Mike Stock Looks Back on 36 Years of Stock-Aitken-Waterman Smashes

Mike Stock
Courtesy of Modal Production Group Limited

Mike Stock

Back on May 10, 1995, an executive from the peermusic office in Los Angeles, Brady L. Benton, was spending a few days in London on business. That afternoon, he made an extracurricular trip to Hundred House in South London, where Mike Stock and Matt Aitken had their offices and studios. Although the music publishing expert was an industry professional, he was also a mega-fan of the Stock-Aitken-Waterman team. While waiting to meet Mike and Matt, he was escorted into a room where the walls were adorned with dozens of gold and platinum records, mostly for the team's work with Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. Overcome with emotion, he broke down in tears (of joy), just one example of the love and devotion fans around the world have long held for the trio affectionately known as SAW.

This week marks 36 years since Stock, Aitken and Waterman had their first No. 1 hit in the U.K.: Pete Burns' group Dead or Alive reached the top of the British singles chart on March 3, 1985 with "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." It was the first of 13 No. 1 singles for SAW in the U.K. The anniversary of that auspicious beginning was reason enough to catch up with Mike Stock to talk about his long and successful career as a songwriter, producer and label founder.

Let's go back to childhood. What is your earliest memory of becoming aware of music?

My earliest memory is of my mother listening to a classical piano piece on BBC radio around 1954, and though I remember that moment to this day I can't remember the name of the piece, but I knew I liked "music."

Was music played in your home? Did your parents enjoy music, and what did they listen to?

Mum sang a bit. Dad was an entertainer in World War II. He played rudimentary piano and ukulele. My older brother, who died last year, was lead viola in the German National Opera Orchestra. My younger sister studied music at the University of Wales; she also died a few years ago. They both went to the local grammar school and had music lessons. My other siblings and I missed out on the grammar school and music lessons. I don't think my parents could afford it for all of us.

What was the first 45 you purchased? First album?

There was a battle in our house in the late '50s between who liked Adam Faith and who liked Cliff Richard. My elder brother liked Adam, but my surviving sister liked Cliff. Strangely, my departed younger sister married the composer Johnny Worth, who wrote Adam Faith's big numbers "What Do You Want?" and "How About That!" I didn't take sides and kept my powder dry until the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." To purchase that single, which cost six shillings and fourpence, I boarded the number 423 Bus to Dartford, entered Challenger and Hicks record shop on my own at age 12, a Beatle fan. There followed a lifelong affection for the band, especially the songwriting of Paul McCartney. As you can imagine the first album I purchased was Please Please Me, priced 40 shillings or £2.

When did you become aware that you had musical ability? And how did that manifest itself?

I liked the old songwriters. I saw a film about Tin Pan Alley and it fascinated me. I taught myself guitar and there was a piano in the house. So I dabbled on that. I began writing my own songs aged about seven. I had a singing voice and my playing really was just to accompany my voice. Later, when the Beatles broke, I was very excited to learn they actually wrote their own songs. Quite revolutionary in its day. Nobody ever told me you could earn a living at it though!

Courtesy of Modal Production Group Limited
(L-R) Karen Hewitt, Paul McCartney, Mike Stock, and Russell Christian photographed in 1989.

As you were growing up, what songs influenced you? Which artists?

I soon found out that a lot of the old songs I liked were composed by a few writers whose names kept coming up. Irving Berlin, for example, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Then later, of course, Lennon and McCartney. I also seemed to really like the chart hits, or the hit parade as we called it back then. Popular hit songs were definitely working with me.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

"The Thunder and the Lightning." When you're seven and there's been a big electrical storm over your house, it leaves an impression.

Did you have another profession in mind as you were going to school, or did you know you wanted to be a musician?

I thought I might be an actor. Something in the arts. I went to audition at famous London acting schools, but no grants were available and my parents could not afford it. Someone said go to university. Nobody from Swanley Comprehensive had ever gone to university. Surprisingly I got the grades at the advanced level in English and art and won a place at the University of Hull to study drama and theology. This was in 1971.

When did you first meet Pete Waterman? And first meet Matt Aitken?

I first met Pete Waterman when he was managing record producer Peter Collins. I'd written a song that Waterman thought had some commercial possibilities, so Pete Collins produced it and I sang vocals on the recording. That was in 1980. I was running a band that had two working names. One for the posh hotels and better London venues, another for the clubs and music pubs. I charged £60 in the music pubs for my band to play but £500 in the hotels. I had sacked yet another unreliable guitarist and needed a replacement. One of the singers in the band recommended Matt Aitken and he auditioned for me at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. He was in the band that evening.

How did the Stock-Aitken-Waterman team form?

I did not want to carry on being a functioning bandleader. We were quite good at it and we could have kept going until we were very old. A lot of those bands did just that. I thought record production and songwriting was the way forward. I told the band that the last gig we'd do would be the Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Gate, London on New Year's Eve 1983. The rest of the members decided to wander off but Matt said he would come with me. We went into the studio I had built under my house, to pursue fame and fortune through songwriting and record production. In January 1984, less than a month later, we took our idea for a female Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Pete Waterman and he got it immediately and by Feb. 14 we were in the Marquee Studios Wardour Street, making the first Stock Aitken Waterman record.

That would have been "The Upstroke" by Agents Aren't Aeroplanes. Tell me about the band.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood had big success. We thought we'd sign up a couple of great looking girls, make a dance/boys town, Hi-NRG track and we might have a chance. We were honing our skills at that point and working in a good quality London studio was a great thrill but a bit daunting. I'd never seen a sampler until then. Boy, was that a revelation!

What strengths did each of you bring to the team?

Matt is a bit more technical as a musician, having had lessons, and he had a grasp of the new technologies coming into play in the early 1980s. I was more into songwriting and working with singers and vocal arrangements. Matt and I did all the musical playing on all the tracks, from guitars through brass string arrangements, drum programming and the rest. Pete was the man to sell us to the industry and bring in the work. With his contacts and personality he was very good at that.

How did you work together – who took responsibility for what, or did you mix it up?

I always worked directly with the artists behind the mic and the backing singers and took the lead in the songwriting. Matt wrote with me of course and he was leading the fight to get our sequencers, tape machine and drum computers to talk to each other. This was a major problem in the early years. Of course it was always a collaboration and we did swap roles in most areas. I'd program drums and other times Matt would. Same for all instruments. I think I even played guitar once or twice, but that was mainly Matt.

Let's talk about some of your earliest work -- with Divine, Princess and Hazell Dean.

We had a thought that most of the emerging subculture of upbeat club dance music was being made on the cheap. Some of the songs in the genre were not very good. The important aspect was the beat and tempo. We thought we could take it up a notch by introducing a proper song and recording in better quality. We mixed in a 12" format to help the DJs and went to the market with extended versions. Geoff Deane was the writer of "You Think You're a Man," which we recorded and which became our first proper chart hit. The high camp and outrageousness of Divine caused a big enough stir in both the clubs and the mainstream. Next, we wrote "Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)" for Hazell Dean. This song was a bigger hit across the board, even picking up some radio. We thought perhaps we were on to something. I remember writing "Say I'm Your Number One" at my kitchen table and working with the artist, Princess, late in the evening after the day's work was over, definitely in studio down time. The success of "Say I'm Your Number One" clearly opened my eyes to the possible breadth of our opportunity, as this was a British form of R&B, with commercial potential.

Then you have your first U.K. No. 1 with Dead or Alive. How did you first get together with Pete Burns? When you had the finished track of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" did you have a feeling this was going to be your biggest hit to date, or were you surprised when it went to No. 1?

One thing leads to another. Pete Burns told me he had heard Hazell Dean's "Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)" on the radio and was determined to work with the producers who had created it. Pete Burns – always with big hair, full makeup and drag, whatever the time of day or night. Certainly a giant character and a little overwhelming at times. He was sharp tongued. But I knew he had a great big heart. He sent my wife flowers at the birth of our son, for example. He was thoughtful like that. We made the record "You Spin Me Round" in September 1984. By the time CBS got around to releasing the single we had moved out of the Marquee Studios and into our own facility. We had no idea it was going to be our first No. 1. I didn't really stop to smell the roses. We were already onto other artists and projects when it hit the top. Working with Pete Burns and Dead or Alive was a little tense at times. But looking back I selectively remember only the good bits.

Looking back on the early days of SAW, how much of it was a struggle and what came easy? At what point in your career did you think that you had really made it?

I always felt a double pressure. Not only were we always hoping that the public would like the records but also whether our songs were good enough. It's a lot easier to do covers or produce other writers' songs. You lay yourself bare to prying eyes when you write a song. Our songs were always direct. They had a narrative. I did not like to disguise a sentiment behind allegory, simile or colorful euphemism. In our songs you can hear every word, for better or worse. We never hid. I have never felt certain a song or a record would be successful. It has always been a nervous moment awaiting audience reaction, sales figures or chart placings.

Sinitta, who was Miquel Brown's daughter, had a couple of hits before you started working with her. What did you do with her that was different from her previous work?

Simon Cowell brought Sinitta to us. There was an article in the press about 'toy boys' -- older women and young men. Typically tabloid. We always had our antenna out. I looked at headlines or phrases, novelty or news stories to see if there was anything we could use. With a new unheard artist my normal method was to attempt to write a song which reflected the character or something of the personality of the singer. A real tailor-made song. Sinitta had, of course, a big hit before and so, given the nature of her style already established, I think "Toy Boy" was the right kind of idea.

You've had a long working relationship with Simon Cowell. How did that relationship progress over the years?

We worked with Sinitta off and on for a few years. Simon Cowell moved up in the world and before long was at RCA. After Matt Aitken went off to do motor racing, Simon came to Pete Waterman and me with the World Wrestling Federation. Pete didn't fancy it. Neither did I really, but my older son, 12 years old at the time, was madly excited about me working with them. In fact, he came up to the studio and sat with Randy Savage and the Undertaker whilst they did their bit behind the mic. Simon was always a gentleman. All the girls thought he was suave. I liked him. No idea he would soon conquer the TV world. But not before another act he brought to me in 1995, [the acting duo of] Robson and Jerome. They had four No. 1 singles and two No. 1 albums and the sales figures were enormous. Simon's base at RCA/BMG was elevated. He became very important to the company's financial bottom line, and soon assumed the management position.

Like Sinitta, Bananarama had also made a number of recordings before working with SAW. How did that working relationship develop and what did you bring to the trio that was different from what they had done before?

As I said earlier, one thing leads to another. Bananarama had heard "You Spin Me Round" on the radio and came to Stock-Aitken-Waterman hoping for a bit of the same energy. I recorded their vocals for "Venus" in about two hours. They could not believe it. They told me it normally takes them two days. But my thinking was to get them in the studio and out on the road promoting as quickly as possible and let us producers bring it all together. You can endlessly pick holes in a vocal performance if there is no time constraint. I was juggling five or six different artists all requiring songs, vocals and productions. No time to sit and chat!

Bananarama's "Venus" is just one example of SAW turning an older song into a hit all over again. What went into your thinking about covering songs and how did you choose which artist should cover which older hit?

I think there's not much point in covering an older song unless you can add something new to it. Very often that would just be a tighter, punchier production available through modern multi-track recording techniques and advancements such as the emerging digital format. Sometimes the artist might suggest the cover, as with Bananarama, other times it was a request from an advertiser or partner in some other area as with some of the very big charity records we made. I always felt less pressure when we were asked to cover an old hit. Half the work was already done.

Courtesy of Modal Production Group Limited
(L-R) Rick Astley, Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman photographed in 1987.

Are there certain voices more suited to singing a SAW song and some that are not? I've read that you were concerned Rick Astley's voice was "unorthodox."

Our view is that you don't have to be Pavarotti to be a pop star. There are lots of great singers. Some of the best artists, British or American, do not necessarily have technically great voices. Conversely, the best singers are not necessarily great artists. There is a distinction. These days with vocal tuning and other tricks it's very hard to tell anything about the true quality of a singer. Rick Astley has a surprising voice. It is powerful. It doesn't need any tricks. Just a decent tune and a heartfelt lyric. "Never Gonna Give You Up" is about him. He told me about his life and the song followed.

When Rick was working as a tape op and tea boy in your studio, did you have a sense that he would have hit records, or did that become obvious later?

We did not know what to do with Rick. He was put on what we called the "back burner." Pete Waterman suggested a Motown cover, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." When I eventually got Rick behind the mic and listened to his voice I realized this was special. I said to Matt and Pete that we should not release a cover song with Rick. He was too good for that. Rather, we should write one specifically for him. That's one of the best decisions we ever made.

Kylie Minogue was already a star in her native Australia when you started to work together. How did that come about? I understand the first recording session did not go well because of a misunderstanding.

Our business affairs man, David Howells, arranged with Pete Waterman for Kylie Minogue to come to London for 10 days to work with us in the studio. The only problem was that Pete forgot to tell us. Kylie went sightseeing and shopping for nine of the 10 days and finally came to the studio with her manager explaining they were due on a flight back to Australia that afternoon. David Howells walked into the studio where I was working on Bananarama, and told me Kylie was in the waiting room. I called Pete who was in Manchester in the North of England. "Pete," I said, "Kylie Minogue -- ring any bells?" "S***!" he said. "I'd forgotten all about it!" I turned to Matt and said we would have to come up with something quickly. Otherwise this was going to be too embarrassing. I knew nothing about her, so David Howells quickly filled in the blanks. She's young, beautiful, sings and dances and is an award-winning famous actress in Australia. I thought, why does she want to make a record with us? She's got it all going on. My mum had a phrase, "lucky at cards, unlucky in love." It went through my head and got me immediately thinking, Kylie had all this success going for her, maybe she hasn't found true love. Maybe there's no time for love in her busy life. Maybe you can't have all the luck. I said to David, "give her a cup of coffee and ask her to sit in the waiting room. I'll come and get her in a while." Within 40 minutes the song "I Should Be So Lucky" was written. I discovered she could nail the vocals instantly. Her acting training and very good ear were obvious. We finished up the recording and she was on the 4pm flight to Melbourne. I apologized to Kylie later after the success of the record. We had nothing else in the can and there was a rather desperate need to make a follow-up single. I flew to Melbourne where she kept me waiting all day for three days while she was filming episodes of Neighbours. Touché, as they say. I played golf. But at 6pm on the final evening I had her for a few hours in the studio and we got the job done.

Kylie had already recorded "The Loco-Motion" in Australia. What was the difference between that original production and the SAW version?

The original version Kylie did in Melbourne had some flaws. We just gave it a more danceable production and stayed faithful to the chord structure of the original Carole King composition. I believe you must always respect the original song when making covers. Taking liberties with the melody or chordal structure is definitely not allowed.

You worked with another Australian star of Neighbours (and Mushroom recording artist) Jason Donovan. Tell me about working with Jason and his hit singles.

We took on Jason Donovan at a time when I was worried about producing another soap star. Could we do it again? Would the music fans buy it? Jason came into our studio in early February 1989. We had written "Too Many Broken Hearts" for him, and the record was released on Feb. 20 and was No. 1 on March 10th. Conceived, written, recorded, released and top of the U.K. sales charts, all in under one month. I say this to reflect in stark contrast to the way things are done today. Looking back, it seems impossible.

Courtesy of Modal Production Group Limited
(L-R) Matt Aitken, Mike Stock, and Pete Waterman photographed in 1987.

Bananarama, Kylie and Rick all had hits in the U.S., but Jason did not. Why do you think that was?

I am not sure if Jason had American releases of his records. I'd say Jason is more atypical of European pop stars than his big vocal U.S. counterparts. He has other qualities, of course, and they were recognized over here.

At this point you are having hit after hit and can do no wrong – what was this time like for you, personally and professionally?

I had energy. I still have. At any one time, we were working on several acts, often writing and producing and mastering several songs a week. At the same time my wife and I were raising our three kids, all born through this period. I did not have much time for anything else. I was focused. Something told me to keep on making that hay while the sun was still shining.

Pop songs frequently do not get a lot of respect. Did you feel that SAW did not get the same respect as the producers of "heavier" rock?

We were permanently the target of industry jibes. Our records were "too pop." "Too lightweight." Of "no lasting value." I cut my teeth on all the rock and blues bands through the '60s and '70s. I taught myself guitar and went through all the pain associated. The criticism pointed at us was that we were inauthentic. I was actually more rock n' roll than all of them! We thought we'd make a record that nobody would believe was us. [So] last thing on a Friday evening, I put the "Roadblock" groove together.

The point in releasing "Roadblock" without having our name attached was entirely to get back at the trendy press journalists or music business executives who spared us no criticism. Any chance they had to denigrate "pop" or Stock-Aitken-Waterman as purveyors of what they considered unworthy, did not go begging. The truth was we were having success. With just a handful of people in an independent studio in South London we were making them look a bit inefficient and wasteful. We made no excuses. Our sales figures said it all.

So we sent it out on white label. We only put on the sleeve the phone number of our American New York lawyer. I played it to Bananarama who thought it was a '70s rare groove. People in the office had no idea. We got rave reviews in the industry magazines and the movers and the groovers of the industry also fell for it. We did not intend to fool the record buying public. Just the industry snobs. So after we revealed it was SAW, A&M Records released it as a single. Not a massive commercial hit, but that was the irony. We were selling bucket loads of our "lightweight" pop. The one track the industry loved was only modestly successful. But it did silence the critics.

Speaking of "Roadblock" finally being released under the "Stock Aitken Waterman" name, did you have a desire to be a recording artist as well as a songwriter and producer?

We never really thought about being performing artists in the normal sense. Matt and I of course were performers on all our records. In a way we were the band and the artists the guest vocalists.

There are a lot of similarities between SAW and Holland-Dozier-Holland, in terms of writing & producing many hits for a number of artists. Did you feel like you were following the HDH model? Was that a goal?

I think Pete Waterman felt HDH were a good model. Matt was more into Led Zeppelin and I was into any strong songwriting partnership. All comparisons break down at some point. I think we were more diverse and eclectic in our styles. But I take any comparison with HDH as a great compliment. Motown was always a yardstick.

You formed your own label, PWL. What effect did that have on your work?

Most of our hits were on other labels, including EMI, CBS, London Records, BMG and Warner. My thought was that we should always be as independent as we possibly could at every stage of the process. When the industry rejected what we had to offer my answer was always, well let's put it out ourselves. That's why we eventually released Kylie on PWL Records Limited. Nobody else could see the potential.

How did the eventual departures of Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman from the team affect you?

Matt left our trio in early 1991. Pete and I stayed on for a while. But it was getting more difficult. There were financial problems -- nothing to do with me. The studio and its creative role was reduced by the introduction of staff whose job was to bring in pre-made product for release in the U.K., completely undermining the point of a creative team and a recording facility. Pete sold his label to Warner and took a salary. I thought this is the end of our equal relationship. I only got paid after a record was a hit, through the royalties it generated. I never wanted a salary.

You opened a new studio in South London, right near London Transport's construction of the extended underground Jubilee Line. What problems did that cause?

At the end of 1993, I decided there was no point in continuing with Pete Waterman if the business plan did not involve in-house independent songwriting and record production. A quick call to Matt Aitken, and I set about on a new venture. I went around the corner from the Vineyard Studios and purchased a warehouse and began the process of converting it for studio and office use. My lawyers informed London Transport of our plans and London Transport informed us that their plans to tunnel the Jubilee Line extension of the Underground nearby would have no damaging effect on my building. I started recording there in August 1994. But almost immediately the cracks began to show. Literally.

This was the same time you signed Nicki French and turned "Total Eclipse of the Heart" into a hit 12 years after the Bonnie Tyler smash.

The first project we did at Hundred House, Union Street London SE1, was Nicki French. My club promotions guy, Pitstop, suggested that we cover Jim Steinman's song, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Pitstop's reasoning was that the dance culture and gay clubs loved the song. The lyrics and the drama were widely appreciated but he said you can't dance to the Bonnie Tyler version. There was a newer version which straightened out the production, but in my view, this missed the spot. I did two versions. One you might call out-and-out club Eurobeat and the other a slightly more refined radio friendly version which if my calculations were correct could bring us a club and radio hit. This would virtually guarantee us a commercial hit in the mainstream. We released it on our in-house Love This Records label in January 1995. The club white labels and extended versions were promoted by Pitstop. We quickly had the club hit and then radio followed. I organized promotion in the U.S. and pretty soon Nicki was out there promoting and we were repeating the success in America. Nicki was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second project at Hundred House was Robson and Jerome for Simon Cowell. Four No. 1 singles, two No. 1 albums. Not a bad start! But it was soon obvious that London Underground had undermined my building. The studio's sound insulation had been compromised. I sued them. That's a bit like suing the government. You need endless supplies of money. Matt and I also set out to try and recover our rights in the recordings we created with Pete Waterman. He'd sold them to Warmer – that was AOL Time Warner. Our pockets were not that deep.

Eventually, you and Matt went your separate ways. Talk about that evolution and working on your own.

The industry changed seismically in the mid to late 1990s, courtesy of the internet. Digital downloads brought about the eventual terminal decline of record sales on physical CDs and vinyl and the closure of high street record shops. They were all becoming irrelevant. I could not work with established artists because the studio was compromised by the tunneling. I wrote and produced for a newly formed band, Scooch, for EMI and did a few other projects. Matt had had enough and by 2000 I sold the building and moved out. I had a small facility at my home. I made the "Fast Food Song" [by Fast Food Rockers, who took the single to No. 2 in the U.K.] and I started a project for children, The Go!Go!Go! Show. I built a new studio and office facility and I now work on projects controlling all aspects of the production, including videos and online sales. I'm too old now to bother about what anybody thinks of me. I am doing what I believe to be right and enjoying myself.

You've worked with far too many artists for me to ask about each one, but let me ask this – are there recordings that surprised you when they were massive hits, and are there recordings that you thought you would be hits but weren't?

I'd say Kylie Minogue has not had the success in the U.S. that she could have. Songs like "Better the Devil You Know" and "Step Back in Time" could do with a second look. With '80s nostalgia only getting stronger, particularly with huge Netflix shows like Stranger Things, which features an eclectic mix of '80s pop culture as its soundtrack, I'm surprised more of Kylie's early hits from the U.K. haven't gained more exposure in the U.S. In general, I think Stock Aitken Waterman's catalogue is undiscovered in America. It is a unique resource if you need a collection of largely untapped '80s styled hit songs.

You worked with a number of artists who spent most of their recording careers working with other producers – I'm thinking specifically of Donna Summer and Cliff Richard. How was it to work with these two superstars?

I worked with some of the best vocalists the industry has ever produced. Donna Summer was just a joy. She took my song, "This Time I Know It's for Real," and transmuted it into pure gold. It's the fans' favorite over here. I worked with Paul McCartney on some big charity records. A big thrill was when he was on the mic asking, "Mike, how do you want me to sing this?" Imagine Paul McCartney asking me how he should sing! I knew what I wanted, fortunately. Cliff Richard -- instant melody, instant tone. Pitch perfect. I found the more talented a singer is, the easier they are to work with. All treasured memories.

I recall reading that you were going to produce Johnny Mathis. Did that ever happen and are there recordings of that work hidden away in a vault somewhere?

We met Johnny and it was certainly planned to make a record with him. I keep finding stuff in the archive. Sometimes on formats that you had forgotten about. I need to go through all the DAT tapes, hundreds of them, and find some unknown Johnny Mathis and Kylie and Cliff and Donna recordings, maybe!

In 2015, you reunited with Nicki French on "This Love." What was it like to work with her again?

I always get along with the artists in the studio. Nicki is always easy to work with. I did "This Love" to acknowledge the change in the law in the U.K. to recognize gay marriage. I thought the moment shouldn't be allowed to pass us by without a song.

You brought Bucks Fizz back to the charts (as The Fizz) after an absence of many years. I think your work with them is as great or greater than their earlier work. Are there challenges and/or advantages working with a legacy act?

The Fizz come with 40 years of non-stop gigging. That's a long distance legacy. They deserve a medal, each of them. All I need to be happy is a singer who wants to sing pop songs. The Fizz are a good vocal band and working out the harmony and vocal arrangement is always fun. Cheryl Baker has a fantastic and adaptable voice. Mike Nolan has incredible range and Jay Aston's voice emotes. I think we can do a variety of styles with them. I am just getting the songs together for our fourth album which will be out later this year.

Are there any artists still on your wish list to work with?

I am always on the lookout for an artist that wants to sing honest pop songs. I don't do rap or computer-tuned robot voices. I avoid bad language and any over sexualized references. I don't date stamp my songs with current trendy phrases or street talk that nobody will understand in five years' time. I like up tempo, heartfelt lyrics and melodies, proper musical arrangements and classic instrumentation. So, all those artists willing to sign up to this, please form an orderly queue.

Considering your long and successful career, what are the moments that mean the most to you?

Occasionally an artist bothers to thank you. But seriously, from the outside it might look that I have had some very big highs and a few lows but I am always hovering around the middle. I take it all in my stride. There has been a good measure of music, mayhem, magic and money.

If you could put one recording in a time capsule to be dug up centuries from now so future citizens could listen to your work, which one would it be?

I think I might be tempted to put Kylie Minogue's second album we made, Enjoy Yourself, in the time capsule for its mix of uptempo singles and innocent musical fun. I'd leave a little note, "Parents, don't encourage your children to grow up too soon. Let kids be kids." That's it! Lecture over, I'm out of here.

Billboard Explains: Why Songwriters Are Selling Publishing Catalogs