indeed, it is often overlooked that some Beatles tunes are somewhat reminiscent of Barlow’s original work.
But tax is not the first thing that Gary Barlow has avoided in his life. To remind us just how special Gary Barlow is, here’s a list of Ten Other Things Gary Barlow Has Avoided:
1. Writing More Than One Decent Song: We’ll give Mr Barlow the benefit of the doubt on “Back For Good” given how mushy half the UK’s female population act around vintage Take That, (against all reason) but has ever a reputation been spread so thinly around one song? Gary’s legendary songwriting talent appears only to be legendary in the OED meaning of the word, viz “An inauthentic story popularly regarded as true”…
2. An Air of Humility As If To Say “I’m Just The Luckiest Guy On The World Given My Modest Talents”. There’s nothing wrong with having very little talent. God knows, I have based this entire blog on that premise. However, having little talent carries great responsibilities. These include Humility, Humbleness, and Not Wearing A Great Big Patronising Smug Grin On Your Face.
3. The common touch. “I’d sold my Mercedes” said Barlow in his biography “My Take”. “I’d even got myself an Oyster card. I went about my business in London walking, riding the bus or taking the tube, just like everyone else and I loved it”. That doesn’t sound too bad does it? Except for this passage in Barlow’s book describing the day Elton John suggested Gary get….a butler.
“The third guy I saw was just perfect; Maurice was his name, straight-backed, slightly camp and just the business…he made my life so much easier…my home life became like a scene out of Jeeves and Wooster”. Yup, Gary Barlow once employed a butler…
4. A Decent Haircut. Again, people in glass houses and all that. But ought someone who has squirrelled away so much legally-obtained-yet-not-entirely-equitably-accounted-for-when-it-comes-to-the-tax-man money not put at least some of it to use at the local branch of Tony and Guy? It’s not so much a Hairdo as a Hair-don’t…
5. Not Jumping on the Mumford and Sons Bandwagon. Remember when Mumford and Sons were the biggest thing ever and were selling loads of records in America? And remember how one-dimensional that whole thing rather quickly became? Gary didn’t. What was Gary’s next single? The Mumford sound-a-like “Let Me Go”. It was like the bland leading the bland…
6. Modesty. In Gary Barlow’s biography it takes just fourteen lines for Gary to *remind* us he’s a four-times* Ivor Novello award winner,** and a page to tell us he has sold 24 million records, has total self confidence and has shared it with everyone around him. All whilst he describes being dropped by his record label in March 2000.
7. Donuts. We’ll draw a veil over what was an unhappy time. The Star Stories Take That episode recorded this more brilliantly than any other attempt before or since.
8. Respecting other artists, Not throwing your weight around, Keeping one’s feet on the ground. Barlow described the moment he was told he would have to share turning on the Blackpool lights with Martine McCutcheon in 1999. He said “I want to pull that lever all by myself. In fact if I don’t, I’m going home.” On the way home, he was escorted by seven police motorcycles and got the driver to stop (with the police escort) and get him some fish and chips.
9. Being a gentleman: From “My Take” again: “I wouldn’t even spend the night with them – I wanted a good night’s sleep. You’d get them back to your room, do the business and then say “Right, out”. I’d started off polite but now I couldn’t be bothered.”
10. Performing with really cool edgy artists: Gary’s duets include such underground acts as Michael Bublé and Cheryl Cole.
So there we have it. Let’s hope he doesn’t go on tour again just to pay the bill…
- * He now has six.
- ** other winners of Ivor Novello awards: James Blunt, Celine Dion, East 17, Spice Girls.
- *** The more valuable prize at stake may be his Blue Peter Gold Badge