The return of Stock, Aitken and Waterman

Stock, Aitken and Waterman are considered one of the most successful songwriting and producing partnerships of all time. Though they didn’t always keep on the right side of the music critics, their music has lived on with fans and influenced a new generation of teen-focused pop producers.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 30 Oct 2012
  • min read
Twenty-five years on, it looks like a revival might be on the horizon. Kylie Minogue’s album The Abbey Road Sessions is released this week, breathing new life into many of her Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) songs with reworked orchestral arrangements.

Meanwhile Hit Factory Live is due to hit London’s 02 Arena in December. It’s an ambitious show which features many of the trio’s original PWL record label roster such as Rick Astley, Sonia, Jason Donovan, Princess and 2 Unlimited, and brings to mind their Lonnie Gordon top five hit Happenin’ All Over Again!

Consistently enjoying chart success from the mid-80s to the start of the 90s, the trio spawned both a distinctive sound and a very long string of hits. Their first top 20 success came in 1984 when they produced Divine’s You Think You’re a Man. That same year they scored their first top five as a songwriting/production force with Hazell Dean’s Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go).

Next was Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), written by the band and produced by SAW, which hit the top spot in 1985, while the soulful Say I’m Your Number One by Princess reached the top 10 later that year.

The trio were also credited with bringing Bananarama back to the UK top 10 in 1986 with a cover of Shocking Blue’s Venus, which also gave SAW their first US number one. They went on to produce further hits co-written with the band such as I Heard a Rumour and Love in the First Degree.

By 1987 SAW were writing and producing hits for Mel & Kim, Sinitta and Samantha Fox. Sinitta was introduced to the trio by Simon Cowell, who was then a budding music exec at Fanfare Records – Sinitta’s label. It’s interesting to note Cowell’s present role as svengali to a string of reality TV popstars from his X Factor franchise.

SAW introduced the UK public to Rick Astley in the summer of 1987, when his hit Never Gonna Give You Up went number one across many territories. The following year it topped the US charts with Rick scoring a second Billboard number one with Together Forever.

It was also in 1987 that SAW met the act that would go on to have an international career spanning 25 years. They hurriedly wrote I Should Be So Lucky for then Australian soap sensation Kylie Minogue, which topped the UK charts in 1988 and was the first of 13 consecutive top 10 hits for Kylie. Meanwhile, Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan also became a solo PWL star, as well as dueting with Kylie on Especially For You.

1989 included hits with Donna Summer, Cliff Richard, Sonia and infamous one hit wonders the Reynolds Girls whose single I’d Rather Jack was shout out to the radio stations, which by now seemed to be giving SAW records less airplay.

With the 90s arriving, public tastes were shifting and though the trio continued to have success with Kylie, it became evident that the golden era of the SAW sound was drawing to a close.

Words: Russell Iliffe, PRS for Music