The long awaited debut solo album, Life Thru A Lens, was released in September 1997. During a harrowing period for Robbie, recording began at London's Maison Rouge studios in March of that year, shortly after his introduction to Guy Chambers.
After his brief creative fling with writers Eric Bazilian and Desmond Child, Robbie and Guy were keen to create a rockier sound. "Robbie constantly writes lyrics and has some good ideas," said A&R Chris Briggs. "We tried various collaborators, and the one Robbie clicked with was Guy. The demos confirmed we had found a direction."
Released in September - not long after Robbie's stint in rehab, from which he emerged two stones lighter - the album launched with his first live solo gig at the Elysee Monmatre theatre in Paris...
Asked why the album had taken so long to release, Robbie told The Star: "I don't know, it's probably because I've been off me head."
At first the album was slow to take off, despite reasonably good reviews. As the album hit the nation's bargain bins, no one could have prepared Robbie for the success of Angels - now considered one of the most popular songs of all time!
Robbie recalled: "The album had sold about 33,000 copies - which is bugger all as far as I'm concerned. Then Angels comes out and suddenly the album goes from 33,000 to 300,000 sales. Then two weeks later it went double platinum. I was a very happy boy!"
The first band line-up included Guy Chambers, Fil Eisler, Chris Sharrock, Gary Nuttall and Martin Slattery.
"(Robbie's) new-found self-consciousness makes for a solo album that is often smart, sharp and prickling with personality far beyond the call of teenpop duty...there are enough tunes, enough point and enough style here to keep this crazy fool in rehab fees for a while yet. Take That and... er, party a bit more."
NME, September ‘97
"Significantly, ‘Freedom' is nowhere to be found on ‘Life Thru A Lens'. If Robbie's claim of last year that ‘The best thing about me is my huge willy' still ‘stands' then Robbie must be a very lucky boy indeed, because this album is actually rather fantastic."
Time Out, September ‘97
"Life Thru A Lens contains all the elements you'd expect from Rob - it's funny and shamelessly brash, but with a wibbly, sensitive side. The words are as sharp as you'd expect...you get raucous stompers, trembling epics and full-throated roaring all the way."
Smash Hits, September ‘97