The Story of... 'Angels' by Robbie Williams

24 June 2021, 16:01

The Story of... 'Angels' by Robbie Williams
The Story of... 'Angels' by Robbie Williams. Picture: Chrysalis/YouTube

By Tom Eames

'Angels' by Robbie Williams is one of the ultimate power ballads that is guaranteed to get everyone up and singing.

The classic 1997 ballad has become not only Robbie Williams' signature song, but it's easily one of the greatest love songs ever made.

But did you know the song's backstory? Who wrote it? What is it about? Here's all you need to know...

  1. Who wrote 'Angels'?

    Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers
    Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. Picture: Getty

    Robbie claimed he wrote the song with Guy Chambers in 25 minutes. However, it was later revealed that a demo version of 'Angels' was written and recorded by Robbie and Irish musician Ray Heffernan during a drunken evening in Dublin in 1996.

    Robbie later bought out Heffernan's rights to the song for £7,500. He later re-wrote it in London with Chambers.

    Read more: Robbie Williams and his Dad: The fascinating story of the singing pair’s relationship

    Hefferman said: "We met in a Dublin pub during the Christmas holidays of 1996, and proceeded to go out and have a few beers etc. He ended up staying in my place, as we had said we would try to write some songs together. I had one that I had written in Paris called 'An Angel Instead,' which he liked, and we worked on it together.

    "He called Louis Walsh, who organised a studio for us, and we recorded a version of it here in Dublin. He went back to England after that, and we lost touch. I was therefore very surprised to hear that 'Angels' was on his new album.

    "I got in touch, and essentially signed a waver of my rights to the song for just £7,500 and the rest is musical history. I'm still writing songs and selling albums independently and he is a corporation."

  2. What is 'Angels' about?

    Robbie has said in the past that the song is about his aunt and uncle.

    He wrote it with Chambers while sitting outside a cafe watching a water fountain, and this is what inspired them for the soaring chorus.

    Robbie Williams tattoos: Why does he have a Two Ronnies glasses tattoo?

    He has also said that it is about his interest in the paranormal.

    "I believed that stuff when I wrote 'Angels' – that's why I wrote 'Angels', he told the Telegraph in 2009.

    "'Angels' isn't about anybody, it's about the thoughts that loved ones that have passed on come back and take care of you."

  3. Where was the music video filmed?

    The video for 'Angels' was directed by Vaughan Arnell, who has also made videos for George Michael, James Blunt, Will Young and many others.

    Watch Robbie Williams and Ed Sheeran team up for surprise 'Angels' singalong - video

    Filmed at Saunton Sands largely from the air, Robbie walks around a beach, stares at the sky, kicks a football and rides a motorbike with a woman while a helicopter flies around them.

    In 1999, he filmed a second video for the US market, which saw him on top of a roof, watching the city below.

  4. 'Angels' saved Robbie's career

    After leaving Take That in 1995, Robbie had scored two number two singles on his own.

    However, his star power was beginning to fade, with his fourth single only reaching number 14, which at the time, was seen as something of a flop for such a big artist.

    However, 'Angels' was his next single, and it became a huge hit single and signature song. From then on, he soon became the UK's biggest popstar of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    It amazingly never reached number one. Despite only reaching number four, 'Angels' spent 27 weeks in the UK chart and is by far Robbie's biggest-selling song. In June 2009, it passed the million-sales mark.

    It was never a big hit in the States, and only reached number 53 over there.

    Robbie also recorded a Spanish version:

  5. Who else has covered 'Angels'?

    Among the artists to have given it a go, include:

    In November 2013, Olly Murs released a music video for his song 'Hand on Heart', imitating the video to 'Angels'.

    Also directed by Arnell, and shot in black-and-white, the video featured a cameo appearance by Robbie himself. "Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I am easily flattered, and I love Olly. We always have a good time together and this was no exception," he said at the time.