While I didn’t have this particular Now! compilation, I did have rival compilation The Greatest Hits of 1993 (the first album I ever bought, on cassette, with my Christmas money), which had most of the same songs. As such, I’m very familiar with a lot of these. Let’s crack on!
Track 1: The Bluebells – Young at Heart
We’ve had this one already, on Now! #3! I know it was back in the charts in 1993, but I’m still cross about the Now! compilers repeating songs.
Urgh. I guess this is going to become an ongoing thing. See the link above for my review.
Track 2: Take That – Could It Be Magic
Great upbeat pop cover of the Barry Manilow song. Take That seem to have been doing a lot of covers at this point – I’m guessing it was before the mangement let Gary Barlow take over songwriting duties. I do like this one, though, especially for Robbie Williams on lead vocals.
Track 3: Sub Sub and Melanie Williams – Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)
A bit repetitive, but a good uptempo dance track.
Track 4: Snap – Exterminate!
Another great, atmospheric track from Snap. I’ve always liked this one, even leaving aside the obvious Dalek connotations.
Track 5: Sister Sledge – We Are Family [Sure Is Pure Remix]
This was huge in my primary school playground at the time – you couldn’t escape it. Great remix of the ’70s classic.
Track 6: Snow – Informer
I’ve always loved this one, especially the gibberish chorus. Great, interesting song.
Track 7: Shabba Ranks and Chevelle Franklin – Mr Loverman
Annoying chorus alert! It’s a good tune, but I don’t like those vocals.
Track 8: Shaggy – Oh Carolina
Nice cover of the Folkes Brothers classic – great tune – but it’s another one where the chorus annoys me.
Track 9: East 17 – Deep [Breath Mix]
Great instrumentals, especially that bassline – wonderful atmosphere. I’ve always liked this one.
Track 10: Stereo MCs – Step It Up
Great head-nodder, fun theme. Good stuff.
Track 11: Arrested Development – Tennessee
Repetitive, not much melody. Not hugely keen on this one.
Track 12: Robin S – Show Me Love [Stonebridge Club Mix]
Classic track, great beat.
Fun fact: Jason Derulo sampled this on Don’t Wanna Go Home, and when I first heard it I literally went ‘who the ****’s sampled this?’ only to be immediately answered with that ‘JASON DERULO’ lyric he always used to do at the start of his songs. A handy, if annoying feature.
Track 13: Lulu – Independence [Brothers In Rhythm Mix]
Fairly generic tune, but it’s a nice solid bit of pop. Good sax solo too!
Track 14: West End and Sybil – The Love I Lost
Another annoying chorus, but I quite like the track otherwise.
Track 15: 2 Unlimited – No Limit
This was the classic singalong track on every school trip during 1993. Imagine, if you will, a bus full of sixty-six eight-year-olds, all squeaking ‘NO NO, NO NO NO NO, NO NO NO NO, NO NO THERE’S NO LIMIT’ over and over and over and over for a good couple of hours. Sometimes I’m amazed we never had a bus driver start screaming madly and drive us all off a high cliff.
Track 16: Cappella – U Got 2 Know
I absolutely love this classic dance track – brilliant tune.
Track 17: Sunscreem – Pressure Us
Another good upbeat dance number – like this one.
Track 18: Monie Love – Born 2 BREED
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Not at all keen on the theme of this song, but it’s quite a good upbeat tune.
Track 19: Hue & Cry – Labour Of Love
We already had this one on Now! #10, which I’m extra-especially cross about ’cause it’s my favourite Now! compilation!
Sigh. See the link for my thoughts.
Track 20: Duran Duran – Ordinary World
They’re back for the ’90s, and I still love Duran Duran! This is a gorgeous introspective one – beautiful track.
Track 21: Annie Lennox – Love Song For A Vampire
Lovely tune, great atmosphere.
Track 22: World Party – Is It Like Today?
Nice tune, like the instrumentals. Good stuff.
Track 23: KD Lang – Constant Craving
I’m not a fan of KD Lang’s vocals, but I do like the tune.
Track 24: Tasmin Archer – In Your Care
Good atmosphere on this one, though it’s a little slow for me.
Track 25: PM Dawn – Looking Through Patient Eyes
Not keen on the tune, the sung vocals or the rap. Not a fan.
Track 26: The Beloved – Sweet Harmony
Nice electro head-nodder – really like this one. Lovely sax solo too.
Track 27: Dina Carroll – This Time
Fairly typical Dina Carroll ballad – too slow and generic for my liking.
Track 28: Simply Red – Lady Godiva’s Room
An improvement on the last couple of Simply Red tracks we’ve had – great tune – but still a bit slow for me.
Track 29: Genesis – Invisible Touch [Live]
We already had the original studio version on Now! #7. Not sure why the live version was suddenly a thing.
See above for my review – the live version doesn’t add anything!
Track 30: Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
Great classic rock track that I’m going to make today’s top ‘wedding disco’ track! Brilliant stuff.
Track 31: Depeche Mode – I Feel You
Love this atmospheric track from Depeche Mode – great vocals, awesome tune.
Track 32: Peter Gabriel – Steam
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Good upbeat tune, happily nodding along here.
Track 33: Ugly Kid Joe – Cats In The Cradle
I always liked this cover of the Harry Chapin song and its whimsical lyrics, but I absolutely hate the fact that Ugly Kid Joe got rid of the apostrophe (the original title is Cat’s In the Cradle), as it makes the punctuation incorrect in the context of the song.
Track 34: Faith No More – Easy
Pointless ’90s cover of the Commodores classic. Always a great song, but the cover doesn’t do anything new.
Track 35: Bryan Ferry – I Put A Spell On You
Nice chillout-ish cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic. Really like this one.
Track 36: Ultravox – Vienna
Not sure what this 1981 classic was doing back in the charts, but I’m not complaining! Wonderful, epic track.
Track 37: Paul McCartney – Hope Of Deliverance
Bit of a retro-tinged track, but it’s got a nice beat and a lovely tune. Good one to end on.
Day 15’s Now! compilation was released on 14th August 1989.
On with the tracks!
Track 1: Queen – I Want It All
Brilliant track, one of my favourites from Queen. Wonderful guitar solo from Brian May, of course, but the best bit is when it goes quiet for a drums ‘n’ chanting singalong. Great stuff.
Track 2: Simple Minds – Kick It In
After an uninspiring slow intro, this track does what it says on the tin, thankfully. Vocals a bit experimental for my liking, though.
Track 3: Fine Young Cannibals – Good Thing
Bit of a retro-sounding track from Fine Young Cannibals. Nice tune, but a bit repetitive for me.
Track 4: Holly Johnson – Americanos
I’m not hugely keen on Holly Johnson’s post-FGTH solo stuff. There’s something irritating about the tune and instrumentals on this one.
Track 5: Transvision Vamp – Baby I Don’t Care
Great pop-rock track from Transvision Vamp. Nice singalong chorus, great guitar.
Track 6: INXS – Mystify
Nice bouncy instrumentals, nice vocals, lovely epic quiet chorus. Really like this one.
Track 7: Roxette – The Look
Love this track! Great guitar, great vocals, awesome tune. Roxette are one of those bands where I like pretty much all of their stuff, but this is a real standout.
Track 8: Stevie Nicks – Rooms On Fire
Slight aside for a minute while I bemoan the fact that I am no longer going to try and get tickets to see Fleetwood Mac this year because they’ve had drama again, with Lindsey Buckingham quitting, and I WANTED TO SEE ALL FIVE OF THEM BECAUSE THAT’S THE CLASSIC LINEUP DAMMIT. This is the only gig disappointment of 2018 that I have not been able to mitigate somehow.
Anyway, this Stevie Nicks solo track is lovely and epic, absolutely holding its own against the Fleetwood Mac back catalogue. Cracking song.
Track 9: Paul McCartney – My Brave Face
Nice upbeat track, nice tune. Good head-nodder.
Track 10: Gerry Marsden, Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson and The Christians – Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Never been keen on any version of this track, ’cause the chorus annoys me. I do appreciate the instrumental treatment of this one, though.
Track 11: The Beautiful South – Song For Whoever
So, back on Saturday when I was listening to Now! #10, Geth went on this big ominous ramble during Build by the Housemartins that that was the point when the Housemartins were starting to sound like the Beautiful South, and that it would only be a matter of time before the former went bang and the latter rose from the ashes. That did of course happen in the late ’80s, but as much as I do prefer the Housemartins, I don’t think the Beautiful South are a bad thing. This song is lovely and has just the right level of whimsy for my liking.
Track 12: Kirsty MacColl – Days
Beautiful cover of the Kinks track. There’s enough interesting things done with the instrumentals here (not to mention MacColl’s gorgeous vocals) to make the cover non-pointless, and the result is lovely and sweeping.
Track 13: Danny Wilson – The Second Summer Of Love
Not sure about this folk-rock track – I quite like the bridge, but the chorus is a bit cheesy.
Track 14: Waterfront – Cry
Good instrumentals on the intro, but the track is a bit generic. Sax solo does save it a bit.
Track 15: Hue & Cry – Violently
Another slow one from Hue & Cry – again, a bit dull for me. They just never matched Labour Of Love as far as I’m concerned.
Track 16: Cliff Richard – The Best Of Me
1989: the year everyone decided Cliff Richard was a thing again for some reason. This one is mouldy cheddar, but what do you expect?
Track 17: Soul II Soul and Caron Wheeler – Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)
I’ve always liked that ‘back to life/back to reality‘ hook. Nice head-nodder as well.
Track 18: Neneh Cherry – Manchild
Nice tune and great instrumentals, but it’s a bit slow for me.
Track 19: Bobby Brown – Every Little Step
Dull tune, but the beat’s all right.
Track 20: Inner City – Do You Love What You Feel
Nice intro – then the dull vocal kicks in. Not a fan.
Track 21: D-Mob and LRS – It’s Time To Get Funky
Good dance track, quite like this one.
Track 22: Donna Allen – Joy And Pain
Love that sax! Nice tuneful ballad, even if the vocals are a bit repetitive.
Track 23: Gladys Knight – Licence To Kill
Love a James Bond soundtrack song! (We’ll gloss over the missed opportunity of A View To A Killfor now.) Epic almost-orchestral instrumentals, building atmosphere, great vocals – this is what you want.
Track 24: Natalie Cole – Miss You Like Crazy
Super saccharine ballad, annoying chorus. Not my thing.
Track 25: Pet Shop Boys – It’s Alright
More classic synthpop from Pet Shop Boys. Love those synth hooks.
Track 26: Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers – Swing The Mood
Novelty cartoon rabbit that I quite liked at the time, being four. The mix of classic swing and rock ‘n’ roll tracks leaves a little to be desired, though.
Track 27: Swing Out Sister – You On My Mind
Nice upbeat track, lovely tune, good vocals – I quite like this one.
Track 28: Bananarama – Cruel Summer ’89
I don’t know whose idea this 1989 remix was, but it’s a good excuse to hear some classic Bananarama again! Great track when it’s not the weird remix bit.
Track 29: De La Soul – Say No Go
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.
Finally, some rap that’s actually interesting! Great instrumentals too.
Track 30: Norman Cook and MC Wildski – Blame It On The Bassline
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Here’s another phoenix from the ashes of the Housemartins’ split, back in the days before he was going by Fatboy Slim. This was actually the Beats International project, although I guess they hadn’t come up with the name yet.
Really quite like this mishmash of samples, especially the Blame It On The Boogie hooks.
Track 31: Double Trouble and The Rebel MC – Just Keep Rockin’
Nice upbeat dance track – happily nodding along here.
Track 32: The Cure – Lullaby
My favourite song from my favourite band! Now THIS is a good way to end a compilation. Indescribably beautiful mournful track – I will adore it forever.
Two weeks into this review series, and Now! 14 takes us to 20th March 1989.
Both me and the wee bro were clearly better dressed than this lot, but let’s listen to their songs anyway.
Track 1: Marc Almond and Gene Pitney – Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart
The Gene Pitney solo original from the ’60s is one of my all-time favourite songs. This version with Marc Almond doesn’t quite match the original for me, but it’s still really good.
Track 2: Phil Collins – Two Hearts
Phil Collins back on form after that awful one from yesterday. Great bouncy singalong chair-dancer.
Track 3: Erasure – Stop!
Love the spiky synth on this one. More great pop from Erasure.
Track 4: Bananarama and LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo – Help!
An early example of a Comic Relief single, with Bananarama teaming up with their parody versions (actually French and Saunders) for a not-quite-pointless cover of the Beatles classic. There’s not much added to the song other than the daft comedy spoken word sections, but the backing instrumentals are quite interesting.
Track 5: Hue & Cry – Looking For Linda
More upbeat than Ordinary Angel yesterday, but the chorus annoys me. Sorry!
Track 6: Yazz – Fine Time
Yazz has ditched the Plastic Population, and judging by this song, I can’t decide whether it was the best move. The tune is nice and soulful, but perhaps a little slow for me. No annoying chorus, though, so that’s a huge improvement.
Bit of a slower, quieter one from Kim Wilde, but still a great pop track – really nice build to the atmosphere.
Track 8: Sam Brown – Stop
This is the second track on this compilation with this title. Between this and the Transvision Vamp/Duran Duran mixed message from yesterday, I’m beginning to think bands in the late ’80s were running out of originality when it came to titles.
Absolutely love this track – beautiful tune, wonderful epic atmosphere.
Fun fact: Jamelia did the most pointless of pointless covers of this in 2003 for the Love Actually soundtrack – it sounds EXACTLY the same.
Track 9: Roy Orbison – You Got It
Was Roy Orbison really still going in 1989? *googles* Apparently so.
Really like this tune, especially that bridge. Nice head-nodder.
Track 10: Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy
Hands down my favourite Fine Young Cannibals song. Absolutely classic track with a beautiful simplicity to the vocals and lyrics, and some stunning guitar instrumentals. Adore this one.
Track 11: INXS – Need You Tonight
That hook! Another one that used to be used to announce the ad breaks on VH1 Classic. An all-time favourite, with wonderful vocals and a great atmosphere.
Track 12: Status Quo – Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again)
Annoying riff to start that reminds me of a sing-song nursery rhyme. This is echoed in the chorus. The verses are okay though. Then there’s that random instrumental of the tune that I only know from Manchester United’s Come On You Reds song in the ’90s. Just a bit of a mess, really.
Track 13: Then Jerico – Big Area
Nice tinkly intro, which smashes into a bit of epic guitar-led atmosphere. Boring vocals, but the instrumentals are great.
Track 14: Morrissey – The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
Fairly upbeat for Morrissey. Bit of a dull tune though.
Track 15: Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Boring slow guitar track. My least favourite kind of music! Not a fan at all.
Track 16: Simple Minds – Belfast Child
Beautiful track from Simple Minds, based on traditional melody As She Moved Through The Fair. A favourite since childhood.
Track 17: Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
I’ve got a soft spot for this classic, which I find to be a great singalong head-nodder.
Track 18: Inner City – Good Life
A little repetitive, but better than Big Fun yesterday.
Track 19: S-Express – Hey Music Lover
Super irritating spoken sample at the start! I like the synth lines though.
Track 20: Living In A Box – Blow The House Down
Nice upbeat pop track, good head-nodder. Really like that chorus.
Track 21: The Style Council – Promised Land
I’m a little surprised the Style Council were still going in ’89 – I was sure Paul Weller had gone solo by then. Oh well, gotta keep improving that music knowledge.
Nice track though – good bouncy song, great synth going on in there.
Track 22: Adeva – Respect
Vocals a bit erratic for my liking, but a good dance track.
Track 23: Tone Lōc – Wild Thing
I quite like that clappy intro. Rap bit is kind of dull though.
Track 24: Natalie Cole – I Live For Your Love
The dullest type of dull ballad, only marginally saved by the tinkly instrumentals. Not keen.
Track 25: Robin Beck – First Time
Really like the tune on this one – great rock ballad.
Track 26: Paula Abdul – Straight Up
Great chair-dancing track. Love the chorus too, good singalong potential.
Track 27: Samantha Fox – I Only Wanna Be With You
Upbeat cover of the Dusty Springfield classic. Different enough not to be pointless (there’s no mistaking that ’80s synth), but there’s something cheesy and annoying about it.
Track 28: Brother Beyond – Be My Twin
Vocals are too saccharine, but I quite like the tune. Nice sax solo too.
Track 29: Climie Fisher – Love Like A River
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
We’re getting towards the end of the compilation! Do I dare hope? Could today finally be the day when every track from the original compilation is present and correct on Spotify…oh. Oh well. So close.
Typically cheesy vocals for Climie Fisher, although there’s a nice almost-edge to the instrumentals underneath.
Track 30: Duran Duran – All She Wants Is
Yup, I still love Duran Duran, and this one is predictably wonderful (that bassline! that synth! those vocals! that chanting!) as ever. Just a cut above.
Track 31: Level 42 – Tracie
All right, all right, I’m clicking on that ticket link now! I’m buying those tickets! I’ve received the email confirmation! I’m going to see Level 42 in October!
It was for the best that I did that tonight, too, ’cause there were only two floor seats left that were next to each other!
This one’s a great jaunty track with some nice synth hooks. Hope they play it when I go see them!
Track 32: Michael Ball – Love Changes Everything
I’ve got a soft spot for Michael Ball, mainly ’cause he’s so ubiquitous on British TV these days. This track from the musical Aspects Of Love is as saccharine as you would expect, but it makes a nice change from the slow pop ballads that have been ending the last few Now! compilations.
Day 13’s Now! compilation came out on 21st November 1988.
Let’s see what pop hits the Now! compilers have for me today.
Track 1: Yazz & The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up
Classic party track, and that blaring horn at the start is great, but I find the tune to the vocal a bit annoying.
Track 2: Womack & Womack – Teardrops
Nice tune, though it’s a bit repetitive for me.
Track 3: Erasure – A Little Respect
I adore this one! Brilliant singalong party track. Also, I can’t not post that excellent Tube singalong video.
Track 4: The Christians – Harvest For The World
A little ashamed to say that I’m not familiar enough with the Isley Brothers original to be able to say whether this cover is pointless or not. There’s lots of very ’80s twiddly instrumentals, but the vocal is a bit mid-century throwback, so it’s hard to guess.
Track 5: Hue & Cry – Ordinary Angel
Interesting instrumentals at the start, a bit Eastern-tinged. Nice tune, though it’s a bit slow for me.
Track 6: UB40 and Chrissie Hynde – Breakfast In Bed
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Fairly standard UB40 slow reggae – great vocals from both singers. I actually like this even more than their cover of I Got You Babe.
Track 7: Robert Palmer – She Makes My Day
Really nice tune from Robert Palmer – interesting instrumental lines and great vocals.
Track 8: Breathe – Hands To Heaven
Nice instrumentals, but far too slow and saccharine for me. Apart from the sax solo. You can’t go wrong with a sax solo.
Track 9: Phil Collins – A Groovy Kind Of Love
Not a pointless cover as it’s very different from the Mindbenders original. It’s much slower and a lot more boring. Not a fan.
Track 10: Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy
I’ve always quite liked this jaunty tune. Didn’t they use to sell singing novelty fish that sang this song, or am I imagining that?
Track 11: The Art Of Noise and Tom Jones – Kiss
Nothing can beat the original Prince version, but this cover is not bad at all. It’s very different to the original, and I’m a big fan of Tom Jones and his distinctive voice. That guitar solo is great too.
Track 12: Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together
Nice upbeat track, originally released a decade earlier, so the stylings are obviously very ’70s. Love the instrumentals though, and though it’s a late ’70s song, there’s something quite glam rock about it – Ferry still channelling his earlier Roxy Music days.
Track 13: Kim Wilde – You Came
At the Kim Wilde gig last week (sorry, not going to shut up about that just yet!), Kim dedicated this one to the audience. Great solid pop track with an awesome epic singalong chorus.
Track 14: Bomb The Bass – Don’t Make Me Wait
Bit of an irritating intro, but the track is good once you get past that – great synth line, great vocals, great tune.
Track 15: Brother Beyond – The Harder I Try
This one’s a bit cheesy for me, but the tune’s quite nice and it’s a good head-nodder.
Track 16: The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
Not sure why this one was back in the charts, but it’s a classic for a reason. Great track.
Track 17: Fat Boys and Chubby Checker – The Twist (Yo, Twist!)
It’s that Fat Boys cackle at the start again, but this retro-tinged rap track would not have been at all scary to my toddler self. Definitely a party song.
Track 18: Wee Papa Girl Rappers – Wee Rule
Quite an interesting song – I like the tune on the chorus, and it’s nice to hear female-fronted rap in the ’80s style.
Track 19: Salt-N-Pepa – Twist And Shout
Speaking of which… Was it a thing in 1988 to fuse rap with retro rock ‘n’ roll stylings? I wouldn’t have expected to like that, but I do. This one’s great, with rap verses straddling the classic chorus. The opposite of a pointless cover.
Track 20: Yello – The Race
Ohhhh…it’s this one! Classic party tune, but I didn’t know what it was called or who it was by. Every day’s a learning experience.
Track 21: Inner City and Kevin Saunderson – Big Fun
Fairly standard for Inner City – nodding my head, but the tune’s not super exciting.
Track 22: D-Mob and Gary Haisman – We Call It Acieed
Infamous vocal, classic dance track. Bit repetitive for me, but it’s a good party song.
Track 23: Beatmasters and PP Arnold – Burn It Up
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
I find this one a bit dull, nothing out of the ordinary, though I quite like that trumpet hook.
Track 24: Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True
By the time I started reading Smash Hits in the early ’90s, Milli Vanilli were a bit of a joke in the pop magazines as it was widely believed that they didn’t actually provide the vocals on their records. I’m not sure if this was true, but it was the kind of thing that was a symptom of the irritating move towards manufactured pop groups.
As for the song itself, the possibly-fake vocals are a bit cheesy, but the instrumentals are great.
Track 25: Level 42 – Heaven In My Hands
I have the Sage Gateshead tab open ready on my browser to order those tickets! I’ve just…not done it yet. I will soon.
More fab instrumentals, great upbeat guitar, interesting track. Like this one.
Track 26: Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour
Chair-dancing here from the start – great singalong chorus, great tune.
Track 27: The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)
The unofficial Scottish national anthem, played whenever we score points at the rugby. Get several hundred Scots in a room, play this song, and watch the chaos ensue. The ultimate in singalong classics.
Track 28: T’Pau – Secret Garden
The chorus annoys me, but otherwise it’s quite a good tune.
Track 29: Transvision Vamp – I Want Your Love
Really interesting song with great vocals. Big fan of this one…
Track 30: Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
…and the title juxtaposition here is hilariously schizophrenic. I hope that was deliberate, Now! compilers!
Duran Duran may not want our love…but I think you know what I’m about to say. I love Duran Duran, and this song is another cracker. Lovely vocal harmonies on the verses, nice epic atmosphere, brilliant singalong chorus, great lyrics.
Track 31: The Human League – Love Is All That Matters
Interesting to hear the Human League’s later ’80s stuff here. The synth isn’t nearly so prominent, and it’s a bit smoother and more polished-sounding than their earlier stuff, especially the backing vocals. Nice tune, too, and that outro is beautiful.
Track 32: All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour
Classic goth ballad. I’ve always liked this one, so I’ll forgive the Now! compilers for ending yet another compilation with a ballad.
Day 10’s Now! compilation was released on 23rd November 1987.
Now! #10 is special to me, because it’s the one we had (and still have) on vinyl – the one Dad always put on the record player for me when I wanted to listen to music, the one I learnt to sing and dance to, the one I grew up with, the one that absolutely shaped my music taste. While there were a lot of Now! compilations I was familiar with in the ’90s, this one is my one. I must have listened to it a thousand times.
Let’s have a listen to some tracks I know very, very well.
Track 1: Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona
The opening bars of this track still send chills down my spine – I’m instantly transported back to my parents’ living room as it looked in the last century, the sound of the record on the player that you just can’t replicate digitally, the bass on the speakers of Dad’s homemade sound system, the anticipation of an evening spent listening to music I loved.
The BBC used this song for its coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, so the song also takes me back to summer days in front of the TV at our holiday caravan (we usually had a black and white TV at the caravan but for the Olympics we brought a colour one with us specially), watching Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie winning gold.
How this one shaped my music taste: You know how every third song review I’ve done on this feature seems to contain the phrase ‘epic atmosphere’? This is the ultimate in epic atmospheres – booming, dramatic, lots of switching between major and minor key, piano, operatic vocals, slow verses building to a huge chorus, the works. That is what I love in music – something that makes me feel that strange mixture of happy and sad.
Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Rent
Pet Shop Boys can do no wrong in my opinion, but this is a stunner. Beautiful lyrical theme, wonderful emotion-inducing synth line, and another of those epic atmospheres I was talking about above. An all-time favourite.
Fun fact: Carter USM did a not-at-all-pointless ’90s cover of this, which is very different but also absolutely beautiful. Nothing will ever beat the original for me, but that Carter cover is great.
How this one shaped my music taste: Two words: electronic music. I’ve always been drawn to electro, and it’s largely because of early exposure to beautiful synthpop like this.
Track 3: The Communards – Never Can Say Goodbye
Another great pop track from the Communards. More amusement provided by 2017 Strictly contestant Richard Coles in the video, in which he leads the crowd on the disco dancefloor with some dodgy moves that were nonetheless way better than anything he did on Strictly. Still wish he’d stayed in the competition longer!
How this one shaped my music taste: It’s fast, upbeat ’80s pop. Say no more!
Track 4: M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume
This one always scared me a bit as a kid. I’m not sure why. I remember that feeling of fear, wanting to go and hide while the song was playing, but I never did. I just always stayed kind of rooted to the spot until it was over.
As an adult who no longer experiences irrational fear (um, mostly), I find it a great chantalong track, and due to its ‘SAN FRANCISCO/pump up the volume‘ hook, I played it nonstop for a week leading up to a trip to San Francisco in 2011. True story. I am super lame.
How this one shaped my music taste: I always give things a chance, even when it doesn’t immediately sound like my cup of tea. Anything might grow on you eventually. Even if it’s a song that gives you strange, irrational fear.
Track 5: Hue & Cry – Labour Of Love
Most definitely an example of that unexplainable mid-’80s Scottish band sound, but in a great way. I absolutely love this track – the rapid tempo, the stop-start hooks, the catchy vocals. Awesome song.
How this one shaped my music taste: I love interesting hooks. And piano.
Track 6: Jellybean and Steven Dante – The Real Thing
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
On the surface this one is a bit dull, but it’s got a nice singalong chorus, and I always find myself nodding along.
How this one shaped my music taste: It’s not always the expected tracks that have you chair-dancing.
Track 7: Johnny Hates Jazz – I Don’t Want To Be A Hero
Great upbeat pop song with a catchy, singalong chorus. There’s something nice and emotional about the bridge, too.
How this one shaped my music taste: You can find a lovely epic bridge in the most unexpected songs.
Track 8: The Style Council – Wanted
Nice feelgood track from the Style Council – as ever, the backing vocals are great. Love those tinkly instrumental hooks.
How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate good backing vocals.
Track 9: T’Pau – China In Your Hand
Beautiful, beautiful song – another one with an epic atmosphere. The vocals are stunning, the way the song builds is perfect, and that sax solo is brilliantly over-the-top.
How this one shaped my music taste: There’s nothing I like more than an epic ’80s sax solo!
Track 10: Heart – Alone
This one is really special to me. It’s a gorgeous rock ballad that has really spoken to me throughout various periods of my life, and always makes me quite emotional. Beautiful lyrics, beautiful guitar solos – epic, epic song.
How this one shaped my music taste: I adore huge overdramatic rock ballads. Really!
Track 11: Kiss – Crazy Crazy Nights
Great singalong party song from Kiss. I love those rocked-out verses and the chorus is mega, especially once you hit the key change.
Due to being hard of hearing, and thus having a lot of issues with background noise, I’ve always found it difficult to make out what singers are singing about – I am the queen of misheard lyrics – but this nice, simple chorus is easy to sing along to. Great job!
How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for key changes. I even quite liked it when Westlife used to do their terrible cheesy ones with the accompanying standing-up-from-stools-on-stage.
Track 12: Billy Idol – Mony Mony
Another great singalong rock chorus that even hard-of-hearing types can make out! In later life, I grew to love other Billy Idol songs even more than this one, but that nice simple ‘mony mony‘ lyric has a special place in my heart.
How this one shaped my music taste: ’80s pop rock, ’nuff said. It also strongly shaped my fashion taste, due to the accompanying picture of Billy Idol in the record sleeve with all his spiky hair and black leather and general rock attitude. By the time he showed up in The Wedding Singer a decade later, my love of the ’80s rock look was set in stone.
Track 13: Whitesnake – Here I Go Again ’87
More classic ’80s rock! Brilliant singalong track that is only enhanced by the over-the-top video and all its ridiculous double Jaguar bonnet cartwheeling. Not bad for a band from Middlesbrough.
I have to say I prefer this version to the version they originally did in 1982, probably because this is the one I heard so often in childhood, due to this compilation.
How this one shaped my music taste: Hair metal. I love it and I won’t apologise.
Track 14: The Alarm – Rain In The Summertime
Great feelgood track with lovely jingly instrumentals. I’ve seen this performed live, when the band played at Beautiful Days 2010. I dragged Geth to see them, purely because of their presence on this compilation, and he was not impressed! What I found out that day: playing a song entitled Rain In The Summertime, when outdoors in the British summer, is just asking for it, and the inevitable downpour that struck that evening meant that we had to shelter in the Big Top indoor stage. We did end up getting engaged that night, so you can’t complain.
How this one shaped my music taste: I have a whimsical appreciation for songs about rain.
Track 15: Marillion – Sugar Mice
Bit of a slow one, but it builds in a great epic fashion, culminating in an awesome epic guitar solo.
How this one shaped my music taste: I really love songs that build well.
Track 16: Wet Wet Wet – Sweet Little Mystery
Great upbeat pop – always been a fan of this one. I really like Wet Wet Wet’s ’80s stuff, before they got all grown-up and introspective in the ’90s.
How this one shaped my music taste: I appreciate nice, simple pop songs.
Track 17: Curiosity Killed The Cat – Misfit
Really like this one – my favourite Curiosity Killed The Cat track. As a kid, not being familiar with the idiom, I used to get upset by the band’s name (I love cats).
How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by their name.
Track 18: Los Lobos – La Bamba
A cover of the Ritchie Valens classic. The cover is very close to the original, but deliberately so as it was recorded for the film La Bamba, which was about Valens, so I’m not going to call it a pointless cover – instead I’ll just enjoy the tune, which is a great party track and was played at every birthday party I went to in the late ’80s.
How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes the oldies are the goodies. (And now that it’s the ’80s hits that are the oldies, this has never been more true.)
Track 19: Fat Boys and Beach Boys – Wipeout
Great surf-themed song. The Fat Boys’ cackle at the start of the song is another thing that scared me as a kid (they also looked pretty scary in their album sleeve picture, which I seem to remember involving snakes), but once the song gets going it’s great, especially when the Beach Boys’ harmonies kick in.
How this one shaped my music taste: I never judge a band by the way they look. This has served me well in the goth scene!
Track 20: Bananarama – Love In The First Degree
Another pop classic from Bananarama – I absolutely adored this one as a kid and still love it now.
This is another one where the album sleeve picture made a big impression on my young brain. The band members were all fully clothed themselves, but they each had a topless dude as an accessory. This is something you’d be less likely to see in pop music today, where female artists are usually hugely objectified and barely clothed. In some ways, we’ve gone backwards since the ’80s. </soapbox>
How this one shaped my music taste: Bananarama’s music, for me is the epitome of the fun and intelligence that pop music and lyrics used to have. If pop music doesn’t have that – which, nowadays, it usually doesn’t – it’s not pop music in my book. It’s that simple.
Track 21: Cliff Richard – My Pretty One
The vocals are far too saccharine for me, ’cause it’s Cliff Richard, but the instrumentals are actually really nice!
How this one shaped my music taste: I know not to listen to Cliff. Is that cheating?
Track 22: Karel Fialka – Hey Matthew
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
I’ve always loved this one – a really, really interesting song with vocals that, despite having a nice melody when you listen closely, sound almost spoken in some ways, actual spoken word from a child that manages to be interesting rather than annoying, and great screechy electro hooks.
How this one shaped my music taste: I have a soft spot for spoken word.
Track 23: Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme
So much better than his main theme for Miami Vice! I’ve always adored this tune.
How this one shaped my music taste: I love a good instrumental soundtrack.
Track 24: Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me
Love the plinky piano on this classic track. Can’t remember why it was in the charts again, but I’m not complaining!
How this one shaped my music taste: I really like interesting piano stuff.
Track 25: Erasure – The Circus
One of my favourite Erasure tracks – but then, I love everything they did in the ’80s. This is a gorgeous song.
How this one shaped my music taste: More great synthpop that cemented my electro addiction.
Track 26: The Housemartins – Build
Lovely track from the Housemartins – beautiful introspective lyrics and nice slow tune.
How this one shaped my music taste: Sometimes, there’s something beautiful about a slower song.
Track 27: Level 42 – It’s Over
A slower one from Level 42, with really interesting instrumental lines.
And no, I’ve still not booked tickets to that October gig I keep going on about. I will get round to it soon, I promise!
How this one shaped my music taste: Speaking of slower songs, they can be really musically interesting as well!
Track 28: ABC – When Smokey Sings
Adore ABC, adore this track. I love that epic intro, Martin Fry’s vocals, the instrumentals – everything.
How this one shaped my music taste: I love songs that bang in right from the start. Start as you mean to go on!
Track 29: Squeeze – Hourglass
Great jaunty song. That chorus is just awesome, typical bit of fun from Squeeze!
How this one shaped my music taste: I really appreciate songs that have something whimsical about them.
Track 30: The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
An all-time classic. One of my favourite Christmas songs, and one I learnt to adore early in life, thanks to this compilation. Just beautiful.
How this one shaped my music taste: Though you might not be able to guess at the moment, due to me being super curmudgeonly about them when it’s springtime, I adore Christmas songs. I get my playlist on the go in early November and I watch the music channels religiously in the lead-up to the festive season. Very few of them are as good as this one, but the genre is special to me.