In the late 1980s the pop charts were awash with songs written and produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. They worked with everyone – Bananarama, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Roland Rat, Samantha Fox, the England football team, Cliff Richard, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Jack Duckworth off Coronation Street . . .
Talent finder and record company owner Waterman hooked up with songwriters Stock and Aitken in early 1984.
Following UK hits by the likes of drag queen Divine and Goth-poppers Dead or Alive, S/A/W – as they credited themselves – realised the commercial potential of introducing classic clubland dynamics to the mainstream market.
S/A/W also developed new talent, characterised by youth anthem Respectable by female duo Mel and Kim (UK #1 in 1987) and Rick Astley’s glossy single Never Gonna Give You Up (also 1987).
Cleverly, rather than actually writing new tunes for each song they just repeatedly regurgitated the old ones with a change of lyrics and someone different to sing them – hey presto, a whole new song!
A controversial but integral part of S/A/W’s modus operandi involved state of the art hi-tech synthetics replacing real musicians.
This made for a uniformity of sound that detractors found monotonous and suffocating. The trio merely responded by pointing to their popularity, epitomised by the fact that in one two-year period they had at least one record in the UK Top 40 every week.