How I wrote ‘Love Shine A Light’ by Katrina And The Waves’ Kimberley Rew

Kimberley Rew
Kimberley Rew

Katrina And The Waves’ Kimberley Rew: “Not only did it work for the band, but it also worked for the whole of Europe.”

More than 25 years later and this song remains the most recent UK entry to win the Eurovision Song Contest

Sam Ryder’s success at 2022’s Eurovision Song Contest shows that good music will always prevail. Coming in second place to the Ukrainian entry, Space Man put an end to the argument that, due to the United Kingdom’s unpopularity on the international stage, its entries will do well to avoid the dreaded “nul points” let alone threaten the top spot. Yet even Ryder’s intergalactic accomplishment couldn’t’ match that of Love Shine A Light by Katrina And The Waves.

Yes, having triumphed at Eurovision in 1997, Love Shine A Light remains the UK’s most recent winner. Written by the group’s guitarist Kimberley Rew, formerly of The Soft Boys, who had also come up with Katrina And The Waves’ 1985 smash hit Walking On Sunshine, its victory provided something of a second life for the band fronted by Katrina Leskanich. We recently caught up with Rew to find out a little more about the song’s creation and that famous night in Dublin 25 years ago…

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Katrina And The Waves 'Love Shine A Light'

Released: 28 April 1997
Artist: Katrina And The Waves
Label: Eternal
Songwriters: Kimberley Rew
Producers: Nocito
UK Chart Position: 3
US Chart Position:

“Picture the scene, there was this band Katrina And The Waves. It was kind of a strange set up because, whereas with a lot of bands you get the star who is the lead singer, front person and main songwriter, in Katrina And The Waves, besides me who was seen to be the main songwriter, we also had Katrina who was a very dynamic front person and a great lead singer, and we had Alex [Cooper] on the drums who was also the band’s manager [plus Vince de la Cruz on bass]. It was an interesting dynamic with regards to how the band worked and what songs we came out with.

“A little bit before 1997 we had been together for about 15 years and we had this constant three-way battle going on. We had this guy coming up with these original songs, which was me, we had a lead singer with a certain image who obviously needed something she could get behind and sell to the public and we had a drummer/manager who was full of bright ideas as to how the band could further its career and avoid the one-hit wonder label, which at the time we had, because it was maybe 10 years since we had a hit with Walking On Sunshine in 1985. We weren’t showing any signs of changing that anytime soon.

“I thought the only thing to do was to come up with a song that nobody could object to, with a universal message to it. That sounds kind of cynical but I do like to be positive. I’ve tried writing gloomy songs and it hasn’t worked. Particularly in the early 1980s, which is where we came from, to be gloomy and doomy was very credible and up to the minute – completely unlike the rock and roll explosion which had a very positive outlook. I don’t remember the rock and roll explosion of the 1950s but I was there when The Beatles had their first hit song.

“So anyway, I came up with Love Shine A Light but what I didn’t realise was that this was kind of aspirational. That’s what people have started calling it since. Not only did it work for the band, but it also worked for the whole of Europe. There’s a lot of repetition in it too. I think my favourite songs have that. Right from the beginning, songs like Heartbreak Hotel.

“I listened to the demo for the first time the other day, which I haven’t done for 25 years, because of that flurry of interest with it being the 25th anniversary and the UK actually doing well in the contest this year, amazingly, and not being hated, which is a great relief. So, the demo is not a world of difference I’d say. It’s got that same groove on it.

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“Amazingly as it may seem now, the system as it was then was that anybody, if they thought they had a prospective song to enter into Eurovision to represent the UK, could send a cassette of the demo of their song to Terry Wogan, who did the national Radio 2 BBC Breakfast Show at the time with eight million listeners. He’d play these cassettes on his show to the nation and the nation would take a popular vote on which song they wanted. So suddenly, we found that we had this universal song that was working for everybody.

“I don’t think there were really any other names in the Great British Song Contest, where they chose who was going to represent the UK. There wasn’t another name in there. Time was, in the early days of pop and the contest, you’d have Cliff Richard, Sandy Shaw, Lulu… all those names. Automatically you put your best people in; maybe a couple of years after they’d become established and it was considered a good next stage for their career and then it all seemed to get very ambivalent. Hopefully, it’s not going to be quite so ambivalent now, thanks to Sam Ryder.

“The way it worked then, you’d arrive at the venue the week before, and it was in Dublin on that occasion, and Ireland is a great betting nation. The odds were there and the odds don’t lie. We could see that there were maybe four contenders to win, so we were one of four rather than one of 25. The rest of them, dare I say, just weren’t that great. When you’re hearing one song after another then you need something to help people remember. I didn’t realise at the time, but you see footage of Katrina and it’s that green shirt. I mean, who goes on stage in a green shirt?

“It’s hard to separate the song from the fact that it won this contest. This was before the talent show phenomenon. Maybe we’ve got more used to the idea of having singers and songs winning and everybody else losing. Love Shine A Light would not have been a hit if it hadn’t won the Eurovision Song Contest. It won on the Saturday, then the next week in this country it went to No 3. And above it, No 2 was Sarah Brightman and Andrea Boccelli with Time To Say Goodbye and No 1 was a song called You’re Not Alone by Olive.

Katrina And The Waves

Katrina And The Waves’ Kimberley Rew: “When we won the Eurovision Song Contest was when my dad saw that music was an actual career.”

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“So it worked for the UK and it worked for Europe and it also worked for Katrina as a lead singer. In a funny sort of way, it gave her a lifetime career, because it’s allowed her to kind of be the face of Eurovision, as a previous Eurovision winner, which has continued on from that.

“The gigs were going okay, obviously that went up a notch and we were doing the festivals around Europe. We did the following summer, 1998, and that was pretty steady and then nothing really after that because Katrina wanted to start her solo career.

“It was an opportunity for Katrina to start a solo career. We’d been together for 18 years and actually, I can remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ The band was all-consuming. It’s very easy to get into that state of mind: we’re doing a gig, we’re doing some recording… there’s always something and that’s what you do. Well, either that or nothing at all. But potentially even then you’re doing something if you can drum up the interest.

“Funnily enough, people did forget Love Shine A Light after 1997. We had this song Walking On Sunshine, which went into the public consciousness and everybody knows it, but Love Shine A Light, they did forget it. But it is coming back now, I think people are much more comfortable now with the concept of pop music in history. Back in the day, everything had to be ‘now’. I can remember Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry over here in 1972 selling out Wembley Stadium and it being ignored in the news and music press, it just wasn’t considered relevant. I think young people now don’t mind being told that there was a classic era of pop music and maybe they’ll go back and discover it.

“There’s so many things I’m grateful for… my parents looking after me, starting with that really, and then I got a chance to play the guitar and actually to do it as my job and I got paid for it and I’m so grateful for all those things. Being involved in something that actually made a difference, it’s one of the nice things in life. When we won the Eurovision Song Contest was when my dad saw that music was an actual career. I think that’s the first time he’d ever said anything personal to me, because fathers didn’t say personal stuff to their sons in those days. There are so many people that can play and sing and write songs that have never got any sort of recognition or reward for it and it’s given me everything I’ve got.”

Katrina And The Waves’ Kimberley Rew is still writing and performing with his wife Lee Cave-Berry as Kim & Lee. You can find out more at kimberleyrew.co.uk



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