Being a Band Aid baby, or: one hell of a bucket list

If you’re lucky, there’s something special about the song that was number one when you were born.  Maybe it symbolises something about your life, or your interests, or the person that you ended up growing up to be.  Maybe it’s just a really awesome song.

If you’re unlucky, you end up like Geth and get Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless) (UK number one from 25th May 1980 to 14th June 1980, fact fans!) as your birthday number one.  It’s not bad as TV theme tunes go, but it’s not special to Geth – he didn’t grow up to be a soldier, or an expert on the Korean War, or even much of a M*A*S*H fan, really.

I was lucky, and my birthday number one is special to me.  I love it as a Christmas baby, as an ’80s throwback, as a chart geek, and as a lover of music in general.  It’s an extremely well-known Christmas song – one of those tracks you hear constantly from the middle of November until early January.  It held the record for the best-selling single in UK chart history for more than twelve years, only ever being overtaken by Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97 after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997.

My birthday number one is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, one of the most famous recordings in music history.

Do They Know It's Christmas?

I was born on 3rd January 1985, the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-five day period (9th December 1984 to 12th January 1985) that Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? spent at number one in the UK.  From the 1984-1985 UK birthrates available online, I estimate that I share my birthday number one with approximately 71,000 other Band Aid babies, including Georgia Moffett, Lewis Hamilton, and Newton Faulkner.  (I would love to be able to work out the exact number, but the internet is not forthcoming at the moment!)

Due to the ubiquity of the song, I grew up with it, and it became my favourite Christmas song long before I realised that it was my birthday number one.  I pored over the upside-down answers to Smash Hits quizzes that challenged readers to name all the artists involved in the song, and memorised names that were unfamiliar to me in the context of the early ’90s pop music landscape.  I dutifully learnt to sing the song with my primary school class in preparation for our Christmas performance at the local old folks’ community centre.  I waited excitedly for it to come on as soon as my brother and I were allowed to play the family’s Christmas compilation CD (That’s Christmas) on the 1st of December every year.  It’s one of those songs that you hear hundreds of times every year, and so it never really goes out of your mind.  That’s not something you can say about Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless).

The finer points of Bob Geldof’s project to put together a charity supergroup and the song’s recording on 25th November 1984 are well known, detailed in a hundred different BBC4 documentaries and summarised fairly well on Wikipedia (though I highly recommend the Smash Hits coverage of the recording day included in the collection book The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s for a bit of period flavour – it has a great group photo of all the artists involved except for Boy George, who infamously didn’t show up till six o’clock in the evening due to oversleeping in New York and having to get on a Concorde back to London).

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, including a lot of concerts by artists who were big in the ’80s due to it being my favourite music era and favourite era in general.  But the other day, it occurred to me that I had never gone to see a single one of the thirty-seven artists who performed on my birthday number one.  I had never even seen any of the additional seven artists who couldn’t make it to the recording and so sent recorded Christmas messages to be used on the B-side of the single.

This is the part of the post where I get to the point.

I will never get to see every single one of the artists involved in my birthday number one.  Sadly, two of the musicians who contributed to the song (George Michael and Rick Parfitt) and two who recorded B-side messages (Stuart Adamson and David Bowie) have since passed away.  But I have decided that I will make a concerted effort to see as many of the rest of them as possible.  After all, I have more opportunity than some.  My brother’s birthday number one is Ben E King’s Stand By Me (a re-entry at UK number one between 15th February 1987 and 7th March 1987), which means that since King’s death in 2015 he has no longer had the possibility of seeing his birthday number one artist.  People who were born between 14th December 1980 and 20th December 1980, when (Just Like) Starting Over was number one following John Lennon’s assassination, have never had the chance to see their birthday number one artist.

Enter the Band Aid bucket list!

For most of my bucket lists, I reckon that if I’m lucky enough, I’ve got another fifty or sixty years left to get them completed.  Time is not so much on my side for this particular list, given that all the artists on it are now in their fifties and sixties and won’t be performing or alive forever.  As such, rather similarly to the huge hoard of ’80s vintage clothing I’m collecting while it’s still cheap and plentiful, I aim to get the bulk of this project achieved while I’m still in my thirties, and so I’m targeting >50% list completion by my fortieth birthday on 3rd January 2025.  That gives me six years, one month and fourteen days as of this post to see as many of the following artists as possible.  I’d better get a wiggle on.

The artists who sang on the track:

The extra artists who recorded messages for the B-side:

Current progress: song artists 5/37 (13.5%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 7/44 (15.9%).

I have arranged to find out about future performances by all of these artists using the extremely lazy 21st century method of following them all on Twitter!

I’ll keep updating this post as I see more artists.  I’m looking forward to this project!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #93

Day 93 equals Now! #93, which came out on 18th March 2016.

March 2016
This is how the world looked in March 2016. Yes, it’s me at another goth gig (this time Resistanz), wearing the same T-shirt as in yesterday’s photo. I still miss Resistanz and its £1 cans of Somersby cider, though there’s no way I could drink as many of them as I used to these days (it used to be a forty-can weekend).

On with the hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #93
Track 1: Lukas Graham – 7 Years

It’s a nice tune, but I find the theme a bit irritating.

Track 2: Justin Bieber – Love Yourself

Another nice tune with an awkward theme.  It’s also too slow for me.

Track 3: Zayn – Pillowtalk

Zayn Malik’s first solo release since becoming the Robbie Williams/Geri Halliwell of One Direction and leaving the group about a year before they split ‘went on hiatus’.  It’s too slow for me, and the tune is pretty forgettable.

Track 4: Coldplay and Beyoncé – Hymn For The Weekend

Gorgeous tune – really like this one.

Track 5: Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza [SeeB Remix]

Mike Posner returning to the charts with this surprise number one hit.  It’s a lovely chillout tune with a wistful theme.

Track 6: Zara Larsson – Lush Life

Solid danceable pop tune – big fan of this.

Track 7: Jonas Blue and Dakota – Fast Car

Dodgy house cover of the Tracy Chapman classic.  Should have left well alone.

Track 8: Shawn Mendes – Stitches

Pretty tune – quite like this one.

Track 9: Major Lazer, Nyla and Fuse ODG – Light It Up [Remix]

Boring tune, and it’s too slow for my liking.

Track 10: Snakehips, Tinashe and Chance The Rapper – All My Friends

Good singalong chorus, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 11: Little Mix and Jason Derulo – Secret Love Song

Horrendously saccharine and slow!  Not my kind of thing at all.

Track 12: Jess Glynne – Take Me Home

Irritating tune, and again it’s too slow.

Track 13: Ellie Goulding – Army

The tune’s quite interesting, but it’s a little too cheesy for me.

Track 14: One Direction – History

Too acoustic-y for me, but the tune’s okay.

Track 15: Selena Gomez – Hands To Myself

This tune doesn’t really do it for me, although there’s some interesting stuff going on with the backing track, and it’s got a good atmosphere.  The theme’s awful, though.

Track 16: Jason Derulo – Get Ugly

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Jason Derulo on track 11.

This one’s got a good rhythm and a slight retro tinge – I quite like it.

Track 17: Sigma and Rita Ora – Coming Home

I find this tune pretty uninspired.

Track 18: Elle King – Exes and Ohs

Great classic-sounding blues-tinged rock.  Really like this.

Track 19: Olly Murs – Stevie Knows

Love that retro-sounding funk.  Good stuff.

Track 20: Jack Garratt – Worry

Slow and boring, with some odd instrumentals that are very distracting.

Track 21: James Bay – If You Ever Want To Be In Love

Pretty tune, and it’s got quite a good rhythm.  I like the rock-edged guitar too.

Track 22: Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir – A Bridge Over You

This was the 2015 Christmas number one – a charity choral offering.  It was the first time, due to streaming becoming more popular than downloading, that the X Factor winner’s single didn’t really get a look in for the Christmas number one – in fact, Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young is not even included on this Now! compilation, which marks the first time since Steve Brookstein’s Against All Odds from 2005 that the X Factor song has been left out by the Now! compilers.

Anyway, this song is a dodgy mash-up of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and Coldplay’s Fix You, but I’m sure it raised a lot of money for charity.

Track 23: Justin Bieber – Sorry

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Justin Bieber on track 2.

I love this song, though.  It’s the only Justin Bieber song I actually like, and it’s a cracker.

Track 24: The Weeknd – The Hills

Great atmosphere, but I’m not keen on the theme.

Track 25: Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Coldplay on track 4.

I find the warbly instrumentals on this one a bit irritating, but I do like the retro-tinged beat.

Track 26: 99 Souls, Destiny’s Child and Brandy – The Girl Is Mine

Mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s Girl and Brandy and Monica’s The Boy Is Mine (which was itself based on Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s The Girl Is Mine).  Brandy re-recorded her vocals, Monica didn’t, which I guess explains the credit.  I do quite like the electro lines on this track, and it’s not as messy as you would expect from a mash-up.

Track 27: Tinie Tempah and Zara Larsson – Girls Like

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Zara Larsson on track 6.

I quite like this one – it’s very danceable.

Track 28: Fleur East – Sax

I’m a big fan of this one, but you expected that, didn’t you?  Saxophone a-go-go.  I highly approve.

Track 29: Craig David and Big Narstie – When The Bassline Drops

The start of Craig David’s inexplicable but strangely welcome comeback!  This one’s got a good beat, and, as should probably be expected, a bit of an early ’00s tinge.

Track 30: David Guetta, Sia and Fetty Wap – Bang My Head

I find the beat on this one a bit jarring, and the tune’s pretty bland.

Track 31: Sigala and Bryn Christopher – Sweet Lovin’

Another forgettable tune, and I’m actually starting to get a bit fed up of the ’90s-inspired dance tracks now.

Track 32: Kygo and Maty Noyes – Stay

Again, this tune doesn’t do anything for me.

Track 33: Mount and Nicholas Haelg – Something Good

Not a cover of the Utah Saints track, which is probably for the best, given how many versions of that one have shown up on Now! compilations.  This one’s a dance track with some interesting instrumentals, but yet another generic, unmemorable tune.

Track 34: The Chainsmokers and Rozes – Roses

There’s a good atmosphere buried in there somewhere, but the track’s too messy to feel it, really.

Track 35: Alessia Cara – Here

Really don’t like this tune at all – I find it very grating.

Track 36: Alan Walker – Faded

Another slow, boring track.  The beat does pick up, but it doesn’t get any more interesting.

Track 37: G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha – Me, Myself And I

I quite like the rhythm on the vocals, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 38: Robin Schulz and Francesco Yates – Sugar

I like the guitar at the start, and it’s got a good beat.

Track 39: Dawin and Silentó – Dessert [Remix]

The lines on this are pretty jarring, and the tune’s nothing special.

Track 40: AlunaGeorge and Popcaan – I’m In Control

Irritating vocals, dull song.

Track 41: Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out

I like the reggae-tinged beat, and the chorus is great – it gives the song an awesome eerie atmosphere.  Brilliant lyrics too.

Track 42: The 1975 – The Sound

Love that classic pop feel – big fan of this track.

Track 43: Charlie Puth – One Call Away

Pretty tune, but it’s too slow and saccharine for me.

Track 44: David Bowie – Heroes

1977 classic back in the charts after David Bowie’s passing.  I’m still sad about Bowie being gone even two and a half years later, and I wish I didn’t now associate this one with it being everywhere in early 2016.  The song is as beautiful as everything else he did.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #7

We’ve been doing this for a whole week.  Doesn’t time fly?

Day 7 takes us to 11th August 1986.

August 1986
In August 1986, the world looked like this, complete with the freedom to put a toddler in whatever ungodly beige thing I’m wearing here. Not one of my finer looks!

Let’s see what might have been blaring on the radio while I was toddling around that balcony.

Now! That's What I Call Music #7
Track 1: Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer

Great start!  Awesome upbeat song, a real classic (doing the chair dance right now).  The video won lots of awards but I’ve never been a fan of it, though I’m sure it was groundbreaking at the time.

Track 2: UB40 – Sing Our Own Song

I do like the almost MIDI-videogame-music-esque instrumentals that run through this song.  Nice tune too.

Track 3: Sly Fox – Let’s Go All The Way

Nice beat, but the tune’s a bit dull for me.

Track 4: Level 42 – Lessons In Love

And with the awesome guitar intro to this song, Level 42 are reminding me that I really should buy tickets to that show I was talking about yesterday.  I love this track.

Track 5: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)

I’m so glad Pet Shop Boys have caught the eye of the Now! compilers!  I love pretty much everything they’ve ever done, and this brilliant track is no exception.  Love that slow synth intro that bangs into the chorus – awesome.

Track 6: Pete Wylie – Sinful!

Repetitive beats, lack of melody, boring samples, not really my thing.  It does get slightly more interesting as it builds.

Geth arrived home while this was playing and thought it was by James.  I’ve not asked how many drinks he had at his work’s wine reception, but it looks like a few.*

Track 7: Stan Ridgway – Camouflage

I do like this jaunty tune, though the vocals annoy me.  If I can find an instrumental version, I think I’ll be adding it to my regular playlist.

Track 8: The Art Of Noise and Max Headroom – Paranoimia

Like the synth at the start of this, like the sampling, love Max Headroom.  Fun track.

Track 9: Chris De Burgh – Lady In Red

Blurgh, far too much cheese here.  I don’t dislike everything he’s done, but this one is a real eye-roller.

Track 10: David Bowie – Absolute Beginners

Lovely song, up to the usual Bowie standard.  Nice video too, featuring a red phone box (though it’s filmed in black and white).

Track 11: Genesis – Invisible Touch

I really like the Genesis singles of this era.  Great catchy chorus, great instrumentals.

Track 12: Simple Minds – All The Things She Said

It’s bad that when I see that title my mind automatically goes to the 2002 Tatu hit, right?  I think that’s pretty bad.

This song, meanwhile, is a great upbeat track from Simple Minds, no male-gaze lesbianism in sight.

Track 13: The Housemartins – Happy Hour

Happy hour, happy song, happy Dee, quite literally.  This one always cheers me up.

Track 14: Big Country – Look Away

One of the Big Country songs that irritates me for some reason.  I think it’s the tune.

Track 15: Furniture – Brilliant Mind

I’ve always really liked the atmosphere of this one.  It builds beautifully.

Track 16: Midge Ure – Call Of The Wild

Nice pop tune, but it’s a bit forgettable.

Track 17: Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven

Were Wham! still going at this point?  I lose track.  Great catchy song though.

Track 18: Owen Paul – My Favourite Waste Of Time

I’m going to call this a guilty pleasure.  Should I feel guilty about it?  I’m not sure.

Track 19: Amazulu – Too Good To Be Forgotten

Unfortunately this song does not do what it says on the tin.  It may be unforgettable, but that’s due to the irritating tune that threatens to become an unwanted earworm if you hear it too often.

Track 20: Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky

Never been sure about this cover.  It’s very nearly a pointless ’80s cover in my book, as there’s little to differentiate it from the Norman Greenbaum original other than the harder guitar and interesting synth hooks, but I can’t help but love the video.

Track 21: Bananarama – Venus

My favourite Bananarama song!  Perfect piece of pop.

Track 22: Bucks Fizz – New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)

I do quite like a lot of Bucks Fizz’s stuff, but I’m not hugely keen on this one.  It’s a bit dull.

Track 23: A-ha – Hunting High And Low [Remix]

I quite like this one, even though it’s one of A-ha’s slower tracks.  There’s something quite epic about it.

Track 24: Simply Red – Holding Back The Years

Nice ballad, though I’d have to be in a pretty sleepy mood to put it on.

Track 25: Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

Love this classic soundtrack song!  Though I’ve never seen The Jewel In The Nile (or Romancing The Stone, come to think of it), which I should sort out at some point.

Fun fact: Boyzone did a pointless ’90s cover of this in 1999 (well, I shouldn’t really call it pointless, seeing as it raised a lot of money for Comic Relief, but you know what I mean).

Track 26: Jaki Graham – Set Me Free

Nice upbeat pop song, though I’m not hugely keen on the vocals.

Track 27: Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait

With a band name like this, what can go wrong?

I do like that jingly bit at the start.  I also just realised that Mann sampled this for Buzzin’ in 2010 and now I’m annoyed on Nu Shooz’ behalf.

Track 28: The Real Roxanne and Hitman Howie Tee – Bang Zoom (Let’s Go-Go)

The rap bit’s all right, but the sampled tune irritates me.  Not a fan.

Track 29: Lovebug Starski – Amityville (The House On The Hill)

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.

Nice cheesy horror-themed track, very ’80s.  One for the Hallowe’en party playlist.

Track 30: Midnight Star – Headlines

Argh, that irritating vocal!  Not a fan of this one.

Track 31: Aurra – You And Me Tonight

Lot of spoken samples in the intro, repetitive backing track, dull vocals.  Not my thing.

Track 32: Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald – On My Own

Pretty dull ballad, though the tune on the chorus is nice.

*He’s just informed me it was three.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #5

Day 5’s Now! compilation was released on 5th August 1985.

August 1985
In August 1985, furnishings were still brown, newspapers were printed in a font that looks very dated now, and I looked like pretty much every other baby does. I would have preferred to avoid baby photos for this feature, but that month I was literally the only thing my parents took pictures of.

Um, let’s listen to some tracks that I may have heard but probably couldn’t have cared less about at seven months old.

Now! That's What I Call Music #5
Track 1: Duran Duran – A View To A Kill

I love Duran Duran!  Did I say that already?

I also love the James Bond films, so this 007 theme tune should be a match made in heaven.  Unfortunately, for me it’s not quite up to the usual standard for either Duran Duran or James Bond soundtracks.  Still a good tune though.

Track 2: Scritti Politti – The Word Girl

Lyrics are a bit saccharine for me, but it’s got a nice beat.

Track 3: Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F

Really great, interesting track, slightly ruined by the memories of the horrific Crazy Frog cover that everyone had as their ringtone circa 2005.

I’ve never seen Beverly Hills Cop, incidentally, though I’m sure with a soundtrack like this it can’t be bad.  One to add to the watch list.

Track 4: Fine Young Cannibals – Johnny Come Home

Great head-nodder, though the lyrics annoy me a little.  Except for ‘what is wrong with my life/that I must get drunk every night‘.  That bit’s awesome.

Track 5: Dead Or Alive – In Too Deep

Pretty boring and generic song considering it’s Dead Or Alive!  The synth solo in the middle is all right though.

Track 6: Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy – Icing On The Cake

Stephen Duffy was a founding member of Duran Duran, fact fans, though I’m not really feeling the love-by-association here.  Nice upbeat pop, but nothing special.

Track 7: Kool & The Gang – Cherish

Nice intro, but then it turns into a ballad that’s far too cheesy for my tastes.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 8: Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away

Paul Young did some great stuff, but I find this one pretty dreary.

Track 9: Marillion – Kayleigh

A longtime favourite since childhood <tries to avoid making ‘misplaced childhood’ reference, fails miserably>.  Absolutely beautiful track.  That guitar solo, the stunning lyrics – I adore everything about it.

Track 10: Bryan Ferry – Slave To Love

I quite like this one, though the backing vocals on the chorus irritate me a bit.

Track 11: David Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group – This Is Not America

Nice atmospheric song, and Bowie’s vocals are great here.

Track 12: Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Simple Minds don’t have that weird Scottish-’80s-band-sound-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on (come to think of it, neither do Marillion).  Maybe it was the Scottish bands who were able to lose it who were the ones that really made it big.  Or maybe it’s all in my head and there is no ‘Scottish ’80s band sound’.  It’s driving me nuts though.

Bands who I DO think have that sound: Deacon Blue, Big Country, Aztec Camera, Hipsway, Del Amitri, Hue & Cry.

Anyway, Don’t You (Forget About Me).  Because it was such a big hit due to The Breakfast Club, it’s your standard ‘the band don’t actually like this one’, but I do.  Great pop tune.

Track 13: The Power Station – Get It On (Bang A Gong)

Awesome things about this song:

    1. It’s a T-Rex cover, and T-Rex are my favourite early ’70s glam rock band and one of my favourite bands of all time.  I adore the original version, and this one is pretty great too – it’s quite different, no ‘pointless ’80s cover’ here.
    2. More love-by-association due to the fact that half the band were also in Duran Duran.
    3. Robert Palmer’s vocals.

Track 14: China Crisis – Black Man Ray

Typically nice tune from China Crisis, though I find the synth line a bit twee.

Track 15: Phil Collins – One More Night

The Now! compilers do love a Phil Collins ballad.  Thankfully, I quite like this one.

Track 16: Sister Sledge – Frankie

One of those ‘dance to it at a wedding’ tracks – pleasant bouncy song, but I don’t like it enough for it to make my playlist.

Track 17: Mai Tai – History

Good pop tune, nice singalong chorus, but a bit forgettable.

Track 18: Simply Red – Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)

The ’80s are probably my favourite era for Simply Red (and for most things, let’s face it).  I love the instrumentals on this one.

Track 19: Steve Arrington – Feel So Real

A bit repetitive for me, not really my thing.

Track 20: Jaki Graham – Round And Around

Nice synths, but the vocals are a bit cheesy for my liking.

Track 21: The Conway Brothers – Turn It Up

More repetitive beats, though the track does improve as it goes.  I can’t say I’m loving disc two so far.

Track 22: Loose Ends – Magic Touch

Dull tune, bizarre irritating xylophone-sounding hook, vocals not at all to my taste.  Actively dislike this one.  It’s the kind of song that would have exacerbated my travel sickness on long car journeys as a kid.  There’s a generic sax solo about two-thirds in that provides a bit of welcome relief from the vocals, but it can’t save the song.

Track 23: The Commentators – N-N-Nineteen Not Out

Not on Spotify, so I had to do the YouTube Pause (TM).

While I do love Paul Hardcastle’s Nineteen, this parody always amuses me, despite the fact that being a Scot I don’t even understand cricket.

Track 24: U2: The Unforgettable Fire

It’s the kind of song I’d normally find pretty dreary, but there’s something about the atmosphere of it that I quite like, especially when it builds towards the end.

Track 25: The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down

Another Style Council song that I actually quite like!  They’re on a roll.  It’s Dee C Lee’s backing vocals that really make this one for me.

Track 26: Katrina & The Waves – Walking On Sunshine

I’ve always found this one pretty irritating, I’m afraid.  If you play it at a wedding I will be at the bar ordering another cider.

Track 27: Gary Moore and Phil Lynott – Out In The Fields

Gotta love that guitar riff.  I can’t tell you how refreshing a good singalong rock song is after what has been a fairly mediocre second disc for this compilation.

Track 28: The Damned – The Shadow Of Love

Nice bit of goth rock to follow, too!  Things are looking up.

Track 29: Howard Jones – Life In One Day

The song’s fine, but it’s the video that’s the awesome thing here.  When I was searching for it the other day, it took me ages to realise that it actually was the proper video, due to the bit at the start with the announcer (and given that the auto-complete when searching on YouTube throws up ‘howard jones life in one day official video‘, I’m clearly not the only one).  I doubt they were actually being prescient enough to troll people searching for the video on a then-unimaginable technology more than thirty years later, but if they were, it worked.

Track 30: Jimmy Nail – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

Bit of an over-the-top ballad, but there’s something about the atmosphere of it that I quite like.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #2

Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984.  I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.

March 1984
This was the way the world looked in March 1984, with Grundig TVs and vinyl collections and houseplants everywhere! My dad is still into building harps and other folk instruments, proving that some things don’t change.

Right, on with the music!

Now That's What I Call Music #2
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga

I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception.  Sing along!

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.

Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.

Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths.  Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.

Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More

Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop.  Come on, Now! compilers…

Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine

…and it’s Madness.  That’ll do in a pinch!  A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.

Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You

The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it).  I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.

Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons

I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German.  I do like this one, though.

Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘.  I’m nothing if not literal.  It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?).  This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.

Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018.  Ouch.

Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me

I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock.  From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.

Politics aside, there is also a pleasing quantity of 20th century telephones in the video, and I am a huge geek for 20th century telephones.

Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too!  It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.

Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason.  It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music.  Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?

Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down

A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.

Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright

It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.

Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)

There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs.  I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’  I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.

Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.

Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette).  As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.

Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one.  Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.

Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?

Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris.  1984 in a nutshell.

Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?

The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s.  I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.

Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven

Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.

Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing

Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.

Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Great, unusual song for the time.  Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.

Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music.  Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.

Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love

I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me.  Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view.  I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.

Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book.  There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me.  Sorry.

Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night

It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night.  I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.

As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass.  What’s not to like?

Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland

I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.

They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents).  Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.

Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)!  Brilliant shout-along anthem.

Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!).  This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead.  I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist.  Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.

Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday

Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere.  This one is no exception.  I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song.  Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version).  Brilliant ’80s fun.

Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me).  Lovely song…when it’s December.