Another piece from the archives. This was written as part of a larger project that was ultimately unpublished. A rarity, perhaps an oddity in my portfolio, particularly if you’re a CMU fan, this article is about Simon Cowell but is devoid of sarcasm. I know, it makes me feel weird, too…
We all know Simon Cowell as the world’s harshest talent show judge, but he has worked for many years in the music industry to gain that position. He started out in the late 70s working in the mail room at EMI Music Publishing, where his father was an executive, before becoming an assistant to one of the company’s A&R men. Not long after this he set up his first record company, Fanfare Records, which released a number of hit records, most notably by the singer Sinitta, who later became Cowell’s fiancé too, although they split up before actually tying the knot.
In 1989, he became an A&R consultant for BMG, and throughout the nineties signed a huge number of artists who, while perhaps not always particularly credible, went on to sell millions of records.
Then, in 2002, he formed Syco, the entertainment company responsible for, of course, ‘X Factor’, as well as Cowell’s numerous other hit TV shows. In 2006, Cowell claimed that, despite only employing 14 people, Syco was responsible for 40% of its parent company, Sony Music (UK)’s profits.
But, come on, enough of all this talk, let’s have some cold, hard facts. What has Simon Cowell really done? Well, here are five number one singles that were, for better or worse, all down to Simon Cowell.
Five – Keep On Movin’
Created by the same team as the Spice Girls and signed by Cowell in 1997, Five (or 5ive) launched their career when they featured on a TV show about nasty neighbours. Bad boy status achieved, they quickly followed it up with chart success too. ‘Keep On Movin’, the third single from their second album, was their first number one.
Westlife – Swear It Again
Westlife have never tried to cultivate a bad boy reputation, which may or may not have contributed to them reaching number one in the singles charts no less than 14 times. Managed by Cowell’s ‘X Factor’ judging buddy Louis Walsh, the group started as they intended to go on by reaching the top with their debut single, ‘Swear It Again’.
Robson & Jerome – Unchained Melody
Robson Green and Jerome Flynn’s characters performed ‘Unchained Melody’ in an episode of TV’s ‘Soldier Soldier’. Cowell convinced them (under duress, if the stories are to be believed) to record it as a single, and by the following year the duo had released three singles and two albums, all of which went to number one.
Teletubbies – Teletubbies Say ‘Eh-Oh!’
Continuing his run of turning TV stars into pop stars, Cowell signed up the latest kids TV sensation the Teletubbies in 1997, hoping to get the Christmas number one. The Spice Girls beat them to that particular accolade, but they did reach the top of the charts for two weeks in the run up to the festive period.
Leona Lewis – Bleeding In Love
Of course, now Cowell is best know for turning ordinary people into TV stars before turning them into pop stars. There’s no doubt that his biggest success in this area is 2006 ‘X Factor’ winner Leona Lewis, who he hid away for a year before unleashing her into the world again with this single, which went straight to number one in 12 countries.