Kylie Minogue's I Should Be So Lucky: The Story Behind the Song with Mike Stock
It's a tune that transcends time. An earworm that earned an Aussie soap star five weeks atop the singles chart. A song that cemented Stock Aitken Waterman among pop's most prolific producers.
34 years ago this week, I Should Be So Lucky became Kylie Minogue's first UK Number 1. And, in the name of nostalgia, we caught up with Mike Stock - one third of the production powerhouse behind the song - for a deep dive into how he created this piece of '80s excellence.
Talk us through the I Should Be So Lucky studio session; the day it was created...
It's part of folklore now, I suppose. On the day I met Kylie, we were not expecting to see her or to work with her. An arrangement had been made by David Howells, our business manager, and Pete Waterman; but somehow they forgot to tell me!
Kylie turns up, unannounced, expecting to record a song before she goes back to Australia that same day. I had to think quickly.
In the studio I worked with Matt Aitken, and I remember saying to him that we needed to come up with something right there and then. Kylie had been sent to get a coffee and sit in the waiting room whilst we worked up some ideas.
I asked David Howells to give me some kind of a steer. Who was Kylie? What was she like? What had she done? He told me she was a highly successful actress in Australia, having just won a Logie award for her role in Neighbours - neither of which I had ever heard of! She was pretty, he said, can sing and she's a great dancer. I thought, 'what does she want to make a record with us for? She's obviously got a great career going.' Then I thought, 'she’s got everything as far as a career, work and financial security, but maybe she doesn’t have love. Or maybe someone special in her life.' It seemed to be a half-decent idea. She’s lucky in life, but not lucky in love.
Once the idea was honed a bit, I set about putting a chord structure down on tape. I had never heard her sing before, so I had worked out a tune which was pitched too low for her range. When I got her behind the mic I swiftly realised and changed the melody to suit her. She was very quick. She has a great ear. We hadn’t written a lyric for the second verse before she’d finished singing the first, so we were truly on our toes.
The whole process of recording only took an hour; she really is that good. We were writing as we recorded it, as far as lyrics are concerned. I knew what the tune was having got that fixed in about forty minutes before, whilst she was waiting.
Once it was in the can, did you know you had a hit on your hands?
Matt and I never knew if we had a hit at the time of making the records. I think you can be too close. We didn’t even attempt to mix I Should Be So Lucky, rather we moved on; working on Bananarama, Rick Astley and others.
Back then, people were queuing up to work with us. I didn’t know when the record was going to be released, if at all, so it went on the back burner. I think Kylie felt she was treated with some disdain by us at the time. She’d been in London for a week, waiting for a call. Matt Aitken and I never knew.
So when she finally did get into the studio with us, it was all a bit of a rush. Later, after I Should Be So Lucky had been Number 1 for a few weeks, somebody asked 'What’s the follow up?'. It was then that I had to fly out to Melbourne and crawl on my knees to apologise to Kylie and try to convince her that she could trust us to further her burgeoning music career. I have thanked her for trusting me.
Of course, saying that you wrote such a successful song in about forty minutes does rather fail to take into account the many years of song writing experience which were brought to bear in that emergency situation! I think I was able to write a song that, rather like a tailored suit of clothes, really suited Kylie at the time. I often look back and ask myself how it was possible. For that reason alone, because some magic was operating, I would not change anything about the song.
The song's stood the test of time and remains a staple of Kylie's live shows. Her 2019 Glastonbury slot, for example. How does that feel?
I am proud of the song, yes; but also immensely grateful that Kylie still sings it and her fans all still love it. Its difficult after so many years for anyone to dismiss the song on any basis.
I loved the video, though Matt and I had no input there. What I also enjoy is seeing Kylie perform it at her shows and seeing everyone sing along. That’s always a great thrill, to see thousands of people with smiles on their faces, shouting out the tune and remembering every lyric. If that’s 'throwaway' I’d like a few more of those, please.