A new documentary on Channel 5 charts the extraordinary success of pop producers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman. From the mid-1980’s SAW propelled a variety of session singers and soap stars (and one legendary disco queen, Miss Donna Summer) to staggering chart-topping triumphs, racking up over 100 Top 40 hits. Simon Cowell would start his own industry-conquering music producer campaign around the same time, scoring his first hit song in 1986 with former girlfriend Sinitta’s So Macho. But he was less than macho with his reaction to SAW’s crowning jewel.
Stock Aitken Waterman: Legends of Pop is the first part of a new Channel 5 series, Secrets of the Hitmakers and airs on Saturday night.
As well as discussing their work with Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Hazell Dean, and Mel and Kim, the show takes a look at what went on behind the scenes with the signing and launch of Kylie Minogue.
On the show, SAW reveal they had completely forgotten she was coming to see them from Down Under until she turned up, while Simon Cowell recalls his devastation over the Aussie pop princess.
Cowell said: “I got a phone call from Pete who said, ‘Have you heard of this show called Neighbours?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said do you know who Kylie Minogue is?’ I went, ‘No.’
“He said, ‘I have a deal with Mushroom Records. They want me to sign a deal with Kylie Minogue. Will you sign her?’ I said, ‘Yes, if you make the record. He went, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, then I’m not signing her.’
“For about five years I felt physically sick every time I heard one of her records, thinking, ‘God, if she’d been signed to me my label would have gone insane.”
In fact, Cowell’s early pop success had not lasted and by 1989 his company Fanfare Records collapsed and he was almost bankrupt.
It was Cowell’s inspired signing of Robson and Jerome and their 1995 recording of Unchained Melody that would set Cowell firmly back on the path to industry dominance.
Meanwhile, Stock, Aitken and Waterman had taken on Kylie. Initially, they were not particularly confident she would be a success for her and have admitted that they created her breakthrough smash hit in a last-minute rush because they had forgotten she was flying over from Australia to record with them.
Famously, after she left, SAW shelved I Should Be So Lucky and forgot about it.
On the new documentary, Mike Stock revealed the hilarious story behind the creation of the song: “David (Howells, the PWL Records Managing Director) came to me and said, ‘Kylie is in reception.” I said, ‘Kylie who?'”
Pete Waterman was in Manchester and apologised for not telling his partner that she was coming and suggested they tell her to go back. But Stock didn’t want to be rude so persuaded Aiken to quickly write something with him.
Stock added: “David had told me all about her, everything in her life seemed wonderful. Why does she want to become a pop star, she’s got everything she needs?
“She’s a – a famous actress, she’s doing it all… why does she want to work with us? I thought perhaps she hasn’t got love. She’s got everything else, but she really wants love. And she hasn’t got it. ‘I should be so lucky in love…’ I got the first verse done and said to Matt, ‘Matt, go over there, write a second verse, follow the meter.’
Kylie recorded the song in under an hour, line by line, and then jumped back in a taxi and left. Nobody had any idea that it was the start of something incredible.
Later that year, the song shot to the top of the charts, where it stayed for five weeks. SAW quickly wrote nine of the ten songs on Kylie’s eponymous debut album which also included number two hits Got To Be Certain and Je ne said pas pourqoui.
Kylie went on to sell 80 million records and remains the biggest-selling Australian artist of all time, giving poor Simon Cowell’s tummy a tough time along the way…
STOCK AITKEN WATERMAN: LEGENDS OF POP, SATURDAY 21st JANUARY 8.30PM ON CHANNEL 5