By my calculations, PWL PWL21 was the 101st Stock Aitken Waterman single in the UK. Between Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now and the release of Je Ne Sais Pas Pourqoi (a period of around 15 months), another 40 SAW-produced singles appeared on the market. The artists they worked with in this period can be broadly assigned to four categories:
1: acts they had worked with before
Singles by five acts SAW had produced before were released, but only one of these acts would continue to work with them. SAW had last worked with O’Chi Brown in 1986, and a single was taken from her O’Chi album in late ’87 as it featured a guest vocal from a new Hit Factory star (see 4 below). They last worked with long-time clients Dead Or Alive in the same year, and tracks from their album Mad Bad And Dangerous To Know also appeared as singles in ’87. Their last recordings with Mel And Kim and Hazell Dean were made and issued in 1988. The one relationship that would continue into 1989 was the one with Bananarama, but even that had changed – Siobhan Fahey had quit and been replaced by Jacqui O’Sullivan. (It’s doubtful any further Bananarama records would have been made with the PWL team had Fahey stayed – more below.)
2: acts they worked with for the first time, but did not release a single with
Unused material seems to have been very rare at the Hit Factory. Most demos evolved into finished pieces for commercial release; even if the original artist didn’t want the song, the vocals could be re-recorded and the backing track used by someone else. Most artists who recorded with SAW issued at least one of the tracks from their sessions as a single at some point. Those that didn’t in the period this article concerns include two acts whose recordings were shelved: Lisa Fabien and – a rather surprising collaboration – heavy metal band Judas Priest. Another client in 1988 was La Toya Jackson, and while the three songs she cut with them made it on to her album La Toya, none was selected as a single.
3: acts they worked with for the first time, on one single only
One-off collaborations with SAW can be divided into two categories: established artists and newcomers.
‘Name’ acts who had singles produced by SAW included American singers Laura Branigan and Edwin Starr, the latter being more than twenty years into his career when his SAW-produced single Whatever Makes Our Love Grow single appeared. Precious Wilson, backing singer turned front woman for British-based R&B band Eruption, had been making solo records since 1978. Nick Straker had last recorded A Walk In The Park in 1979 with his group Nick Straker Band; the SAW-produced version was his first single in years. Long running Dutch girl group Dolly Dots had one last attempt at a hit with their SAW tune What A Night, but split after its release in late ’87; they had been together nearly ten years.
Artists with more recently-launched careers who worked with SAW included Michael Davidson and singer and actress EG Daily. (Davidson’s single Turn It Up appears to be his only release; it was featured on the soundtrack to the Madonna movie ‘Who’s That Girl?’.)
What all these acts had in common was that they didn’t have a hit between them with their SAW singles. The only hits with one-off collaborations that SAW had in this period were with Steve Walsh, the England Football Team, and Sabrina. British club DJ Walsh just scraped a hit with the SAW-produced Let’s Get Together Tonite when it reached #74. He was at the start of his career as a recording artist, and might well have made further recordings with SAW had he not shockingly died following a heart attack in 1988: he was 29. The single with the England Football Team was All The Way, another minor hit. The most successful production was All Of Me for Italian Eurobeat star Sabrina [Salerno] which made #25.
4: acts they worked with for the first time, who they would continue to collaborate with in the future
New regulars at the Hit Factory introduced in 1987-1988 were Kylie Minogue, Mick And Pat (the first of several charity singles for Help A London Child made by the two Capital Radio DJs), Sinitta, Jason Donovan, Brother Beyond (EMI won a charity auction at the Variety Club of Great Britain annual dinner in 1988 and paid £50k to have SAW produce a single for one of their artists; SAW went on to produce a couple of tracks with Nathan Moore’s group, who were EMI’s favoured act), and Rick Astley. Astley was the ‘newcomer’ mentioned above whose duet with O’Chi Brown from a couple of years earlier was released as a single to cash in on his success with Never Gonna Give You Up, one of the biggest hits of 1987 and the winner of the Best British Single award at the following year’s BPI Awards, where SAW were also named Best British Producers.
There was another, separate category: SAW were now recording artists in their own right. Emerging mid-June 1987, a white label 12” single containing a song called Roadblock, alleged to be a 1973 ‘rare groove’ oldie, appeared on an obscure label called Lynx and was offered to DJs. All funky drum n’ bass, guitar licks, chanting and powerful sax, Black Echoes called it “the best goddam dance record of 1987” and Record Mirror’s James Hamilton was soon gleefully reporting that those DJs and critics who claimed to know the song well from years earlier had been tricked: it was a brand new song by SAW. ‘Lynx records’ didn’t really exist: the company behind it was A&M all along, who had had around 500 copies pressed up to look like an American import. The full commercial release on A&M’s Breakout label was a huge hit. The London clubland DJs weren’t the only ones fooled. According to Mike Stock, when Siobhan Fahey first heard Roadblock, she said: “Yeah, it’s a 70s funk track isn’t it? You guys could never do anything like that.”
NEW SINGLES on sale from Oct. 10
JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids (Virgin VS379)
Hazel O’CONNOR Give Me An Inch (A&M AMS7569)
Kylie MINOGUE Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi (PWL PWL21)