This new offering from Howard Jones came out last week. I’m a little gutted that I won’t be able to catch him on tour this month (his Newcastle gig clashes with the UK Games Expo), but at least I’ve got the new album to explore.
The One To Love You
We open with some chilled-out synth lines, and with that vocal I’m taken straight back to the classic hits of the ’80s! This is highly playlist-worthy and a great opener for the album. Lovely bit of piano at the end too.
Take Us Higher
A slightly more modern electro sound to this one, with the instrumentals a bit reminiscent of ’90s videogames. Very danceable.
Beating Mr Neg
This one is slightly more chilled out on the verses before launching into a nice big ’80s pop chorus, then goes all melancholy and pretty towards the end.
Lovely dreamy synthscapes on this one, and the beat is fantastic – I can’t stop chair-dancing!
Hero In Your Eyes
We’re back to the slightly videogame/8-bit feel, with a nice classic pop vocal over the top.
Tin Man Song
Some great jangly, slightly jazzy synth lines on this track, which has a lovely soulful feel to it.
At The Speed Of Love
We slow right down for a pretty synth ballad. Gorgeous tune!
Eagle Will Fly Again
Great atmosphere on this one – there’s a slightly ominous tension to the synth lines, and then another big pop chorus.
Another pretty ballad, this time with lots of piano and an epic, sweeping feel.
Stay With Me
The album closer is a funky, upbeat dance track with a bit of a ’90s feel. It feels a little jarring after the preceding super-slow ballad, but it’s a great tune.
Well, after listening to the album, I’m even more disappointed that I can’t go and see Howard Jones live this time around. I’ll just have to hope that he tours again soon!
I love music videos, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to babble on about them once a week from now on. Sometimes I’ll be discussing videos from modern chart hits where the video was released too late to be discussed on my New Hits Friday post, but usually I’ll just be banging on about the ’80s, when music videos, like everything else, were so much better. You have been warned.
I’m starting with Howard Jones’ Life In One Day (1985), which works on multiple levels and is a real hidden gem among ’80s videos.
The video starts out not looking like a music video at all. It looks like a Top of the Pops performance instead, complete with an introduction from a presenter (I think it’s Tony Blackburn, but the picture quality is so poor I can’t be sure) about how they’re not going to play the music video because Howard Jones is live in the studio. As the performance begins, there are a lot of jumps and scratches in the tape, like it’s from a dodgy old VHS copy that somebody’s had for years and has played over and over until it’s become degraded.
The original joke, of course, was that viewers would think there was something wrong with their TV picture and get up to perform percussive maintenance on their boxy mid-’80s TVs. A few commenters on the YouTube video describe doing exactly that back in the day.
But what’s so brilliant about the way the joke has aged is the accidental prescience of the way it works in the YouTube era. Here’s the thing: when you search for a music video for an ’80s hit song, YouTube will also throw up a whole load of contemporary performances of the song on music shows like Top of the Pops. Most of them are uploads of VHS copies that people taped off the TV when the show was first on, and so the VHS copy is thirty years old and features the exact kind of jumps, scratches, and other picture issues that were deliberately inserted into the Life In One Day video.
As such, the automatic reaction of a YouTube searcher to this video (it was certainly mine) will be: ‘oh, FFS, this is just the TOTP performance – where’s the actual music video?’ As such, modern viewers are fooled in a way that the video creators couldn’t have imagined back in 1985! Nothing makes this clearer than the fact that the top search on YouTube for the song is ‘howard jones life in one day official video’, which is exactly what you put in when you’ve just watched what you believe to be the opening few seconds of a Top of the Pops performance, shut the video in frustration and try to find the ‘actual’ video instead.
I think this is partly also due to the fact that the Life In One Day video is rarely shown on TV nowadays (I’ve certainly never seen it on any of the UK music channels on my TV package) – perhaps because the joke is (ironically) seen as dated now – and so people are more likely to hunt for the video online.
Anyway, the rest of the video is great too – the imaginary VHS-recording viewer starts to change channels, but the TV keeps flicking back to the performance, and then the song and lyrics start to seep into the other programmes – a newsreader’s words, the background music in laundry detergent adverts, the featured video in a record company advert. It’s all very cleverly done, but of course it’s the initial joke that I find to be the real standout feature of this video.
I noticed from the end credits that Godley and Creme were involved in the production of the video – they did some brilliant videos during the ’80s, so I’m sure I’ll end up discussing them again soon.
Day 5’s Now! compilation was released on 5th August 1985.
Um, let’s listen to some tracks that I may have heard but probably couldn’t have cared less about at seven months old.
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:
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.
More love-by-association due to the fact that half the band were also in Duran Duran.
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.
Now! #3 was released on 23rd July 1984, so hopefully its summer release means that there won’t be any Christmas music on this one.
Track 1: Duran Duran – The Reflex
What was it I said yesterday? Yeah. Insert daily ‘I love Duran Duran’ statement here. This one, as ever, is brilliant from start to finish – the backing vocals, the slightly mad lyrics, the chant-along bits on the chorus. Love it.
Track 2: Nik Kershaw – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I find this one a bit repetitive. Not Nik Kershaw’s most exciting song.
Track 3: Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You
Not hugely keen on the disco stuff that was still kicking about in the ’80s anyway, and this one’s not even danceable in my opinion.
Track 4: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Locomotion
Love me some OMD. This one’s a bit bouncier and dafter than their usual stuff, but that’s no bad thing.
Track 5: Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
Good song – that short guitar intro is great, as is the tune in general – but the nuclear-war-themed video is really depressing!
Track 6: Howard Jones – Pearl In The Shell
Nice upbeat intro, nice synth line, nice vocals, and I do love a sax solo! Fairly standard Howard Jones.
Track 7: Blancmange – Don’t Tell Me
Great synthpop track – and I would expect no less from Blancmange.
Track 8: Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
Track 10: Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Do It)
A good head-nodder, with a great vocal, but not really my kind of thing. I do quite like the fact that ostensibly anti-drug songs were a big thing in the ’80s (especially in comparison to the endless, boring and crass drug references in modern-day chart music), though I’m not sure how tongue-in-cheek this song’s message was.
Track 11: The Specials – Nelson Mandela
Another one that was used to good effect in Britain’s Got The Pop Factor. This one always makes me think of the time in 1989 when my parents took me to the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ march on Glasgow Green (I still have the badge).
Track 12: Womack & Womack – Love Wars
I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like the atmosphere of the verse, before the chorus gets a bit haphazard.
Track 13: The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing
I find this one pretty dull, and the chorus annoys me for some reason.
Track 14: Bob Marley & The Wailers – One Love/People Get Ready
Classic sway-in-your-chair track. Love this one!
Track 15: Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
Wonderful synthpop – that stunning intro! A favourite, and also a regular feature of Geth’s DJ setlists.
Track 16: Queen – I Want To Break Free
I’m not going to call this one a ‘guilty pleasure’, ’cause I don’t feel guilty about loving it at all. Everything about it is awesome, from the epic intro to the Coronation Street homage in the video.
Track 17: Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
Now this is a good ballad – nothing dreary about this one. Beautiful tune, lovely instrumentals.
Track 18: Alison Moyet – Love Resurrection
This one reminds me of long car journeys as a kid with my dad’s Alison Moyet CD on the car stereo (I found out last Christmas that my brother vehemently hated that CD, but I really quite liked it). I love Yazoo – as I mentioned yesterday, Only You is my all-time favourite song. I’m not quite as keen on Moyet’s solo material, but it’s still good stuff.
Also, nowadays whenever I hear the lyric ‘show me one direction, I will not question again‘, I always think of One Direction. Thanks, 21st century, for ruining things yet again.
Track 19: The Bluebells – Young At Heart
Another song (following Relax yesterday) that was re-released in 1993 and hence ended up on my Greatest Hits Of 1993 compilation! Maybe it was 1993 that was the first true era of ’80s nostalgia. I don’t blame people for wanting to get going with that as early as possible.
Track 20: Bananarama – Robert De Niro’s Waiting
I quite like this one, but then I’ve never come across a Bananarama track I didn’t like. I remember knowing the title of this song for ages before I actually heard it, ’cause it’s mentioned in the blurb for Love In The First Degree on Now! #10 (we’ll get to that a week from today).
Track 21: Propaganda – Dr Mabuse
I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like its dark, epic atmosphere and lyrics.
Track 22: Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
Not my favourite Tina Turner song, but I do like the epic vocals on the chorus and the snatches of synth during the bridge.
Track 23: The Flying Pickets – When You’re Young And In Love
It’s no Only You, but still a nice a cappella cover.
Track 24: Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
A classic! A perfect party tune, and then there’s the colourful video, which was one of those videos that really defined the ’80s, with the neon clothing and the Katharine Hamnett t-shirts (appropriately, I’m wearing her more recent Choose Love design today!)
Track 25: Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up
The harmonica instrumental annoys me, and I usually like harmonica. I’m not a huge Thompson Twins fan anyway, but I’m really not keen on this one.
Track 26: The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
We’re at a wedding reception, and I’m on the dancefloor again! You can’t go wrong with this fabulous party track.
There have been various pointless ’90s and ’00s covers of this one. I’ll forgive them, as it’s always a banger no matter who covers it, but the original is far and away the best.
Track 27: Gary Glitter – Dance Me Up
Um, I’m quite surprised that I’m actually able to stream Gary Glitter on Spotify given what we know about him now, but I’m guessing he doesn’t actually get any of the streaming royalties. Um, right? I should probably look into that.
The song itself isn’t much to write home about, certainly not compared to his early ’70s glam rock stuff.
Track 28: The Art Company – Susanna
The Art Company, in contrast, haven’t put their stuff on Spotify, so I’ve done the uber-lazy ‘tribute version on the playlist’ for this review.
It’s a good song, actually. Maybe I’d better give the actual Art Company version another listen sometime!
Track 29: Madness – One Better Day
Bit of a slow one for Madness! Nice tune though.
Track 30: David Sylvian – Red Guitar
I was only previously familiar with David Sylvian’s stuff with Japan, not any of his solo tracks. This one’s a bit dull, but the instrumentals are nice.
*In my terminology (and, I imagine, that of quite a few other people), a ‘pointless cover’ is one that doesn’t change enough things from the original track to make it worth recording a new version, and is hence just a shameless cash-in. The ’90s were absolutely terrible for this, but it’s happened frequently in other decades as well.
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.
Right, on with the music!
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.
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.
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.
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.