He’s celebrating half a century in the music industry, but despite having recorded more number one singles than The Beatles, Pete Waterman shows no signs of slowing down. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The mastermind behind more than 200 hits from Dead Or Alive, Donna Summer, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley and many more has added a musical theater producer to his repertoire.
Pete and his creative partners Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, the legendary Stock, Aitken and Waterman, were known in the 1980s as the Hit Factory, responsible for at least one Top 40 record every week for three and a half years straight. .
Now those hits can be enjoyed in her new musical I Should Be So Lucky, named after Kylie’s hit single.
Written by Debbie Isitt, the woman behind the Nativity! In the films, the story follows young couple Ella and Nathan, whose wedding is called off after Nathan falters.
Now you can enjoy 200 hit singles from Pete Waterman and his collaborators Mike Stock and Matt Aitken (the legendary Stock, Aitken and Waterman) in their new musical I Should Be So Lucky, named after Kylie’s hit single.
Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan’s breakup (pictured left) “felt like the end of our world,” says Pete Waterman. Kylie then began a relationship with Michael Hutchence (right)
But Ella’s friends are determined that she shouldn’t miss their honeymoon in Turkey, and when Nathan has second thoughts, he travels there too to try to win her back.
The show features over 30 songs from Hit Factory artists such as Kylie, Rick and Bananarama, as well as a “magical” appearance by the real Kylie, who has been involved in the production from the beginning.
“The release of this musical is a vindication for me, because in those years we worked very hard,” says Pete. “They treated us like outcasts because we were making popular music.”
Far from discouraging them, the vitriol gave the trio additional focus and many of the hits they created would be executed within minutes.
“You came to see us and then you came out with a hit,” says Pete, now 77. “But while the songs were written quickly, they were the culmination of 40 years of experience.”
Pete became one of the great success stories of the music business, and the key to it was an 18-year-old girl named Kylie Minogue. She signed her to a five-album deal despite never having seen Neighbors, the Australian soap opera that launched her.
Her first single I Should Be So Lucky, written for her while waiting outside the studio in 1987 after the trio forgot she was coming, was a runaway hit. But it was a huge gamble for Pete.
“I couldn’t eat on Christmas Day,” he recalls. ‘I had £300,000 worth of records in my warehouse and if they didn’t sell I was finished. He had staff, rent and taxes to pay. You never advertise on Christmas Day, but I took a chance on a TV ad and thank God I did it, because I got a call on Boxing Day from the warehouse saying, “We have a problem: we don’t have enough stock.” “‘
Kylie’s hit song, I Should Be So Lucky, was written while waiting outside the studio in 1987, when Pete Waterman, Mike Stock and Matt Aitken forgot she was coming.
Pete Waterman (pictured) became one of the music business’s biggest success stories, and the key to it was an 18-year-old Neighbors actress called Kylie Minogue.
Kylie continued to have hit after hit, but when Pete was told she had ended her relationship with co-star and singer Jason Donovan after three years, and was dating bad boy INXS rocker Michael Hutchence, everything changed. .
“It felt like the end of our world since we had the dream duo of Jason and Kylie. I said, ‘Christ.’ Better the devil you know.” But we had to come up with a song for her and she was on her way to the studio. Then I realized: Better the devil you know!
“When Kylie arrived, we had a difficult track, so Matt and I sat with our backs to her, wrote lyrics and put them behind her for Mike to teach her. She loved the song and it became a big hit.
They treated us like outcasts because we made popular music, so this musical is a vindication.
“After the Michael Hutchence story broke, everyone was looking for her, so she hid at my house in Cheshire for two weeks. I had to sneak it in the trunk of my car.
“She was like a daughter to me and we’re still friends. How could we not be with everything we’ve been through?”
Pete also worked with the notoriously feisty girl group Bananarama. ‘They knew exactly what they wanted. At that time I was dating his manager and every night they called us at 3 in the morning when we were in bed, asking us to get them a taxi,” he laughs.
It’s all a far cry from his poverty-stricken upbringing in Coventry. Pete was an only child and at the age of six he found a cunning way to earn money after joining the church choir.
‘I found that couples getting married didn’t know which hymns were best, so I chose them and selected the choristers for ten shillings and sixpence. I could earn £1 a week when my father only earned £3.50 a week,’ she laughs.
A scene from Stock Aitken Waterman’s I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical, which is now on tour.
He worked as a gravedigger, a steam train fireman, and an apprentice for the General Electric Company while beginning to make his mark in the music business as a DJ.
He joined EMI as a talent scout in 1973 and half a century later is worth an estimated £30m, although he hasn’t been so lucky in love.
“I don’t have a partner,” he says. “My first wife died a long time ago, and as for the other two marriages, she wishes she had been a better husband and devoted more time to them.”
But Pete has plenty to keep him busy. ‘This world of musical theater is tough but I love it, so much so that I am working on a second musical. But if I had to give it all up, tomorrow I would come back and work on the railways. As it happens, I realize that I am very lucky.
- Stock Aitken Waterman’s I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical is now on tour, check out soluckymusical.com.