Book Review: Get inside the head of pop legend Robbie Williams, in Chris Heath’s Reveal

It’s been thirteen years since Feel, music journalist Chris Heath’s first book with singer Robbie Williams. In that time, Williams has married and started a family, rejoined and left Take That, and further cemented his legacy as one of pop’s true superstars by breaking the Guinness World Record for most tour tickets sold in a single day – a staggering 1.6million. Officially the most successful British solo artist of all time, Williams has battled demons throughout his time in the spotlight and now Reveal picks up where the best-selling Feel left off.

What’s immediately apparent from Reveal is the depth of the connection between writer and subject. Like Feel, this isn’t a staid, standard biography. Heath and Williams work closely together, and as a result the book reads more like diary entries or conversations between friends. It’s a life story told in random spurts in a myriad of locations, bursting with humour, nostalgia, and Williams’ trademark cheeky character. With Heath, it’s clear that Williams is at ease as he opens up about the self-doubt that plagues him, about the addictions of his past that still rear their ugly head from time to time, and about his place in the changing landscape of pop music.

Ultimately, Williams has changed and Reveal is a documentation of that change. Good travels alongside bad – the disastrous drug addled first date with future wife Ayda Fields turning into three weeks of TV, cake, and gentle care is a prime example – and while it’s something of a repeat of the warnings about fame that Feel offers, the Robbie Williams that’s revealed (sorry, couldn’t help it) is certainly at the top of his game, emotionally as much as professionally. Does he still struggle? Yes, but don’t we all?

Like his music, the real attraction in Reveal is Robbie Williams himself. He’s charismatic, funny, and a born performer, with a charm that owes much more to men like Sinatra and Martin than to the pop singers of today. And Chris Heath knows exactly how to harness that now somewhat unusual power, never sensationalising or over dramatising, but instead gently coaxing stories out of his subject. It feels natural and often quite poignant, resulting in a book that might not create a whole new generation of Williams fans, but will certainly show more of the man so many people already adore and admire.

Intimate, honest, and occasionally quite sad, Reveal is the evolution of a portrait began over a decade ago. Written by Chris Heath, in collaboration with Robbie Williams, it is published by Echo and is available now.