Music mogul Pete Waterman could be forgiven for easing up after 40 years in the business, but not a bit of it. The ‘Midlands boy through and through’ is hitting the road to spill the beans on Simon Cowell and Co…
After 40 years at the forefront of the music business Pete Waterman has heard it all, seen it all and done it all… many times over. “Nothing shocks or surprises me anymore,” he says. “There’s pretty much no situation that I haven’t experienced or had to handle.”
Which, we guess, is why he’s so relaxed at spending the next five months being put on the spot night-after-night by audiences up and down the country as he takes his new one-man show on the road. And the date he’s especially looking forward to is the 23rd of this month when An Evening With Pete Waterman decamps at Birmingham Town Hall.
Pete’s expecting all the regular questions: What was it like working with Kylie Minogue? What was Rick Astley really like? Is Simon Cowell really Mr Nasty? What was it like being a Pop Idol judge? But Pete is expecting something a little more searching from the Birmingham audience – after all, he’s a “proud Midlands boy through and through”.
He says: “I’m expecting and hoping that with my local knowledge of the Midlands, I’ll get some really good chat and banter happening with the audience. There’s nowhere like the place and no one like the people.”
Music mogul Pete’s new show is proof positive of what has always driven him on – the need to be challenged and always to try something new and ‘out of the box’. The one-man format follows on from his A Life in Song concert two years ago at London’s Royal Festival Hall which saw Pete discussing his career with a host on stage. “Although I enjoyed that, I felt the interaction with the audience through the host wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I want to talk to people directly so you can get a really good rapport going with them.” Now, he’s promising ‘behind-the-scenes and inside’ stories galore.
There’s no shortage of material that’s for sure. Pete is recognised as one of the most influential and prolific music moguls of a generation, being the man behind more than 100 Top 40 UK hits and 40 million records. Worldwide, Pete has achieved more than 500 million record sales becoming not only a producer and songwriter but also a talent spotter and developer, radio DJ and TV presenter. He’s also collected an OBE from the Queen for his services to music along the way…
He’s is perhaps best known as one third of the huge-selling music production and songwriting partnership, Stock Aitken Waterman as well as for his PWL label. As the most successful producer-songwriter in UK history, he has won dozens of awards, including multiple Ivor Novellos and the Music Industry’s Man of the Year. His influence spans legendary acts from across the music spectrum, including Bananarama, Steps, Donna Summer, John Travolta, Jason Donovan, Cliff Richard, Sinitta, as well as Kylie and Rick too of course.
Not bad for a lad from humble beginnings in Stoke Heath, Coventry, who was educated at Whitely Abbey Comprehensive and left school without being able to read or write – but who was “brilliant at music and could sing like an angel”. (He remembers all too well going to his local bank and asking for the same teller every time so he could write his cheques out for him…)
Pete’s first job was as a steam locomotive fireman with British Railways based in the old Stafford Road depot in Wolverhampton. And trains are a passion he still enjoys today – but more of that later!
He decided to follow a career in music after being inspired by the Beatles, and to supplement his income as a DJ he became a gravedigger and then an apprentice and union official at GEC. As his DJ work grew, he travelled widely making serious contacts in the music business before teaming up with Matt Aitken and Mike Stock in the early Eighties.
On TV, as well as appearing on Pop Idol in the UK, Pete famously linked up with comedian Peter Kay for the hilarious spoof talent show Britain’s Got The Pop Factor… And Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice.
Despite the fame and fortune, Pete has never yearned the rich life. “I have never lived in a multi-million mansion or had my own private jet,” he says. “It’s not who or what I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love London and working in London, but I would never want to live there. My roots are and always have been right here in the Midlands. Yes, I live further north these days, but I’m still a Midlands boy, 100 per cent. I know the place upside down, inside out and backwards. All my closest mates still live in Coventry and I speak with them and especially my best mate from school – who is still my best mate today – regularly.”
Pete acknowledges and welcomes that the music business has transformed from what it was when he started out. “I still love music with a passion and the quality of the recordings is fantastic now. What I don’t like is the way we purchase music. It’s all streamed, and that sanitises it.”
Alongside Pete’s love of music is his addiction to the railways. His knowledge of the British rail industry is unmatched and he has invested huge amounts of time and money both in setting up two train businesses, creating hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships, salvaging, restoring and preserving steam locomotives and collecting large scale model trains. He even established his own high-quality model railway kit-making business in Scotland!
And to prove his love of rail travel is not all nostalgia, Pete is a member of the HS2 Growth Taskforce – a project which he describes as “life-changing and something we have to do for our children”.
Now incredibly 71 and looking years younger, Pete has no intentions of letting up on work. “I look at everything I’ve done and do as opening up the next door,” he says. “I’m always ready for the next opportunity.”