Kylie Ann Minogue was born on May 28 1968, the eldest child of Ron and Carol Minogue of Melbourne, her two younger siblings are Brendan (‘70) and Dannielle (‘71). Kylie’s maternal grandparents emigrated to Australia on the SS New Australia in April 1955, under the £10 Assisted Passage Scheme for new immigrants, with their four children Jean, Carol, Suzette and Noel, Carol was 12 and her parents Millicent and Denis Jones, had operated the post office in the small south Wales town of Maesteg.
Carol (above left) was a dancer and model and she met and married Melbourne accountant Ron Minogue whose family were fifth generation Australians with an Irish ancestry (wedding day shot below), the family lived in homes in the Melbourne suburbs of Surrey Hills and Camberwell, and Kylie (above right) attended the local primary school and graduated from Camberwell High School in 1985.
Kylie and her sister Dannii had singing and dancing lessons as youngsters but it was Danni who first experienced success in entertainment when in1982 she became a regular performer on Johnny Young’s Young Talent Time, a show on which she would appear for six years up to 1988. Left to right Brendan, Kylie, and Dannii.
In 1978 a ten-year-old Kylie accompanied Dannii to an audition for a minor role in the TV series The Sullivans, and while Danni was deemed to be too young for the role, Kylie landed a small part, she would also appear in another short-lived local series Skyways in 1980, with future co-star Jason Donovan, until she secured a lead role in The Henderson Kids. But Kylie’s character was written out of this show after one season, as she struggled to balance the competing demands of the show’s production schedules with her schoolwork. Dannii had been performing on YTT as a regular for several years when Kylie submitted a demo tape to YTT, and while she did perform on the show in 1986 with sister Dannii, she was not invited to join the cast, perhaps because she was already too old for YTT.
In 1986 Kylie would be cast in a career-defining role as Charlene Robinson (nee Mitchell), a tomboy auto mechanic on the popular soap opera Neighbours, who would have a love affair with and marry the character Scott Robinson, played by Jason Donovan, the two would also be romantically connected off-screen in the period 1984-89. Below left to right – Kylie as tomboy auto mechanic Charlene Robinson, and at right with other Neighbours cast members Guy Pearce and Jason Donovan
Neighbors would achieve unprecedented popularity amongst UK viewers, far greater than here in Australia, and when episode 523 went to air in 1987, which featured the marriage of Scott and Charlene (below), it attracted a UK audience of 20 million viewers. Minogue would be the first person to win four Logie Awards in one year and became the youngest recipient of the Gold Logie Award, as Australia’s Most Popular Television Performer.
In 1987 the cast of Neighbors performed a benefit concert for the Fitzroy Football Club and Kylie sang two songs – I Got You Babe with John Waters and a solo encore of The Locomotion, she was talent-spotted by Mushroom Records Amanda Pelman and Gary Ashley, and took her father, accountant Ron Minogue with her to negotiate a contract with them. She would become the most successful recording artist in the history of Mushroom Records, and subsequently for Stock, Aitken and Waterman as well. Mushroom Records Simon Young recommended Terry Blamey, the owner of PACE, a company that specialized in mainstream talent booking, and sub-let office space from Gudinski, to Kylie as her manager, and from 1987 to 2013 he was a respected member of her team and trusted inner circle.
Kylie’s first exposure to the UK market was via Stock, Aitken and Waterman (below) who generated a seemingly endless chain of hit songs throughout the 1980’s, but they were often criticized for having a “Hit Factory” mentality when it came to writing, recording and promoting their songs, and as all factories strive to standardize and control the quality of their product, there was inevitably a mechanical, almost robotic regularity about SAW music. The performers who recorded under the SAW/PWL banner – Kylie, Bananarama, Mel and Kim, Sonia, Sinnita, Rick Astley, and others, were expected to comply with a strictly formulaic studio sound.
But this approach was not exactly new in the music industry, early in the last century sheet music publishers had clustered around Manhattan in an area known as Tin Pan Alley, where composers, musicians, singers and others gathered in a loosely defined collective, to create popular music that resonated with fans. In the 1950’s and 60’s New York’s Brill Building assumed an almost mythical hit factory identity, as famous songwriters flocked there to sit in small cubicles, equipped with a piano to write hit songs – King and Goffin, Mann and Weil, Lieber and Stoller, Greenwich and Barry, Sedaka and Greenfield, and many more, crafted the hits of the decade, until dislodged with the advent of the singer-songwriters, notably the Beatles and other bands, who craved greater creative freedom as well as their share of lucrative song publishing rights.Left to right below Stoller/Elvis/Lieber; Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; and Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
Hit factories also sprung up in Detroit with Motown Records, at Phillies records in NYC where Phil Spector invented his “wall of sound”, and at Atlantic Records in Memphis where Ahmet Ertegun fostered his unique brand of soul music. In the 1970’s Brit Nick Chinn and Aussie Mike Chapman would dominate the UK charts with a string of “ChinniChap” productions that launched the careers of Suzie Quatro, Sweet, Smokie, New World, Mud, Racey, and many others, and copped criticism for the perceived “hit factory” banality of their music. Below left to right Phil Spector, Nick Chinn and Mike Chapman, and Ahmat Ertegun.
The success of the Hit Factory concept was not lost on those who followed SAW, and by the 1990’s the assembly line had shifted to Stockholm, where Deniz PoP, Max Martin and Dr. Luke’s Cheiron studios now reigned supreme, here musical software, sampling, and digital-compression techniques were gamechangers as actual instruments began to disappear, and such performers as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Boyzone, Justin Timberlake, Westlife, NSYNC, Celine Dion and others flocked there to cut their latest record. Left to right below Max Martin and Deniz PoP.
Not all Hit Factory songs were great, among the musical gems there were also clunkers that could make your teeth grind, so SAW’s demonization, particularly by the UK tabloids, should be seen in the light of the long history of Hit Factories over the past 100 years, their music was like the curate’s egg, parts were good and other parts were not so good.
Kylie Minogue has effectively re-invented herself several times throughout her career, travelling a wide stylistic path within the broad scope of pop music, her chameleon-like capacity to survive has confounded her early critics who wrote her off as a gimmick or novelty act, a soapie star with a limited voice who would briefly ride on the SAW hit factory assembly line for several short-lived hits, and just as quickly disappear. Along the way the tabloids seemed to conjure an endless list of sobriquets for Kylie Minogue, some were cheeky and endearing, others not so complimentary – sex siren, pop puppet/moppet, singing budgie, pop princess, show pony, disco diva, pop pixie, disco bunny, gay icon, impossible princess, Aussie hot-bot, soapie queen, dancing queen, girl-next-door, green fairy, cover girl and – quite simply the hardest working woman in pop, known to close associates simply as Min. Below – Donovan, Minogue/ Pearce on the set of Neighbours; Kylie and Michael Hutchence; Kylie as Absinthe The Green Fairy in Moulin Rouge.
A singer, actress, charity worker, sex symbol, style icon, businesswoman, showgirl, and a genuine star in an industry where that status is hard-earned, everyone seems to be on first name terms with this global pop brand name. Mononyms are reserved for only a few of the great instantly-recognizable singers in popular music – Barbra, Diana, Madonna, Cher, Tina, Aretha, Janet, Mariah, Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna, Sia, Lorde, and of course Kylie – and by the way her name is the Noongar (Aboriginal) word for boomerang.
Thirty-three years later Kylie Minogue, AO, OBE, is very much in the driver’s seat of an incredible career, she has duetted with everyone from Nick Cave (above), Jason Donovan, Robbie Williams, Tove Lo, James Corden, Keith Washington, Jack Savoretti and of course her younger sister Dannii. She has had chart-topping albums in each decade since the 1980’s, including her most recent hit 2020’s Disco. She has been a pop icon in Australia with 10 #1 singles, and 6 #1 albums, as well as in the UK with 7 #1 Singles and 6 #1 albums, she has also taken ten singles to the top of the US Dance charts, received 16 ARIA Awards, one Grammy Award, and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2011 by Julia Gillard.
Her career achievements also include global record sales of 100 million, 3 Brit Awards, and she has also become an official standard of measurement for social distancing, as at 1.52m tall “staying a Kylie apart from other people” has become part of the lexicon of the pandemic. Kylie and DAnnii snapped in their hometown Melbourne on Feb 12th 2021.
The sheer scope of Kylie Minogue’s discography over the past 33 years is such that the 4TR blog for this performer will embrace the period 1987-2020, and will be divided into Parts 1 and 2. The first part will feature biography and hit songs from the period 1987-1996 and will be published from Tuesday Feb 23rd to Thursday March 4th, Part 2 will be published in June and cover the career hits from 1997- 2020 – 4TR hopes you enjoy our Kylie special.