NEIGHBOURS- THE HITMAKERS- JASON DONOVAN

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Nothing Can Divide Us (M Stock/M Aitken/P Waterman) and Too Many Broken Hearts (M Stock/M Aitken/P Waterman) – Jason Donovan 1989

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With a showbiz lineage from both of his parents who worked in the entertainment industry (TV presenter Sue (nee McIntosh), and actor Terry (above with young Jason), Jason Donovan (1968) followed a similar path to success as Kylie Minogue with roles in Skyways and ultimately his pairing as Scott Robinson with Minogue’s Charlene, the loved- up couple in Neighbours, and for a time, in real life. His parents fought a bitter divorce battle and were legally decoupled in 1973 when Jason was 5, his father won custody of his son, and young Jason was traumatised by the split, and has remained estranged from his mother for many years. A devastated Sue has blamed Jason’s book – Between The Lines: My Story Uncut – for the rift that has torn her family apart, wherein Jason told how he felt abandoned as a child by his mother, “I was appalled and upset by his book. It was a cruel effort on Jason’s part and I told him that in the last conversation we had “, Sue remarked. Jason and his father would simultaneously feature in Neighbours episodes when Terry commenced in the role of Doug Willis in 1990, and was subsequently joined by Jason’s eldest daughter Jemma, when she filled the role of Harlow Robinson in 2019. Below L-R Jason, Mother Sue, L-R Father Terry, Jason’s daughter Jemma, and Jason.

Jason won the Logie Award for Best New Talent in 1987 and would appear in over 400 episodes of Neighbours between 1985-89. Jason epitomized the clean-cut, boy-next-door, that every girl-next-door wanted to meet, and that was how Jason and Kylie were paired up in the Ramsay St. neighbourhood, Mushroom Records in Melbourne then linked Jason with Stock, Aitken and Waterman in London, and the rest was history. Below- L-R Rick Astley, Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman.

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Pete Waterman was originally reserved about recording Donovan, he felt that the Kylie/Jason thing was a bit tacky, and that Donovan was having trouble maintaining pitch – he had a blockage between his ears and sinuses that made it hard for him to maintain pitch, until an operation corrected the problem. Kylie insisted that Jason had talent and so Waterman gave him a song that had been rejected by Rick Astley – Nothing Can Divide Us – which was a clone of Rick Astley’s second hit Together Forever, and went to #3 locally and #5 in the UK. It was a typically catchy albeit formulaic SAW composition which combined synthy beats, stuttering/cantering percussion, and anodyne lyrics “You can put your faith in me/ I would never set you free/ Hold you head up high and let everybody see/ With love to guide us nothing can divide us.”

Standard catchy melodic formula from SAW- very synthy, LinnDrum machine delivered a rythmic platform for Jason’s everyman vocals.

Astley was dropped from the SAW roster after this, hell hath no fury like a tunesmith scorned, and as future hits failed to materialise he came to rely on the dubious online fad of “rickrolling” for future exposure. Donovan would release his debut album Ten Good Reasons in 1989 and it was a huge hit which yielded three #1 hits, with sales of 1.7m in the UK alone, and #1 in Aust and top 10 in NZ and Germany, with global sales in excess of 2.0 million. The second single lifted off it would be the Minogue/Donovan duet, Especially for You which was also a huge hit, #2 in Aust and #1 in the UK.

The time was right for Donovan to go solo again and to ride the wave of popularity he was enjoying, another SAW composition, Too Many Broken Hearts, was yet another Rick Astley sound-a-like tune, and became Jason’s second UK #1 and a top ten hit in Aust. The lyrics were certainly prescient – “I’ll be hurt, I’ll be hurt if you walk away…”  as Kylie Minogue was moving away from the clean-cut Jason, to the more worldly charms of INXS front man Michael Hutchence.

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Donovan did not possess the resonant baritone vocal qualities of Rick Astley, but he could hold a tune, and he did have the powerful cache of Neighbours star quality; he had swooned his way to a #1 hit with his former co-star Kylie with Especially For You, but Too Many Broken Hearts would be his own bona fide solo UK #1, #7 Aust. and a million-selling global hit. Few could resist his dreamy good looks as he strummed a red Gibson guitar in the music vid, even though the guitar Jason was playing wasn’t actually plugged in, and his guitar-playing ability had never actually been documented before.   

Jason ponders his love life whilst roamimg around the hills of Beechwoth, Victoria, Aust.

The hit factory that was SAW would continue to churn out the formulaic songs for artists like Donovan and Minogue for which they had become famous, but the songwriting partnership was not without its divisions and acrimony as revealed in the book The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em (by Sean Egan). Both Mike Stock and Matt Aitken claimed that Pete Waterman’s contribution to the actual creative process was minimal and that his forte was promotion not songwriting or production, for which he still got a third of the publishing royalties! Donovan would continue to chart in the UK and take Sealed With A Kiss to #1 and another three songs into the UK top ten over the next two years, before embarking on a career in stage musicals – Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat, Grease, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Camelot and The Rocky Horror Show .Below L-R – Jason in Camelot, The Rocky Horror Show, and with Peter Andre in Grease.

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