Peter Waterman - Credit: Shutterstock/David Fisher

Pete Waterman on why he cut music out of his life – and how he got his groove back

The record producer on Kylie, his love of trains, and why he couldn’t listen to music for a year.

British music legend Pete Waterman, ever the multi-hyphenate, can now add musical producer to his already impressive repertoire.

The mastermind behind more than 200 hit singles with Stock Aitken Waterman, launching Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley into stardom, Waterman now takes the helm of the I Should Be So Lucky musical, bringing SAW’s infectious tunes to the stage.

Here he talks about the musical, his love of trains and of course, Kylie!

“Musical theatre is a very different medium for me”

For me, 2024 is exciting. Stock Aitken Waterman’s hit songs of the 80s, which inspired a generation and created pop stars including Kylie, Rick Astley and Bananarama, have taken on a new life in a specially created musical, I Should Be So Lucky, about a young couple in love.

Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and I are record producers and song writers, so musical theatre is a very different medium for us.

Kylie has been involved from the start. She will digitally appear during the show as a specially created character. We were going to film her in 3D as a hologram, but that would have cost about £150 million, so I thought we’ll do a video. It will be cheaper.

Kylie will never escape I Should Be So Lucky. It will be with her for the rest of her life.

“I got arrested thanks to Bananarama!”

I think of Kylie, Rick and Bananarama as my kids because they were 17 and 18 when we started working together and I was 40, so I had to look after them.

Kylie lived in my flat for a while and then at my farm. Your lives become entwined. They take on a new life because of your songs.

I was a father figure to Bananarama. When we were on tour in Boston we were playing Trivial Pursuit in the hotel, and the girls got quite angry and accused me of cheating. They walked out of the hotel and set off the fire alarm. The police arrived with the fire brigade and they told them that I was their dad. So, I got arrested!

“I was in a really dark place”

In 2005 I cut music out of my life when my 33-year-old son Paul died. Originally the doctors thought it was CJD [a rare brain disorder], but in the end they were pretty sure he had cancer of the brain.

I was in a really dark place to the point where some days I picked up the phone, thinking, ‘Oh it’s Thursday night, I’ll give Paul a ring and meet him down the pub’ before the realisation that he wasn’t there. I couldn’t stand to listen to music, particularly anything we had been involved with together. Paul worked with me and his career was just taking off.

It was radio that got me back into music. One of my best friends called me and announced that I was starting on his Smooth Radio station with a two-hour show. No arguments. That was a period that broke me out of my depression.

“I love being surrounded by family”

Today, my son Peter and his wife and family are currently living with me in Cheshire, and the three grandchildren call me Pop.

I lived on my own for 20 years and love being surrounded by my family. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I’ve been married three times, so I don’t think I’d do it again, though I wouldn’t rule out living with someone.

“The railway taught me teamwork”

My life is still busy with music and trains, both model railways and real ones. I own trains at Bodmin & Wenford Railway and Peak Rail in Derbyshire.

It’s been an incredible passion because it’s made my character. I joined the railways at 14 as a steam locomotive fireman and the railway taught me teamwork.

“Simon Cowell will never lose his magic”

I’ve worked as a team with brilliant people all my musical career. One of those people is Simon Cowell. We’ve been mates for 40 years and worked together on Popstars and Pop Idol. We were inseparable in those days.

I went to see him recently at the filming of Britain’s Got Talent. Simon will never lose his magic. He is one of the most driven human beings I’ve ever met. I don’t think either of us has come to terms with the way music is streamed.

The record industry is a different world from the days when you got on the bus to go into town and spend 99p on a record.

“I love modern music”

In my head I’m 18, not 77, and I love playing modern music, not the oldies. I had a radio show on BBC WM in Coventry and Warwick and it was a dream come true until the pandemic, when the BBC didn’t want anyone over 70 in the building. So I was put on leave and never went back. It was disappointing because I loved the station.

Maybe after this, someone will offer me a new radio show!

Fancy some SAW on the stage? Find tickets to Stock Aitken Waterman’s I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical

Written by Pam Francis