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Stock Aitken Waterman: The rise of the ’80s hit makers

Critics called it homogenised pop but history has been kind to the producers who had stars from Kylie to Bananarama queuing up for their magic touch

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A cover version of Venus was a huge hit for Bananarama: Siobhan Fahey, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 1986. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

A cover version of Venus was a huge hit for Bananarama: Siobhan Fahey, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 1986. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

Crawling apology: Kylie Minogue in 1988. Photo by Chris Walter

Crawling apology: Kylie Minogue in 1988. Photo by Chris Walter

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A cover version of Venus was a huge hit for Bananarama: Siobhan Fahey, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 1986. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

In May 1984, a new English group called Agents Aren’t Aeroplanes released a pulsating dance-pop tune called The Upstroke. If the name of group and song means nothing to even the most dedicated pop fan, fear not: despite the endorsement of the taste-making BBC DJ John Peel, the single only reached number 93 in the UK chart. Agents Aren’t Areoplanes disappeared soon after.

But the duo and their song is significant for one reason. It marked the first time that a fledgling trio of songwriters and producers would work together. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman reckoned Agents Aren’t Areoplanes could be a female version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and they devoted their collective talents to a high-energy song they hoped would be a hit in the gay clubs and grow from there. The Upstroke was, indeed, a club success, but the great record-buying public didn’t seem to notice.


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