Dagenham record producer’s thesis reflects on decades spent in the industry

Dr Phil Harding. Picture: Kiran Mehta

Dr Phil Harding. Picture: Kiran Mehta - Credit: Kiran Mehta

A record producer who worked with the likes of The Clash, Bananarama and the Pet Shop Boys has swapped the desks for a degree.

Phil Harding, who grew up in Dagenham and Romford, began his career in the music industry at the age of 16 at London’s Marquee Studios.

He went on to join the Stock, Aitken and Waterman production team in the 1980s, engineering and mixing the label’s first number one single, Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’.

Phil was involved in producing many of the biggest pop hits of the 80s, and worked with the team well into the following decade.

Three years ago, and with a lifetime of success in producing pop, he decided to use his experience to write a PhD thesis sharing his secrets of the music industry.

His study, which he wrote after joining Leeds Beckett University, includes his tried-and-tested framework for the perfect pop songwriting and production team and 12-step mixing programme.

Phil said: “It’s been very inspiring to reflect on the work I did in the 1990s. I have broken down and analysed some of the records I engineered, such as East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’, and it has been interesting to revisit them.

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“I also break down the number one single, ‘Words’ by Boyzone, alongside the original 1960s Bee Gees arrangement, to show what we did differently.”

Phil’s thesis also looks at the explosion of boy bands during the 1990s, interviewing some of those involved in the phenomenon.

He added: “The term ‘boy band’ didn’t really come into media use until this decade.

“People said you could have called Bros, the Bay City Rollers, or even the Sex Pistols, boy bands when you looked back – as they were all manufactured bands. However, it was only in the 90s that the term really came about.”

While studying at Leeds Beckett, Phil shared his skills and experience and skills with music students at the university, as well as continuing to work with the likes of X Factor winner Joe McElderry as a producer with PJS productions.

His hard work has paid off, with the talented producer able to add Dr to the front of his name after he officially graduated last week.

And it seems he’s been inspired, adding: “I have been motivated to continue with my research work.”