Stock, Aitken and Waterman – readers' panel

With Bananarama, Rick Astley Jason Donovan and more SAW acts set to play together this summer, five readers give their thoughts about the legendary songwriting and production team

Earlier this week we asked readers to tell us what they think about Stock, Aitken and Waterman, their music and their legacy. Here are a few of the responses we received.

Mike Clark

In two months' time I'm getting a builder in to extend our house. I'm not worried about the cost, or the mess. I'm worried that when they start ripping off the side of the roof there may be some damage to the Stock, Aitken and Waterman collection stored in the loft.

I'll never listen to those fusty 12in singles, LPs and cassettes again. I sometimes kid myself I'll convert them to mp3s. I won't. But knowing they're there is comforting. A piece of my childhood, nestled in the attic.

I love Stock, Aitken and Waterman. I grew up with them. Mel and Kim on the way to school. Kylie and Jason on Neighbours at tea time. Rick Astley while I was doing my homework.

I was never more proud than the time my nine-year-old brother earned himself a detention for leading his art class in a flash mob rendition of I Should Be So Lucky. Happy songs for happy times.

Those records were not impulse purchases either. No leaks or one-track downloads. Us children of the 80s properly researched their music in the pages of Smash Hits, or in a playground Top of the Pops focus group. Pocket money for singles. Birthdays and Christmasses for albums.

I was too young for the original Hitman Roadshow so when the Hit Factory Live takes place in July I shall be there to celebrate my childhood, SAW and their achievements. I'll have a beer, break out those 80s moves, and enjoy a concert where I know all the words.

At the same time I shall be wondering how I ever became old enough to be having a house extended, what those builders are up to, and whether my Reynolds Girls 12in has survived.

Peter Climie, aka parisstarz

As a teenager, when Stock, Aitken and Waterman started churning out their constant slew of pop it was easy for me to dismiss their tunes as worthless tripe – an avaricious product of Tory Britain. I was trying to develop more sophisticated musical tastes, but unfortunately for this credibility-seeking teen, I found the songs unquestionably catchy. Mel and Kim, Kylie, Jason – their premier league stars produced some of the finest pop tunes of the time. (I could take or leave vanity projects like the Reynolds Girls.)

But they were not just the one-trick pony they are easily written off as. Much like Rick Rubin managed with Johnny Cash, they also breathed new life into established, flailing artists, showcasing them to a new young audience. Cliff Richard and Donna Summer were rejuvenated with Stock, Aitken and Waterman magic. SAW proceeded to replace Bob and Midge as the conscience of the music world, raising millions for the needy, with Ferry Aid and Band Aid 2.

As with any prolific talent, you need to excuse the mistakes and failures (Mandy Smith), and look at the achievements. OK, maybe they ain't ever gonna be respected, but they deserve to be remembered.

Anthony Farthing, aka anthonyfarthing

As the worst excesses of the Thatcherite revolution were revealed during the late 80s, history decrees that Stock, Aitken and Waterman provided the perfect soundtrack. The rise of PWL, the trio's incredibly successful independent label, epitomised the kind of self-reliant entreprenuerism Maggie preached as economic gospel.

Understandably, perhaps, critics and indie elitists have dismissed SAW's work as crude commercialism. Surely, though, there's something pleasingly egalitarian about record producers who realise the charts shouldn't just be left to hand-wringing musos.

Pete Waterman loves pop, so he must have sensed there was perversely exotic fun to be had by giving songs to soap stars (Kylie and Jason), the office tea boy (Rick Astley) and a girl who was only famous for sleeping with the bass player of The Rolling Stones (Mandy Smith).

Styling themselves as The Hit Factory was a further statement of intent. The notion of production-line pop is at odds with the bourgeois ideal of the authentic artist wrestling with inspiration. But as was proven before SAW in the Brill Building and Motown studios, and since with the pristine pop of Xenomania, a strong work ethic is what's needed to make music that really is for the masses.

David Lewis AKA DavidCLewis

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of Sonia's You'll Never Stop Me Loving You. In the late 1980s, the UK singles chart was a stratocracy ruled from the trenches by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. With a name reminiscent of Glaswegian estate agents, an acronym that summed up the buzzing sound scoured into the eardrums by another identikit wannabe forced to warble in an awkwardly emasculated register (so that prepubescent girls could sing along) and a string of hits thick enough to strangle Big Fun, nothing was beyond these faceless generals of pop production – even making a decent record.

Their uneasy voodoo alchemy of ersatz Hi-NRG disco and hyperglycaemic campfire choruses may have created a surfeit of synth-handclapped monstrosities for Cliff Richard, a brief career for Mandy Smith and the unforgiveable war crime that was I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet by Pat and Mick, but it also concocted bona fide gems like Love In The First Degree, Respectable and Hand On Your Heart. At their worst, SAW were unpardonable musical traitors; at their best, they were valorous pop heroes.

Robyn Strachan

Being too young to have appreciated the Stock, Aitken and Waterman phenomenon of the 80s first-hand, I have to take a retrospective look at their Hit Factory of pop-music titans. The term "factory" is horribly appropriate; the music produced by this unholy trinity seems mass-produced and eerily sterile with little or no human quality about it. The bland and cliched lyrics may as well be in binary code for all the emotion they arouse in a listener. They probably sounded as horrendous in the 80s as they do in 2012, which is some feat.

SAW records, with their focus on pretty girls and even prettier boys, seem redundant as an expression of music from that period when compared with those from artists who actually made good music. Bands such as Depeche Mode made clever, articulate pop music that you could believe in, and Sisters of Mercy and the Cure set the alternative scene alight with the advent of goth. All Bananarama could have managed to set alight was their lashings of hairspray. SAW set a precedent for lazy, unimaginative pop music that lives on in the dead-eyed boybands and monotone synth-lines of today's music industry. Thank heaven for the Smiths.

• What are your thoughts on Stock, Aitken and Waterman? Let us know below.


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