HE is best known for launching the careers of music icons like Rick Astley and Kylie.

But Pete Waterman will be sharing the stories behind his own career when the Whitley music mogul visits The Brindley in Runcorn on October 17.

Pete, who helped create more than 100 top 40 UK hits, made the unlikely transition from steam locomotives to music when the Wolverhampton depot he worked at closed.

His love of rhythm and blues and soul music saw him take on the UK’s live scene some 50 years ago.

He said: “When I started there was no music in between the bands. The bands took a break and there was no music. Everybody went to the bar. I was one of the first DJs to provide music between acts and people danced. At the time it was unique. It sounds ridiculous now to even talk about it but that was where I got my big break.

“I would play these songs that nobody knew between the acts then later the bands and singers would ask me who the songs were by.

“The punters also got to know me from the sort of stuff I was playing and would follow me to the next gig to hear the same songs.”

At that time Pete was ahead of the curve in terms of his music tastes.

The 71-year-old added: “I played a bit of rock and roll but I tended to play records I’d heard on American Forces Network. People were just starting to hear about people like Chuck Berry. Certainly The Miracles that were playing at that time and acts like the Marvelettes and The Velvelettes, they’d never heard of that stuff.”

His knowledge of that emerging scene led to Pete getting a job as an A&R man where he introduced the likes of Three Degrees to the UK.

Doors continued to open and by 1984 Pete felt ready to launch his own company with producers Matt Aitken and Mike Stock.

Stock Aitken Waterman, poised to become one of the most successful musical production teams of the 1980s, was born.

Their scores of hits with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Donna Summer, Jason Donovan and Bananarama – leading to 500 million record sales around the world – is well documented.


But the ‘hit factory’ took a while to crank up.

Pete said: “My first number one with Matt and Mike was Dead of Alive’s You Spin Me Round which took more than four months to get to number one which is an incredible amount of time.

“I remember on the Sunday night we just couldn’t believe it had happened. We were at The Swan in Winwick because the band were from Liverpool so we had that as our meeting point.

“We certainly thought it was a top 20 and when it got in the top 20 it went straight to number one.

“I can’t remember that week. I remember the champagne on the Monday night but I don’t remember anything else. We were too busy.

“But what was interesting was that my phone stopped instantly. The minute we got to number one nobody was offering us any work.

“It just stopped like that. It was the most unbelievable thing. When you’re underground and nobody knows who you are they think you’re cheap. When you’re number one they think you’re going to charge a million pounds so they don’t ring you.

“But we never changed our fee from the minute we started to the day we walked out of the studio.

“It was always the same £500. We couldn’t make any money making the record so we had to make money by selling the record.

“If it didn’t sell we didn’t get paid so that was always our motivation.”

Pete also admitted there was no love loss between Stock Aitken Waterman and the rest of the music industry.

He added: “They hated us but we never cared. We hadn’t wanted to be part of the nonsense of the record industry. We just did what we wanted to do which was why Pete Burns from Dead or Alive was perfect for us because he was so outrageous.

“And when we took Mel and Kim, they gave us that way of snubbing people. It was quite incredible.

“I had a simple rule: If I didn’t like them, I didn’t work with them. The artist is putting a lot of faith in you to do so there’s no sense going into the studio if you’re going to argue. It’s pointless.

“The great thing was we didn’t have to say no to people a lot because we could just say we were too busy to work with them.

“It was the truth. We almost didn’t record with Kylie because at that time we had Rick Astley, Bananarama and Mel and Kim in the studio.”

So is the legend that Pete, Matt and Mike forgot Kylie was coming into the studio and wrote I Should Be So Lucky on the spot while she sat in the waiting room true?

Pete said: “That wasn’t unusual for us. In fact nearly every song we wrote was pretty instant.

“Having said that it took us 30 years to get to that point but once you’re in the groove – once you know what you’re doing – you just know how to do it. You get yourself tuned so the minute you see a title that you know works you can write a song in minutes.

“We always started with the title and you might knock it about a bit but once you know the start, middle and ending you can write it in minutes.

“We were so tuned at that point. We knew exactly what we were doing. We had no time to waste so we’d cut out all the nonsense where you’d sit down for hours going: ‘Do we have a title?’”

Pete will also talk about his The Hitman and Her days during his evening at The Brindley in Runcorn.

The show, which was often filmed at Mr Smith’s, gave a taste of the late-night clubbing scene.


Among the regulars were former William Beamont High School student Simon ‘Spike’ Dawbarn and Jimmy Constable who went on to form 911, as well as Take That’s Jason Orange.

Pete said: “The real shock on the tour is how many people want to talk about The Hitman and Her.

“I see the head of Granada every few years and he always says to me: Did you ever think when you were in Mr Smith’s that we’d create television history?’ We were the first night time television show and we were the first reality show.”

Warrington nightclub Mr Smith’s, which was demolished following a fire three and a half years ago, was featured in the first episode and in around 20 episodes in total.

Pete, who presented the show with Michaela Strachan, added: “Some of the stuff that happened in Mr Smith’s was unbelievable.

“We used to have to warn people if they were there with somebody else’s wife rather than their own to stand away from them because it was going out on television.”

Pete is now a BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire presenter and described his songwriting and record producing heyday as the ‘best job in the world’ even when it became a ‘hit factory’.

He said: “Anybody who says they don’t get a buzz from hearing their song on the radio is dead. I had the best job in the world.

“If you look at the charts now you can still see so many of our influences and young people who we knew and worked for us are now senior figures in the record industry.”

So what does Pete make of the music scene in 2018?

He added: “I don’t get certain things but I think there are still some amazing records around. I still work for the BBC every Saturday and on my show always 50 per cent is new music.

“Portugal the Man’s Feel I Still is one of my big tunes this year and I just think their record could have been made in 1963. I really wish we could have had the technology they have now. Some of these records sound fantastic.”

An Evening with Pete Waterman is at The Brindley in Runcorn on October 17. Visit thebrindley.org.uk