The Hitman Strikes Again | Pete Waterman
by Karen Shaw
Blackpool is going to be a real hive of activity over the August bank holiday, when Dr Pete Waterman, author, OBE, DJ and Pop Idol judge visits Blackpool with his HIT FACTORY as part of the Livewire Festival, acts include Jason Donovan, Pepsi & Shirlie, Go West, Samantha Fox, and Sinitta.
“If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it”
Pete is perhaps best known as one third of the hugely successful music production and song-writing partnership, Stock Aitken Waterman. Pete is the most successful producersongwriter
in british history with over 500 million records sold and 100 UK top 40 hits. During his 40 year career and after 13 Ivor Novellos, he has recently been awarded Fellowship of the RNCM – not bad for someone who left school unable to read or write.
I caught up with Pete prior to the tour and wondered if he had any intention of sneaking in a quick donkey ride while wearing a ‘Kiss Me Quick Squeeze Me Slow’ hat…
“I doubt it. I probably did that in the 1950’s. I wouldn’t nowadays as I’m too busy. I don’t have time to sit on a donkey!
“I’ve been to Blackpool so many times especially when I was presenting The Hitman and Her. The HIT FACTORY gig will be a bright and breezy uplifting fun show filled with variety which is what it’s all about. I remember doing the show with Kylie Minogue in Blackpool before anybody really knew who she was. Blackpool was the method of entertainment, and for me growing up believing that one day you could play Blackpool was a dream. You get a real mixed audience. A lot of older people like to bring their grandchildren and that has always been the way.”
For Pete, growing up in 1950’s Coventry times were hard, however his burning ambition to succeed was actively supported by his parents.
“I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted and told to enjoy it, but my mum would always make it clear that the bills still needed to be paid.”
This lad has never had a problem when it comes to paying his bills, and at one point in his career he was rumoured to be earning a million pounds a day, so I wanted to discover what it was that motivated him, was it the money or the music?
“It’s always been the music. The money never interested me at all. Money can become an obsession. I’m a fan of music, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t want it to be the fact that I’m a fan of business and I’m just a slave to it. That’s pointless.”
Pete’s love of music is almost matched by his love of trains and from a young age he has been fanatical about railways, amassing a huge model railway collection. However, Pete doesn’t do anything by halves and his passion for chuffers was evident when he bought The
Flying Scotsman. Heaven knows how he managed to fit that in his attic!
“Trains are everything,” says Pete, “essentially the air that we breathe in the modern world, it’s all about communication. Without the railways communication between villages, town and cities would be very difficult. They’re fantastic, but people have to use them. If they don’t they will close.”
Despite Stock Aitken Waterman’s massive success they also received a huge amount of damaging press. I was curious to learn how he combatted the negative press he received.
“I didn’t read any comments or reviews, but my mate did ring me once and say ‘You’ve got to back off a bit you’re getting hated’ and I said, ‘You know what? We’re about to have another number one so they’ll hate me bloody more. I don’t give a monkey’s. If you don’t believe in it don’t do it.
“Pop only lasts in the moment, but that moment lasts you a lifetime”
“If you dwell on the negatives everything becomes negative. I have never read a review of any of my records because people were buying them and because they were buying them I saw that as a good thing.”
After riding the crest of the wave in the eighties, SAW’s success crashed to the shore in the early nineties with the introduction of rap, Brit pop and grunge. Did Pete ever feel his ship of success had sailed over the horizon?
“No. I came back with Steps,” he flippantly replies. “At the time nobody cared what I was up
to. I was told they were a load of junk, but they went on to sell over 56 million records.”
Fast forward twenty years and Steps have stepped back into the musical arena with as much
vigour and energy as back in the day. They had it all along with one of my personal favourites, the blazer, the quiff, the polo neck, the voice like chocolate… Rick Astley. Rick was
discovered by Pete in Warrington in 1985, “He looks better now and he’s selling more records. It’s fantastic,” says Pete.
The world of pop music is as changeable as the British weather, so does Pete believe then that pop only exists in the moment?
“Yes, but the moment for most of us is the rest of our lives because music has the ability to tell you where you were at one moment in time. If I was to ask you where you were when you first heard Rick Astley, I bet you would remember.”
“Of course, I was at my grandma’s getting ready to take her to bingo,” I reply.
“Well there you go, Pop only lasts in the moment, but that moment lasts you a lifetime.”
After turning singers like Rick, Mel & Kim, Jason Donovan and Sonia into household names, Pete will now teach masterclasses to students at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music on the college’s new four year BMus Pop Music degree, after recently being awarded a fellowship for his contribution to pop.
Pete is a master of knowing what will work. He knows what songs would be suited to which artist. “Persuading the artist that certain tune would be ideal for them was not always easy,” laughs Pete.
“Bananarama were incredibly difficult to work with. There was no room for compromise. They all had egos, that’s what makes them artists.” If egos make artists, then Pete is a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s full of it, full of energy, confidence, and attitude. Egos don’t come much bigger than Pete’s. However, after saying that, maybe there is just one
other person whose ego is on a par… Simon Cowell.
When Simon first met Pete, he described him as the most egotistical, arrogant and difficult person that he had ever met but equally the most talented.
“Simon has a different drive to me. I just wish circumstances hadn’t chased a partnership on the TV show Pop Idol because what Simon and I had was fantastic. We were Ying and Yang; we were like a married couple, the perfect married couple. When Pop Idol started, we bickered like buggery!”
Quick Fire Round
Yorkshire pudding or Lancashire hotpot?
Diesel or steam train?
Brown sauce or ketchup?
Train driver or passenger?
Kylie or Jason?