Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #8

Day 8’s Now! compilation was released on 24th November 1986.

November 1986
Um, I’m not sure I can really say that this is what the world looked like in November 1986, given that my face pretty much takes up this whole photo. It’s what I looked like in November 1986, though, and I bet you can’t get dungarees that cute nowadays.

Let’s move onto the music.

Now! That's What I Call Music #8
Track 1: Duran Duran – Notorious

Yup, I still love Duran Duran.  I also wish the Now! compilers would start putting their tracks later in the mix.  I appreciate the need to start with a great tune, but sometimes it’s nice to save the best for last!

The song is one of my favourites (and not just for that Sparkle Motion bit in Donnie Darko that everyone always brings up).  I love the ‘no-no-notorious’ hook, the way the verses build, the funk guitar – great track.

Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Another great track from Pet Shop Boys – absolutely beautiful chorus and synth line.

Track 3: Aerosmith and Run DMC – Walk This Way

Bit overplayed these days, but still a classic, although I have to say I prefer the original version that Aerosmith did themselves.

Track 4: The Communards and Sarah Jane Morris – Don’t Leave Me This Way

A childhood favourite and one of the first pop songs I learnt to sing along to!  I guess when you’re a toddler it’s easier to hit those high notes.

I discovered while Richard Coles was competing on Strictly last year that he’s responsible for the longest piano solo of the ’80s, which occurs in the middle of this song.  Plus points!

Track 5: Swing Out Sister – Breakout

Nice and upbeat, but there’s something about the vocal that annoys me.

Track 6: Steve Winwood – Higher Love

Charming song, always liked this one.  Great instrumentals, and I love that singalong chorus.

Track 7: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – (Forever) Live And Die

A bit slower than usual for OMD, but still a lovely tune.

Track 8: Genesis – In Too Deep

Nice epic instrumentals building throughout the song – really like this one.

Track 9: Cameo – Word Up

Another classic.  There have been a lot of pointless ’90s, ’00s and ’10s covers in an attempt to replicate the greatness of this song, but nothing has come close to the original.

Track 10: Grace Jones – I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)

I do like Grace Jones, and I really like the atmosphere of this track, especially during the verses.

Track 11: Mel & Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)

I’ve got a huge soft spot for Mel & Kim, and I really like this one, even though every time it pops up on Vintage TV Geth complains that they never show Respectable, which he apparently remembers as being a much bigger hit.

Track 12: Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off

I love this one!  I never actually heard it until 2011, when it re-entered the charts after being featured in a Dairy Milk TV advert.  Great pop track.

Track 13: Jaki Graham – Step Right Up

Probably the best out of the Jaki Graham tracks that the Now! compilers have chosen recently.  Nice upbeat track with a catchy chorus.

Track 14: Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Quite a fun tune, but the lyrics annoy me.

Track 15: The Human League – Human

I really like this lovely, introspective track – a bit of a departure from the Human League’s earlier stuff, but really nice.

Track 16: Boris Gardiner – I Want To Wake Up With You

Bit cheesy for my liking, though I like the reggae beat.

Track 17: Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Lovely duet, lovely tune.  Really like this one.

Track 18: The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

I don’t think the Housemartins did a bad tune, and this is gorgeous as usual.

Track 19: Madness – (Waiting For) The Ghost Train

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Madness turn their hand to ‘spooky’.  Another one for the Hallowe’en playlist!

Track 20: Status Quo – In The Army Now

I really like the atmosphere of this one, and I’m not the biggest Status Quo fan.  Great track.

Track 21: Huey Lewis & The News – Stuck With You

A bit daft and cheesy, but it’s a nice head-nodder.

Track 22: Big Country – One Great Thing

This is a better Big Country track than has been included on Now! compilations so far.  Nice chant-along chorus.

Track 23: Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette

I like Billy Bragg’s stuff, though I wouldn’t necessarily add it to a typical ’80s party playlist.  It’s more for post-party listening circa 4am.  This one’s got a nice tune and awesome lyrics.

Track 24: Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms

A favourite from back during my first flush of ’80s nostalgia in the early ’00s – I played it over and over.  I was lucky enough to see Cutting Crew play back in November, and the crowd naturally went absolutely nuts for this one.  I think that was the point that Geth and I decided we were no longer going to be stuck in the upper gallery at the Sage, where the party is decidedly not happening.  Apart from anything else, you can’t take drinks into the upper levels!  This decision turned out to be a good one on Monday night, when we went to the Kim Wilde gig and enjoyed a much more high-energy atmosphere down on the floor.

Speaking of Kim Wilde…

Track 25: Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Is it another excuse to post the slightly blurry video I took of Kim Wilde performing this song on Monday night?  I think it is!

I like most stuff that Kim Wilde has done, but this is my absolute favourite track of hers.  Stunning cover of the ’60s classic that brings it storming into 1986 – amazing epic atmosphere.

Track 26: It Bites – Calling All The Heroes

Good pop track, though the messed up beat at the start annoys me a bit.  Great singalong chorus.

Track 27: Doctor & The Medics and Roy Wood – Waterloo

Utterly daft cover.  Sadly, I’m going to have to class it as a ‘pointless ’80s cover’, as it’s just not different enough from the Abba version.

Track 28: Debbie Harry – French Kissin’ In The USA

Okay song, but this has never come close to her Blondie classics for me.

Track 29: Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

I really like Robert Palmer’s stuff, and this one is great – awesome instrumentals throughout.

Incidentally, it’s interesting in today’s climate to hear a song of this theme from a male singer.

Track 30: Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard

More interesting sampling from Paul Hardcastle.  Some great bits of tune on this track.

Track 31: Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You

Nice gentle cover of the Carpenters track.  Not at all a pointless cover – it’s very different.

Track 32: Nick Berry – Every Loser Wins

Really dislike this one, sorry.  Cheesy ballad that I believe was released as an Eastenders tie-in.  Not a fan.

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 #6

Day 6, and we’ve arrived at 25th November 1985.

November 1985
In November 1985, the world looked like this. Knitted hats just aren’t what they used to be.

I doubt any of the artists on Now! #6 looked as cool as me and Dad in our knitted hats, but let’s have a listen anyway.

Now! That's What I Call Music #6
Track 1: Queen – One Vision

A favourite going back to childhood – we had the A Kind Of Magic album on CD in the ’90s and always played it in the car.

I don’t think anyone disputes nowadays that the last line is definitely sung as ‘fried chicken‘, right?

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – When A Heart Beats

Nice rock-tinged track, probably the best Nik Kershaw track the Now! compilers have included so far.

Track 3: Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart

I quite like this one in moderation.  Good chair-swayer, and great lyrics.

Track 4: Eurythmics – There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)

I’ve got a soft spot for this one because it was used for one of the idents on VH1 Classic back in the ’00s, when Geth and I lived in Edinburgh and could still get Virgin TV with its huge variety of music TV channels.  Love that chorus.

Track 5: Simple Minds – Alive And Kicking

Slightly rockier sound from Simple Minds today, great tune, especially the singalong bridge.

Track 6: Bryan Adams and Tina Turner – It’s Only Love

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

Nice epic guitar riff all the way through – quite like this one.

Track 7: Gary Moore – Empty Rooms

Love the atmosphere of this one, with that wailing guitar at the start.  Everything I like in an ’80s rock ballad.

Track 8: Marillion – Lavender

Not keen on this one – the repetitive chorus annoys me.

Track 9: Elton John – Nikita

A song from a different world, where the Iron Curtain meant that English boys weren’t allowed to date Russian girls, or something.  It’s quite a nice tune, but there’s something a little dull about it for me.

Track 10: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

Love this one.  I think I came to it late and it was actually the Placebo cover in 2003 that introduced me to it (the Placebo covers album did that for a lot of songs).  In this case, the original is much better though.

Track 11: Level 42 – Something About You

Nice upbeat pop, quite like this one!

Side note: Geth and I noticed when we were at the Sage Gateshead for the Kim Wilde gig last night that Level 42 will be playing there in October.  I may have another ’80s gig to look forward to!

Track 12: Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero

As usual with Tina Turner, there’s something I’m not keen on here.  I think I just don’t like the tune.

Track 13: UB40 – Don’t Break My Heart

Not quite as bouncy as you’d usually expect from UB40, but I really quite like the atmosphere of this one.

Track 14: Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin – Separate Lives

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

Bit too much of a dull, slow ballad for my tastes.  I quite like the instrumentals though.

Track 15: Cliff Richard – She’s So Beautiful

Never been a Cliff fan, as I find his typical level of cheese to be pretty cringeworthy.  This one is no exception.  Blurgh.

Track 16: Arcadia – Election Day

Following the Power Station yesterday, here’s the other Duran Duran spinoff band of 1985.  Plenty to love here, with a nice epic chorus and daft video.

Track 17: UB40 and Chrissie Hynde – I Got You Babe

I actually prefer this jaunty reggae version of the song to the Sonny and Cher original.  Great track.

Track 18: Fine Young Cannibals – Blue

Okay tune, but not enough of a hook for me.

Track 19: Midge Ure – If I Was

In our ’90s family CD collection, we had this one on a Top Gear compilation, I think.  I’ve always liked the tune, especially the way the verses build.

Track 20: Siouxsie & The Banshees – Cities In Dust

Nice mad song that I still hear a lot in clubs.  Highly danceable if you’re a goth.

Track 21: Madness – Uncle Sam

Typical jolly Madness track, though it’s a bit more sedate than some of their stuff.  Really like this tune.

Track 22: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend

Great song!  I’m going to make this one today’s top wedding disco track.

Track 23: The Communards – You Are My World

My parents had (and still have) the Communards’ self-titled album on vinyl, so it’s one of those records I grew up with.  Great dance tune.

Track 24: Paul Hardcastle – Just For Money

Jaunty mishmash of sampling based around the theme of the Great Train Robbery.  Quite like this track.

Track 25: Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme

I find this one a bit dull.  It does, however, remind me that I’ve never seen an episode of Miami Vice, which I should probably rectify at some point.

Track 26: Maria Vidal – Body Rock

This one’s a bit pop-by-numbers, nothing special.

Track 27: Baltimora – Tarzan Boy

That’s more like it!  Great hooks, classic pop track.

Track 28: Mai Tai – Body And Soul

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Much better than History from yesterday.  Vocals aren’t really to my taste, but the instrumentals are great.

Track 29: Cameo – Single Life

Not enough here to keep my interest.  Bland tune, repetitive vocals.

Track 30: Jaki Graham and David Grant – Mated

Fairly typical ballad, a bit dull and slow for me.

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.