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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Apr-18 > He came, He SAW, He conquered!

He came, He SAW, He conquered!

AS PART OF THE LEGENDARY PRODUCTION TRIO STOCK, AITKEN AND WATERMAN, MIKE STOCK COULD EASILY – AND INDEED DOES – LAY CLAIM TO BEING ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL SONGWRITERS OF ALL TIME. HE JOINS CLASSIC POP TO LOOK BACK OVER SAW’S EXTRAORDINARY ASSAULT ON THE POP CHARTS. “AS A BAND, I RECKON MATT AITKEN AND I HAVE BEEN MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN THE BEATLES,” HE SAYS BEFORE CLARIFYING: “IT’S NOT A QUALITY STATEMENT, JUST THE SHEER NUMBERS!”

In 1984, Stock, Aitken and Waterman embarked on an extraordinary, neverto- be-repeated, chart takeover which would see the trio responsible for producing more than 100 Top 40 hits over the next decade, including an unbroken period of three-and-a-half years when there was at least one of their songs in the UK chart. We could bring you endless more stats like that, all shouted in that X Factor-style voice. “40 million sales! £60 million in revenue!” Indeed, SAW were very much The X Factor of their day in terms of the dominance, relentless chart pursuit and a music-buying public that either loved or loathed them. But instead of taking unknowns and turning them into superstars, SAW took in anyone and everyone. They wrote everything from cool electro to cheesy novelty songs and they did it fast, churning out record after record at an astonishing rate. Their studio was named The Hit Factory, although critics would rejig that name ever so slightly – with enormous success comes resentment, especially from a music industry who perceived SAW as outsiders taking all the glory.

“We were operating on a very small scale,” says Mike, “and up against Sony, CBS, BMG, Warners, EMI and all the big boys. There came a point when there was some antagonism towards us from the industry because we appeared to be getting all the success.”

And what success it was. SAW rejuvenated careers, made household names out of nobodies, turned soap stars into superstars and made pop stars out of tabloid tittle-tattle. You name it, they had an angle on it, and a huge roster to throw it at. At one end you had Kylie, the future princess of pop who SAW very much crowned. Then there was Mel & Kim, Sonia, Rick Astley, Brother Beyond and Jason Donovan. But on the fiipside you also had acts like The Fat Slags, Dolly Dots and Roland Rat – novelty productions or fiops, but did SAW care? Not a jot it seems. They said ‘yes’ to as much as they could, knowing that the bubble would eventually burst. During those heady days Stock and Aitken barely left the studio, writing and producing the records, while Pete Waterman became something of a celebrity himself selling the results to the media. SAW wrote and produced records for whichever artists, celebrities, sports teams, comedians or puppets came knocking, and while some saw it as cynically churning records out, Mike Stock was always writing with the best intentions – even if it did get a bit formulaic. “We always agreed that we were trying to write songs for other people to like, rather than just to please ourselves,” he says. “I was always thinking: ‘I hope people like this as much as the last one’. We were always on tenterhooks, it was always risky.”

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