While written by Gary Barlow, this romantic ballad was the first song by Take That to feature Mark Owen on lead vocal. It tells the story of a man attempting to reunite with his lover after being torn apart for unknown reasons. Upon finding her, the man also discovers his sweetheart gave birth to his child while he was absent:
As you looked away
I saw a face behind you
A little boy stood at your door
And when I looked again
I saw his face was shining
He had my eyes
He had my smile
According to Barlow, "Babe" was written for Owen at the request of Take That's manager, Nigel Martin-Smith. Speaking in his autobiography, My Take, Barlow said: "Before we left England, Nigel said to me, 'I think it's really important for Mark to have a song on the album. He gets the most mail and he's never had a track to sing.' It was in Japan that I started work on 'Babe.'"
Barlow added it was the first song to feature Jason Orange on guitar: "Besides being Mark's song, 'Babe' was an important song in the history of the band for another reason – it was the song that got Jason into playing the guitar. Jay had always felt that musically he didn't contribute to the band like the rest of us, which is what prompted him to take up the guitar."
He continued: "Eventually Mark, whose voice was getting better, and Jay, who had totally cracked the chords for the chorus, had the song down pat; it was time for the middle eight. The trouble was I didn't want Jay to have to learn any more chords, so I wrote the rest of the song around the ones he already knew. There was one other complication in that Mark was at the top of his range, so it couldn't go any higher. It's a hell of a way to write a hit."
"Babe" was Take That's third consecutive single to reach the top of the chart after "Pray
" and "Relight My Fire
." This was the first time an artist had achieved such a feat in the UK.
On December 19, 1993, "Babe" was knocked off the top spot by Mr. Blobby's self-titled novelty single, denying Take That the coveted Christmas #1. Take That missed out on the Christmas #1 again in 2006, when "Patience
" was pipped at the post by The X Factor
winner Leona Lewis' rendition of "A Moment Like This
The music video for "Babe'' was directed by Gregg Masuak. It follows a similar concept to the song lyrics, depicting Owen going in search of his partner and the mother to his child after returning from combat.Speaking with Songfacts
in 2017, Masuak – who also directed the videos for "Pray," "Everything Changes
," and "Sure" – discussed how much he enjoyed working with Take That: "I'm happiest and proudest when people just trust
and back off a bit and let me do my creative thing, so videos like 'Pray' and 'Babe' for Take That were brilliant experiences as they really let me run with ideas."
This song features in the Christmas special episode of the British comedy series Only Fools and Horses. "Babe" can be heard playing in the Nag's Head pub during "Fatal Extraction," which originally aired on BBC One on December 25, 1993. It's long been rumored Robbie Williams appears as an extra in the scene, drinking a pint of beer behind one of the show's main characters, Rodney Trotter.
"Babe" scooped the International Viewer's Choice Award for MTV Europe at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1994. This gong was eventually retired in 1998, replaced instead with the regional categories at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
"Babe" was the fourth single released from Take That's sophomore studio album, Everything Changes. Since its release, the song has been certified Gold, having sold over 400,000 copies in the UK. Everything Changes, meanwhile, has been certified 3x Platinum, with the album holding the record for the highest number of Top 10 singles by a band in the UK.