‘STEPS’ & 5,6,7,8 – THE TRUE STORY
‘STEPS’ & 5,6,7,8 – THE TRUE STORY
This November sees the 21st anniversary of the first single release by international hit pop band ‘STEPS’. It’s no secret that the concept and development was mostly mine and over the last 21 years, people have either congratulated me or hated me on a 50/50 split. I realize they are not to everyone’s musical taste but success speaks for itself. However, nothing is easy in the entertainment buisiness and here follows the cut down true story of how it all started.
In 1996, I remembered how ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ by my former band ‘Brotherhood Of Man’ had a dance which was copied by thousands of fans and linked it all to my new ‘Line Dancing’ pop band idea so I set about trying to write what could be a definitive track and as usual with my style of writing, looked for a great title. Then I had a ‘eureka’ moment whilst playing at a songwriters showcase. It popped into my head how line dances, or in fact dances in general, were always counted in with 5,6,7,8 instead of 1,2,3,4, as most musicians would count in each other. Just had to write the rest of the song now, but I was already smelling a ‘hit’.
Together with line dancing expert Steve Crosby, we placed an ad in ‘Stage’, an entertainment industry magazine for some good looking young singer/dancers to come and audition for a new pop group. We had decided on a working name of ‘STEPS’ as it went with the line dancing idea. To my surprise, the audition room was packed full of auditionees and Steves’ wife, ‘Rodeo Ruth’, set about teaching them the basic steps to the dance we’d come up with. I videoed the candidates, looking for some star quality on the screen. It was like a forerunner of TVs’ ‘X Factor’ (I wonder where that idea came from? Mmm Simon?).
Over the next couple of days, after reviewing the videos, we settled on our 3 girls and 2 boys, this male/female split arrived at because more girls line danced than boys. Also I wanted to get away from the ‘Abba’/’Bucks Fizz’/ ‘Brotherhood of Man’ line up of 2 boys and 2 girls.
We were initially turned down by many labels, including ‘Simon Cowell’ at ‘BMG’, the biggest response from major labels being the song and act were too ‘cheesy’ and that the line dancing thing was just a fad that would soon pass. Plus all the pop bands around at that time were either all female, such as the ‘Spice Girls’ or boy bands such as ‘Boyzone’.
Not disheartened, we kept going and Simon Cowell admitted that our song ‘5,6,7,8’, could be a hit. So offered us a one single deal for ‘5,6,7,8’. His stipulation though was that we should enter it into the ‘Eurovision Song Contest’. I immediately didn’t like that idea so turned down Simon’s offer, preferring to wait for the minimum three singles and album deal we were seeking.
Just as I was discussing with Steve Crosby that we may have made a mistake in turning down Simon Cowell’s offer, hit producer ‘Pete Waterman’ suddenly came on the scene.
I’d brushed shoulders a few times with Pete so he knew of me and my commercial credentials. However I was convinced that he, a lover of soul and R&B, would absolutely hate ‘5,6,7,8’ with its’ twangy Country guitar and line dancing association.
How wrong could I be? I cowered at the back of the studio waiting for another big rejection when halfway through the second chorus he turned to us all and put his thumbs up. ‘F***ing Hit’ he triumphantly proclaimed and provided an album and three singles deal. I was later to find out that this moment saved his deal and relationship with ‘Jive Records’ which was teetering on failure.
There were seven names on the contract documents with ‘STEPS’ members being Lee, H, Claire, Faye, Lisa plus myself and Steve Crosby as the sixth and seventh non performing participants and writers.
At the start of November, the track was released and went straight into in the top 20.
It subsequently hovered between 11 and 20 for the next 16 weeks becoming the biggest selling record of the 90s not to make the top 10. It soared to no. 1 in Australia (never saw that coming) and was featured on a plethora of Compliation CDs internationally including some big sellers.
The first few months of 1998 saw my song still hovering in the charts between eleven and twenty but never actually entering the top ten. The track went on to be included in just about every party compilation globally which helped the royalties pile up considerably.
21 years later, the track, 5,6,7,8, is now a party classic and still receives a lot of play worldwide. After numerous hits and concert tours, STEPS are now one of the most successful pop acts in the world.
I’m very thankful.