Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #10

Day 10’s Now! compilation was released on 23rd November 1987.

November 1987
There’s something of a theme developing with these ‘this is what the world looked like…’ pictures. I’m sure the world didn’t just look like our house (and since this particular picture was taken, its background hasn’t changed in the slightest – carpet, intercom and original Victorian doorway are still all exactly the same!), but I guess you don’t get out much with small children, so in our family photo album the world looks very much like our house during that era. Here’s what it looked like in 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.

Now! That's What I Call Music #10

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.

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.