“Shoulder pads and shit music” was the way a friend of mine once described the 1980’s, the decade in which I went from being interested in bikes and creepy crawlies to cars and girls. But is it fair to look back at the 80’s and judge that time so harshly? Some evidence, like the video below, is hard to defend.

Arguably one of the worst things about the 1980’s, apart from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, was the ‘ready-mix’ pop music factory of Stock Aitken & Waterman. From the mid eighties through to the early 90’s the three songwriters (and I use that term loosely) wrote and produced over 200 top 40 UK hits making them one of the most successful song-writing and producing partnership of all time.

The Stock Aitken & Waterman typical recipe for success was to take some moderately talented person, write them a catchy tune, then get them to bounce around in a video for the song which would be a hit is the clubs and seep into common culture like an undiscovered chemical leak.

Among some of the names the trip gave us (inflicted upon us?) were Rick Astley, Bananarama, Divine, Jason Donovan, Samantha Fox, Mel and Kim, Kylie Minogue, Pepsi & Shirlie, Sabrina, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Sinitta, and that annoying squeeky voiced scoucer, Sonia.

Some of the music was truly awful. In fact, lets just be honest here and say that in truth all of the music was truly awful. Synth pop high energy rubbish that coiled itself into your brain like a rhythmic parasite. Many a teenage party I attended included the ‘classics’ like Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up‘ and Sam Fox’s embarrassing elevation from Page 3 girl to pop babe with ‘Touch me‘.

For me, the lowest high point (or maybe the highest low point?) of the Stock Aitken & Waterman days was the fleeting appearance of ‘Sabrina.’ Presumably chosen for her sizable ‘natural talents’, Italian Sabrina Salerno was plucked from obscurity to sing the 1987 hit ‘Boys (Summertime Love)‘. The track was a huge success based in no small part on Miss Salerno’s bouncy performance in the music video (above).

The funny thing is, no matter how crap the songs actually were, many of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s tracks have become ingrained in history as musical marker points (though what they mark is open to debate). The power of music is that it triggers memories and so despite the fact they are undoubtedly crap songs, a lot of Stock Aitken & Waterman’s tunes take me and others back to simpler days, and with that they hold a value I never imagined they would.

So while we might not be prepared to yet forgive Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan for their part on the 1980’s, forgiving Stock Aitken & Waterman might actually be possible. Who know, in another twenty years we might all be able to forgive likes of Brittany Spears, 50 Cent and Eminem!

Sabrina ‘Boys (Summertime Love)’
Another amusing ‘Boys (Summertime Love)’ performance
Stock Aitken & Waterman
Sabrina (now a hot Mom) sings a new song ‘I love you’