Review: ‘The Hit Factory - The Stock, Aitken and Waterman Story’

Between 1984 and 1993, the team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced no less than 13 number one records for the UK Singles Chart.

Some people prefer their contemporary music serious - like Al Stewart; melodic - like Wishbone Ash; thoughtful - like Deep Purple with Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore; or just plain heavy - like Black Sabbath.

For those who just want to dance and have a good time, Stock, Aitken and Waterman were probably as good as anyone else. This documentary covers their phenomenally successful partnership as writers and producers from its beginning, and includes the surprising revelation that the first DJ to play a Stock-Aitken-Waterman composition on air was John Peel. This one flopped, but that was to be the exception rather than the rule. Their first top ten hit was by Hazell Dean. Who has heard of her today?

On the other hand, who hasn’t heard of Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and many others? Astley was born at Newton-le-Willows; we are told the other claim to fame of this town is that it was the first place anywhere on Earth where someone was killed by a train. Then there were the tragic sisters Mel and Kim, Melanie Appleby dying at just 23 from a rare form of cancer. And so on, including Donna Summer.

By the early 1990s, musical tastes were changing, and by 1993 the era of Stock, Aitken and Waterman was over, but the music has stood the test of time.

This documentary is more of a hagiography than a warts and all biography of three men who for a time dominated the UK singles charts, and includes interviews with many of those involved including Jason Donovan (try not to scream, girls).

For those who can receive it, The Hit Factory - The Stock, Aitken and Waterman Story is currently on iplayer. Otherwise, watch out for it on YouTube.

[The above article was first published August 8, 2012. The original wasn’t archived; it included a photograph of Hazell Dean captioned “Hazell Dean, one of many artists to be produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman”. I think it was uploaded by me, though for some reason it didn’t save with the article when I saved that eleven years ago.]

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