NEIGHBOURS – THE HITMAKERS- KYLIE MINOGUE

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Locomotion (Goffin/King) – Kylie Minogue 1987

Kylie Minogue (1968) had been a child star on Aussie soaps, starting with a small role in the Sullivans and subsequently in Skyways, The Henderson Kids and Fame and Misfortune. She hit soapie gold in the role of the outspoken tomboy motor mechanic Charlene Richardson in 363 episodes of the long-running series Neighbours, which enjoyed a high profile internationally, particularly in the UK.

In 1987 the cast of Neighbors performed a benefit concert for the Fitzroy Football Club in Melbourne and Kylie sang two songs – I Got You Babe with John Waters and a solo encore of The Locomotion – producer Greg Petheric taped Kylie’s performance and she was subsequently talent-spotted by Mushroom Records Amanda Pelman and Gary Ashley, and took her father, accountant Ron Minogue with her to negotiate a contract with Mushroom supremo Michael Gudinski.

She would become the most successful recording artist in the history of Mushroom Records, and subsequently for Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) 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. Below Scott (Jason) and Charlene (Kylie) on their “wedding day”.

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Minogue recorded a disco dance cover version of the Little Eva hit Locomotion at Melbourne’s Platinum Studios with producer Mike Duffy who was aiming for a Dead or Alive/Bananarama sound-a-like record, he nailed it, and it became a big local hit, released three weeks after the famous Scott and Charlene wedding episode which was aired on July 27th, 1987, it was unstoppable. Below L-R – Mike Duffy, Little Eva, Carole King and Gerry Goffin. 

The original version of this song, was famously written by Brill Building husband and wife songwriting team Carol King and Gerry Goffin, who originally offered the song to Dee Dee Sharp to record but she turned it down. Eva Narcissus Boyd was also an aspiring singer who just happened to be babysitting the Goffin’s daughter Louise at the time, and she ultimately recorded the song under the name of Little Eva. Her recording of Locomotion had a Phil Spector density of sound and intensity, it got people onto the dancefloor, so dance steps had to be invented and it was a million-seller. Minogue’s disco version was lighter, bouncier, and also highly danceable and it soared to #1 in Australia, and became the biggest selling record of the year. The original Australian promo clip was filmed in Melbourne at Essendon Airport and the ABC Studios, and this footage was used by SAW for the UK version of the video for international release. Kylie’s younger brother Brendan appears briefly in the video at 3.01 m when Kylie calls the team together for a final group shot, and Brendan in a black leather jacket, was front and centre.

Young Kylie here, cute, bouncy, effervescent, engaging, and with that girl-next-door allure.

When re-recorded at the PWL studios in London a year later, the faces in the recording studio, who would become so familiar to Kylie in years to come, were there – Mike Stock and Matt Aitlken on keyboards, Matt Aitken on guitars, backing vocals by Mike Stock and others and produced and arranged by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken – Pete Waterman got the café lattes. Below L-R Mike Stock, Matt Aitken

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With the arrival of the Emulator sampling keyboard into the market in 1985, and the enthusiastic adoption of synthesized sounds by Stock and Aitken, who were both capable musicians (piano, guitar, synths), there was little call for other musicians on SAW records, this would ultimately lead to the creation of the distinctive Stock, Aitken, and Waterman factory sound – some thought it was mechanical and robotic, but clearly it had its fans.Below – Pete Waterman

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The UK version of Locomotion became Loco-Motion, it was substantially remixed and re-produced, removing the original guitar solo and Kylie’s high-pitched vocal asides, and adding such special effects as a train whistle and a cry of “All aboard” at the beginning of the song, apparently Pete Waterman was a model railway tragic, and insisted on the inclusion of these rather twee additions. Below L-R Stock, Aitken and Waterman at the PWL/SAW studio, Vine Yard, Southwark, London.

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It climbed to #2 in the UK and was #1 in seven other countries, remarkably it charted at #3 in the US, so making this the only song to have charted top 5 in the USA in three consecutive decades, Little Eva (#1 in ‘62) and Grand Funk Railway (#1 in ’74) had the previous hit versions, and it sold over a million copies.

Kylie Minogue would ultimately dominate charts in both Australia and the UK over the next twenty years, hitting #1 no less than eleven times in Australia and nine times in the UK. Below L-R – The Blakeney Twins, Stefan Dennis, Bruce Samazan.

She was the most famously successful pop performer of the Neighbours alumni, others who were not so successful and failed to sustain recording careers included – the Blakeney Twins, Guy Pearce, Stefan Dennis, Bruce Samazan, Stephanie McIntosh (Jason Donovan’s half-sister), Alan Fletcher, and others.  

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