Shown twice a day on BBC1 when we only had the four channels to choose from, the Australian drama peaked with 21m viewers, and key to its appeal were young stars like Kylie Minogue (Charlene) and Jason Donovan (Scott).
Kylie was the first to embark on a pop career in 1988, and following her immediate chart-topping success her then-boyfriend Jason was hot on her heels.
Donovan is now embarking on a belated 30th anniversary tour for his debut album, Ten Good Reasons. Released in 1989, the album spawned three number one singles – Sealed With a Kiss, Too Many Broken Hearts, and his duet with Kylie Especially For You – which help propelled it to five-times platinum status, becoming the best-selling album in the UK that year.
The whopping 37-date tour, dubbed Even More Good Reasons, will see Donovan revisiting the album in full, and will also feature songs from throughout his solo career – including numbers from his time in musical theatre as well for the first time.
When we catch up with Jason on the phone, he’s walking across Hyde Park ‘on a beautiful day’, fresh from buying new clothes for the tour. The star has called London home for some years now.
Like so many tours, this one has been delayed from 2020 by the pandemic, but as Jason says: ‘It was initially slated for a year before that, but we didn't go ahead with it because of another job that I had.
‘But it's good to be back - it's great be brave and forging forward in an environment where I can understand people are apprehensive.
‘But we aim to give the audience a little bit of what they've been missing over the last year which is hope and happiness and the magic of music, I suppose...’
When we speak, Jason is due to start rehearsals for the tour the very next day. What can his fans expect from the show?
‘I am going to do the full album, but that’s in the second half of the show. The first half is doing some different stuff – we're going to do a few songs from the musicals I've done, which is very different for me.
‘And I'm going to pay a little homage to my friends in Neighbours, which you'll have to come along and see.’
In 1991 Donovan took the lead in a hugely popular revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the West End – with his recording of its song Any Dream Will Do again hitting the top of the charts. He has since gone on to star on stage in The Rocky Horror Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Priscilla, Queen of The Desert, among many more.
So is this show, his first full career retrospective?
‘Yeah, in that bold stroke, I guess it is, and it's about time!
‘I've done a lot of tours over the years and done a lot of theatre shows, but this almost seems a bit more exciting, the odds have stacked against all of us (with the pandemic).’
This won’t be the first time though, that Jason has played Ten Good Reasons in full on tour, and he’s a big advocate of the ‘play the complete album’ show.
‘I have done this before, and look, it worked. A lot of people want to hear that record – it's hard to eclipse a moment like that. You always have to forge forward in life, but in a way, it felt like the right thing to revisit that album.
‘I always said that if Peter Gabriel said he was touring the So album or if George Michael were alive today and did Faith, I'd definitely buy a ticket!’
As with Kylie’s early material, Ten Good Reasons was produced by the Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) hit factory, the trio whose work was ubiquitous in the late-1980s.
Looking back, was he expecting his musical career to take off the way it did?
‘It took us all by surprise. We had SAW, I'd come off the back of Neighbours – 25m watching a TV show doesn't happen these days, and the first single to come off that album was Especially For You – it was primed to be a moment.
‘It was a crazy time, and you don't get a lot of time to think. You have to make decisions and run with it, or... not,’ he laughs.
‘A lot of people go: “Ah, SAW, that's not cool," or is it cool? Hey, I took the advice of the people around me, and I love pop records.
‘It was a door that was open that I knew would lead to other things, so I walked through it, I didn't think too much about it, if I'm honest.’
On Friday evenings, BBC4 has been rerunning old episodes of Top of The Pops, in order. They are currently in 1991. But over the past year or so, Donovan – along with his SAW stable-mates – has seemed to be on every other episode.
When The Guide mentions this, Donovan gives a big chuckle and says: ‘I love it! It's my favourite thing on TV. It was probably my favourite thing during lockdown, watching me!’
Why does Donovan think those songs and that slick sound endures so well?
‘It was of it was time – the ’80s were very glossy, very sort of MTV, the visual aspect of music really mattered, and it was an exciting time.
‘Grunge hadn't come along yet and made things messy as of yet!
‘I play Rewind festivals and do a lot of those sort of nostalgia shows, it's interesting to watch the crowds who aren't just there for the music, they're there to dress up - it's a party, it's awesome.
‘I'm not sure if a festival of ’90s music would be that much fun,’ he gives a wry laugh. ‘Maybe it would be, I don't know? It would be very different – more serious.’
In the last couple of years, Donovan has returned to the musical Joseph… but this time in the role of Pharaoh. And he’ll be playing the role again in the new year on a UK tour.
‘He's the king of the land, he's a powerful man. I've done it twice, with Sheridan Smith as The Narrator, and then with Alexandra Burke, and particularly the second time, I found I felt the character a lot more, and it's a bit tongue in cheek.
‘Joseph is part of your culture, it's part of growing up in this country. To go from the innocent loincloth-wearing boy, to wearing the crown, it's a nice progression.’
He has also been a producer for the version of Priscilla which began a UK tour pre-pandemic and recently resumed.
‘I've had a long association with Priscilla, and Mark Goucher, who is the lead producer, rang me and said: “What do you think about this idea?”
‘I said: “I'll do it, but I want to be a proper producer, and I want to get some investment in there, I don't just want to be a stunt producer”, so I did.
‘Then Covid struck and things changed, but we're back up and running now which is great. I'm not as hands on as Mark but I bring a profile of the person associated with the brand. People, when they buy into something, they trust that person's values and that's where the interest starts, and I end up talking to people like you about it!’
This Christmas Jason will make his pantomime debut at The Birmingham Hippodrome – another show delayed from 2020. But for now he’s focused on the tour.
‘I haven't sung "Jason Donovan” songs for a while, which has been nice in a way. I'd usually be doing a number of festivals and those sorts of things, but because that's been impossible, it comes out fresh.
‘I like my songs, but if just that was my career, I think I'd be going slightly nuts.
‘I'm very lucky I have lots of different strings to my bow and that keeps me going.’
Jason Donovan is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Friday, November 26, 7pm. Tickets £29.75 - £52.35. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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