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United Kingdom: National selection details and Pete Waterman interview

24 February 2010 at 23:17 CET

Although there are no details released as of yet regarding the six acts who will compete in the United Kingdom selection process Your Country Needs You, the BBC has confirmed today that the show will take place on Friday 12th March at 20.30 GMT and will last for 90 minutes.

The BBC has continued the theme of inviting a high profile songwriter to pen the United Kingdom entry, as this formula produced a fifth place result in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest when Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren wrote It's My Time for Jade Ewen. For 2010, they have turned to legendary pop writer Pete Waterman.Pete spoke to the BBC last week and shared his thoughts about the project ahead.

You must have a formula

Pete Waterman has nearly five decades in the entertainment business, and a track record of success that has earned him countless industry awards and an OBE, if anyone can put the UK back at the top of the Eurovision tree, surely Pete can??. But with his very name raising expectations, isn’t he on a hiding to nothing? “I’ve been on a hiding to nothing all my life,” says Pete,  who rose from a working class background in Coventry to found a pop dynasty as part of the Stock Aitken Waterman production team, helping make stars of Kylie Minogue, Steps, Rick Astley, Mel And Kim and many more.

When approached by the BBC, Pete did stipulate two conditions that had to be met before he agreed to write the entry. Firstly he wanted to have a completely free hand musically, and secondly he wanted to enlist the help of his old partner Mike Stock to help him. Pete added "We haven’t worked together recently, but we’ve remained friends and there was no question that I would be willing as long as he was prepared to do it with me. Mike is the musician and he interprets my ideas – a trouble shared is a trouble halved, as they say.”

Although he has a free hand, Pete understands that a Eurovision song needs to conform to some very basic pop rules. “We know it needs to work as part of a television spectacular, it must be dynamic and hit everyone in the first few bars, and we know it has to last less than three minutes,” he says. “You have to have a formula; it will have to have an intro, at least two verses, a bridge and a chorus, nothing superfluous.

“If you try to go against that it won’t work,” he adds. “Most of our number ones have been very standard songs. A song like Yesterday by the Beatles only comes along very occasionally to break that pattern, but even they didn’t know they were breaking the rules until they’d written it. It’s a fantastic song, but it’s a rarity, even My Way follows a basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus progression.”   Last year’s runaway winner, Fairytale by Norway’s Alexander Rybak, is the perfect example of what to look for, Pete says: “People liked it even before the competition opened; it was favourite to win because it was a good, simple catchy song.”

UK has tried to be too trendy in the past!

On reflecting as to why the United Kingdom had fared so badly in Europe's Favourite TV show prior to 2009, Pete states "I think it’s because, for a long time, top songwriters didn’t want to do it,” he says. “Last year Andrew Lloyd Webber broke the mould really as the first real writer to put himself in the firing line. Going back as far as Bill [Martin] and Phil [Coulter] writing Congratulations for Cliff Richard in 1968, you haven’t really had established writers and, even when the UK last won in 1997, the record wasn’t British, it was Katrina And The Waves. We’ve put some pretty strange songs out there in recent years, I think we’ve tried to be too trendy, it’s about getting a great song.”

Not just at Eurovision but more widely, British music, Pete feels, has rather lost sight of that. “We treat music like jelly beans, it’s become not so much about the songs as how it’s delivered. To me it doesn’t matter if it’s a download or on an iPod or whatever, what matters is the song. For me people should watch Eurovision to pick a winner. You might laugh about a particular act or something strange, but you also want to say to your family ‘that one will win’. As a youngster I used to watch with my mum and dad, even my grandad, all offering their opinion on what the best song was and everyone in the family would be involved. We’ve forgotten that and the media underestimates the power of music.”

“Ultimately,” he says, “it doesn’t matter too much, but I’d like the country to feel proud, and I want people to say at least we gave it a bloody good shot.”