Especially For You: The Hit Factory Returns

In news to dismay many music fans, Stock, Aitken and Waterman are getting the gang back together for a reunion gig. 
But will Kylie come too?
By Simon Usborne

Reach for your ra-ra skirts, prepare your peroxide and set the flux capacitor to 1988. London is going back to the past this summer with a time-travelling reunion concert that will be "a celebration of the hit single" or, in the words of one pop commentator, "a real heart-string puller... or a car crash".

The stonewashed jeans may need to be taken out a couple of inches as Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) re-deploy the acts that helped them record the popular soundtrack for the decade. Steps, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Sinitta, Sonia, 2 Unlimited and Dead or Alive are among those who'll perform at Hyde Park in a one-off concert on 11 July.

Pete Waterman, who formed the SAW writing and producing trio with Mike Stock and Matt Aitken in 1984, and whose own PWL label is 25 this year, revealed yesterday: "I've been saying no for years to a Hit Factory concert but now the timing feels right. It's time to celebrate the hit single." These are singles such as "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive, a No 1 hit in 1985 and "Never Gonna Give You Up", which fired Astley to the top of singles charts in 25 countries two years later, including the UK and the US.
The Hit Factory, as Waterman's production line became known, scored more than 100 top-40 singles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, churning out 40 million records and bringing in an estimated £60m. Paul Gambaccini, the veteran music broadcaster and "professor of pop" remembers their impact. "When I first hosted the Ivor Novello Awards 25 years ago, the songwriters of the year were Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and George Michael. They were huge, and stood at the very top."
Sinitta, Pete Burns and Pete Waterman at the launch of Hit Factory Live

There is an exception and she is one of the few omissions from the initial Hyde Park line-up. Kylie Minogue was a mere Neighbour and unknown to Waterman when a friend asked him to work with her as a favour. In half an hour and a flurry of trans-Atlantic faxes, he and Stock then wrote "I Should Be So lucky". Later, on Jason Donovan's hit album in 1989, Ten Good Reasons, we were given "Especially For You", his duet with Minogue, released in the UK after the couple's on-screen wedding in Neighbours. The Australians' trajectories led Minogue to riches, Donovan to rehab and, lately, a string of reality TV shows. Perhaps Minogue is ready to show him again that her "heart is oh so true"; hopes of a reunion would not be misplaced judging by Waterman's promise of a "very special duet" in July.

Waterman refused to confirm whether the Australian singer would make an appearance.
"We're not going to say," he said. "We are going to leave some things to the last minute - we want to keep a few secrets."

"It's time to celebrate the hit single and we have a tremendous line-up of our classic artists confirmed to play Hit Factory Live in Hyde Park on July 11. More surprises will be announced over the coming months - it's set to be the biggest and best-ever celebration of SAW and PWL."

Tickets go on sale now with a proportion of ticket proceeds going towards Cancer Research UK.

Thanks Henry and Scott!

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