MAKING TRACKS #4 with songwriter & producer Steve Thompson

In the fourth and final part part of an interview with Teesside based Thompson, he talks about MCA records, Pete Waterman and mainstream success.

SELL RECORDS, SHIFT UNITS

I was working in several different genres but I still had a healthy grounding in rock. In 1981 I came up with a little slushy ballad which didn’t fit the NEAT stuff although I played it to Dave Wood and he said uh it’s ok. So I was determined my future lay elsewhere. Within six month it was a Top 20 hit for a band called Wavelength, it was Hurry Home and it was in the charts for three month.

At roughly the same time the Tygers put out Paris By Air which was a minor hit so I had some credibility on both sides of the coin. My publishing was with Neon and I had a hit with Sheena Easton on her Madness, Money and Music album which went Top 20. Celine Dion also recorded the Sheena Easton song in French. It was a hit single in Canada going Gold. The album sold 400,000 units in Canada and 700,000 units in France.

Lorraine Crosby

One day I got a call from a management company who said they had just signed a young guy who wanted to come and work with me on some tracks. ‘No mate, I’m not into that’. They said ‘we’ll pay you’ and quick as a flash I said ‘cool, send him round this afternoon’. The young guy was Stu Emerson.

I told Stu I was looking for a good female vocalist and he introduced me to Lorraine Crosby who went on to sing with Meatloaf on one of his hit singles. I recorded loads of tracks with Lorraine. She recorded all the backing vocals on some stuff I was recording with a guy called Pete Adshead. Pete’s management company had sent him up from London to work with me in Whitley Bay.

When the stuff started to get released Pete changed his name to Baby Ford. I had a couple of hits with him in the style of Acid House and one of them Chiki Chiki Ah Ah earned a BBC ban. I’m very proud of that.

HOLLYWOOD NEED SOMETHING SNAPPY

On quitting NEAT Records as producer I had a shed load of releases as a writer. In the early ‘80s I was signed to MCA Music as a songwriter. One day I got a call from my mentor there, Pete Waterman. Pete said there was a big-shot movie producer in town and I was urgently needed in London to meet up with him.

So the next day I flew down and arrived in Pete’s office around midday. Pete introduced me to an American guy who’s name now escapes me. He was one of the producers of the movie Jaws 3D which was nearing completion.

Anyway, this guy treated me to the story of his wonderful new movie and told me all it needs is a killer song. Apparently it’s a ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl’ theme. Except in this case there are no boys and girls involved, the lovers in question are dolphins. He says they have Barbara Streisand lined up to sing this yet to be written song.

Pete has put me in the frame to write the lyrics and makes his office available to conduct my work. Pete and the American guy went off to lunch saying they will check my progress on their return. As they were leaving the American called back over his shoulder ‘Hey kid, gimme a lurve song for two dolphins’.

Alone in the office I slid the cassette into the machine. Shit!!!!! How on earth could I turn this orchestral pomp into a song. Still I had been charged with the task so I had to try. I spent the next two hours racking my brain and writing one liners and drawing doodles.

SINK OR SWIM

The guys arrived back and the American says ‘OK kid, whaddyah got?’  I said ‘not much’ and passed over the piece of paper and waited to be well and truly spanked. Pete – ever the bullshitter, went into overdrive. ‘What did I tell you about my boy, F***ing brilliant, just look at this, sink or swim, I will follow him, that’s a killer line’.

It was just about the only line but Pete was leaving no room for contradiction. He was already on the phone booking a studio for that evening. Then he dashed out of the office and grabbed another MCA staff writer who had a good singing voice. This hapless guy was named Simon Jeffries and he was going to have to sing this crap. Like me, Simon was not going to say no to the guy responsible for signing his yearly salary cheque – a publishers advance.

I was therefore obliged to spend the rest of the day making words fit to soaring violins and trumpets. The pain of this was nothing compared to the recording session that evening. I think we nearly killed the poor vocalist. Unsurprisingly, I never heard another thing about my entry into the world of movie themes and as it happens I never saw Simon again either.

Steve’s latest album is available on Cherry Red  www.thelongfade.xyz

For more details check the official site:

The Steve Thompson Band – Steve Thompson: Songwriter (steve-thompson.org.uk)

Interview by Gary Alikivi  June 2017.