You might be aware that the Now! That’s What I Call Music compilation album series will be releasing its 100th edition on 20th July this year. I’ve got a huge soft spot for the series, largely because my parents bought the vinyl release of Now! That’s What I Call Music #10 in 1987 and it basically shaped my music taste, but also because it was such a big thing when I was growing up in the ’90s – at school and at parties, someone always had a Now! album kicking about. I’m surprised in some ways that the series is still going strong in the age of streaming, but it is, which is nice and nostalgic for me.
To celebrate the upcoming 100th edition, I’m going to review every single Now! compilation – one per day between today and 20th July – starting, obviously, with #1, which came out on 28th November 1983.
(When I say ‘review’, I of course mean ‘burble about anything that comes to mind about these particular tracks’. Just clarifying that in case you thought this was going to be in any way musically technical!)
Let’s get started, shall we?
Track 1: Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love
’80s-era solo Phil Collins, especially poppy, bouncy nonsense like this, is very much what I consider a ‘guilty pleasure’. A few ciders and I will always be up dancing to this one at weddings.
Track 2: Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know?
I love Duran Duran, and this one’s a cracker, especially the constant backing vocals. The lyrics are great too:
And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door
Don’t say you’re easy on me, you’re about as easy as a nuclear war
People just don’t write songs like this nowadays (waves stick in air).
Track 3: UB40 – Red Red Wine
Another ‘I’d dance to this one at a wedding’ track. There may be a theme emerging. Cheesy, but in a pleasant, head-nodding way.
Track 4: Limahl – Only For Love
I wasn’t familiar with this one, which is unusual for me with ’80s pop songs. I do like the epic nature of the bridge, and the song gets better as it goes on, but I probably wouldn’t add it to my Spotify playlist.
Track 5: Heaven 17 – Temptation
A favourite! I defy anyone not to chant along with the ‘temp-tation‘ bits. Incidentally, if you ask Geth to DJ your wedding, you’ll inevitably hear this one.
Track 6: KC & The Sunshine Band – Give It Up
Bit cheesy even for me, this one, but I do like the instrumental bits.
Track 7: Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch
Another one I didn’t know. I’m not keen on the sampling mishmash at the start, but I quite like the idea of an ode to skipping ropes. It’s the kind of whimsy that’s mostly missing from music today.
Track 8: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
One for singing along to at the top of your voice when you’re absolutely certain nobody else can hear you (this is a pleasure that was denied to me for quite a few years until I moved into a detached house last month).
Track 9: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
Not my favourite Culture Club song, but I have fond memories of my friend Laura and I writing notes to each other in our homework diaries in high school, arguing about the correct lyrics to this song (she thought it was ‘if you were the colour of my dreams‘, rather than ‘if your colours were like my dreams‘). These things were extremely important.
Track 10: Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
I make no apologies for adoring this one. I also point you to this wonderful meme, which Geth likes to use for complaining purposes whenever we hear it in a goth club.
Track 11: Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Daft song, but it’s still better than all of Limahl’s solo stuff except for Neverending Story.
Track 12: Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow
I love this one – it’s epic and beautiful. It was also used to really good effect in the ’80s edition of The Doctor Who Years, which is sadly no longer available to watch.
Track 13: Men At Work – Down Under
Wonderfully silly party song that always reminds me of an Australian guy called Ben that I used to work with circa 2002. In the pub post-shift, this was his song.
Track 14: Rock Steady Crew – (Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew
I can’t listen to this one without being reminded of its use in Peter Kay’s brilliant Britain’s Got The Pop Factor parody in 2008 (and I can’t believe that show is nearly a decade old already). The song itself is pretty nonsensical, but I quite like the synth line.
Track 15: Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
Actually my favourite Rod Stewart song, just edging out Maggie May. I love the instrumentals (especially that sax solo!), the lyrics, the epic nature, everything.
Track 16: Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)
To be honest, though I usually like Paul Young, I find this one a bit dull, so I think it was a poor choice for ending disc one of the album.
Track 17: New Edition – Candy Girl
Never been a fan of New Edition or this song, largely because I have an aversion to squeaky kid voices, especially squeaky kid voices singing love songs. Let’s move on.
Track 18: Kajagoogoo – Big Apple
Please take a moment to envisage my raised eyebrow here, as I was always taught when learning to DJ that repeating an artist in a setlist (or compilation album, in this case) is lazy, unimaginative and generally Not Done. Give another artist a chance to be heard!
As for the song itself…it’s nice bouncy ’80s pop with cute little bursts of saxophone, but nothing hugely special.
Track 19: Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together
Boring slow intro and verses, but good ‘chair-dancer’ once the chorus gets going.
Track 20: The Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination
Typical upbeat Human League stuff for this era. Not my all-time favourite of theirs, but perfectly catchy and pleasant.
Track 21: Howard Jones – New Song
I didn’t really get into Howard Jones until about a year ago, when Vintage TV started playing his stuff a lot. This one’s a nice bouncy, catchy number with a great synth instrumental bit. Big fan of this.
Track 22: UB40 – Please Don’t Make Me Cry
More repetition of artists (sigh). If they were determined to do that, they should have saved Red Red Wine for side two, as it’s a much better song than this one. Slow, downbeat, nice sax solo but generally a bit dull.
Track 23: Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack – Tonight, I Celebrate My Love
The kind of appallingly saccharine ballad that I would have hated if I’d been an adult listening to it in 1983, but from my lofty perch of hindsight in 2018 I can just put it into a box marked ‘charmingly of its time’.
Track 24: Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know
I do like ’80s-era Tracey Ullman and her comedy-tinged music videos. There’s something a bit mid-century retro about this one, which I quite like. It was originally a Kirsty MacColl track, which explains the quality.
Track 25: Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence
Is that his real name? Apparently not (and apparently it’s not actually a he). The song is expectedly daft and not much to write home about musically.
Track 26: Genesis – That’s All
For some reason I always think of Genesis as more musically respectable than solo Phil Collins. I’m not sure why. This one’s another head-nodder, but not playlist-worthy for me.
Track 27: The Cure – The Love Cats
Being a shameless goth, the Cure are my favourite band. This is a great upbeat party song, but if you want something more epic, beautiful and melancholy, I thoroughly recommend all the other tracks on the Japanese Whispers EP. I remember spending all of 2004, which was a tough year for me, just listening to it over and over. Gorgeous stuff.
Track 28: Simple Minds – Waterfront
Lovely guitar intro on this one. Fairly paint-by-numbers Simple Minds, without much in the way of hooks.
Track 29: Madness – The Sun And The Rain
Madness can’t do much wrong as far as I’m concerned. Great bouncy track.
Track 30: Culture Club – Victims
Eyebrow goes up again at another repeated artist! I’ll forgive the Now! compilers this time, though, because I do love this one and its epic and sweeping chorus.