Rewriting the story of pop's greatest hitmakers

They dominated the charts for years, but the songwriting trio behind Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley were never taken seriously. Podcaster Matthew Denby is here to correct the record.

9 Nov 2021
Written by
The Story
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Photo: Shutterstock; Kraft74

For decades, a compelling falsehood held sway in serious discussions about popular music: rock bands, with their “real” instruments and gritty vocals, were authentic artists, while pop stars, whose synthesiser arrangements and choreographed music videos belied their artificial nature, were not.

It’s an argument former magazine writer Matthew Denby never bought into. And as the success of his recent podcast shows, he’s far from alone. Titled A Journey Through Stock Aitken Waterman, Matthew's podcast offers an oral history of pop music’s biggest hit factory, made up of the trio affectionally known as SAW.

For nearly 10 years, SAW dominated the charts, producing hits for Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley, Bananarama and every other quintessentially ’80s outfit in between. Their music was among the first to bring elements of the gay club scene into the popular domain. But while SAW found millions of listeners across the globe, they were largely ignored (if not flat-out derided) by Australia’s cultural gatekeepers.

In this episode of our sister podcast StoryCraft, Matthew explains why he and his co-host Gavin Scott wanted to rewrite this particular chapter of music history. He also wrestles with the question of who gets to write the first draft of history, and discusses how anyone with a microphone and some passion can flip that script.

Listen below, or subscribe to StoryCraft on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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