While Geth and I were at the Sage for the Kim Wilde gig in April, we noticed that Level 42 were going to be playing this year as well. After being constantly reminded of the gig due to Level 42 popping up on a lot of Now! compilations early in my Now! marathon, I booked tickets, and promptly forgot all about it until this week.
The doors were advertised as 7:30pm, which usually means bands don’t start until nearer to 8pm. However, when we walked into the arena at 7:35pm after grabbing a drink from the bar, support act the Blow Monkeys had already started playing. I’ll have to remember that when we go to the Sage in future.
The Blow Monkeys were good, although I didn’t know most of the songs they played – I think it was mostly new stuff, as they’ve recently released a more folky/blues sounding album. They did finish with It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, their biggest UK hit from back in the day.
After an interval (giving Geth the usual opportunity to get us some more drinks), Level 42 came on, and launched into a storming stage show. Early highlights for me included opener Running In The Family, The Sun Goes Down and The Chinese Way, but I really appreciated the stagecraft as well – the lighting was really pretty and well done, and we even got occasional semi-dance routines! I also want to give a shout out to the three-man brass section – the saxophonist was especially good, but they were all brilliant.
After finishing the main part of the set with The Spirit Is Free (featuring all band members drumming simultaneously, which was pretty spectacular!) and Something About You, we were treated to a lively encore featuring Lessons In Love and Build Myself A Rocket. Great gig overall, and not even the constant stream of people pushing past our seats to go to the bar/bathroom (including during the last song. Just why?) could spoil things!
The Sage kicked out in plenty of time for people to catch the last Metro as well. Good stuff!
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.
We’ve been doing this for a whole week. Doesn’t time fly?
Day 7 takes us to 11th August 1986.
Let’s see what might have been blaring on the radio while I was toddling around that balcony.
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.
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.
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.
Day 4, and today’s Now! compilation was released on 26th November 1984 (just one day after the recording of the original Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid, fact fans).
I wonder what the Now! compilers have in store for me today?
Track 1: Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights [Special Dance Mix]
I couldn’t find the dance mix, so I’m reviewing the original. Nice tune, but a bit slow for my liking.
Track 2: Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams
Another one of Geth’s DJing favourites. Great synthpop, love this one. That chorus!
Track 3: Bronski Beat – Why?
Great dance track, really like this one, especially the trumpet instrumentals.
Track 4: Limahl – Neverending Story
Hey, it’s Limahl’s one good solo song that I was talking about the other day! (Well, I say solo – it’s actually a duet with Beth Anderson, but she never gets credited.) Love the ethereal vocals, great tune.
Track 5: Nick Heyward – Warning Sign
I like the guitar instrumentals. Most of the song is a bit pedestrian, but it does step up towards the end. Also, is that a rap at about two-thirds of the way in? You almost never hear that in pop of this era. Interesting.
Track 6: John Waite – Missing You
A favourite. Nice intensity on the chorus, great guitar line.
Track 7: Michael Jackson – Farewell My Summer Love
Bit saccharine for my liking. I prefer Michael Jackson’s stuff when it has a bit of edge.
Track 8: Lionel Richie – Hello
I think most people know this one for the so-bad-it’s-hilarious video, which features Geth’s least favourite trope, that of the icky student-professor relationship. The song is extremely cheesy, but is also in the realm of so-bad-it’s-good for me, and I actually quite like it in a serious way when I’m in the right mood.
True fact: one time in Southampton, a couple of random guys serenaded me on the street with this song. I could not stop laughing, which I’m not sure was the desired effect.
Track 9: Culture Club – The War Song
Argh, it’s another example from the ‘annoying’ end of Culture Club’s back catalogue! I do like some of their stuff…I just can’t think of any examples at the moment.
I forgot to mention during the Karma Chameleon review the other day that that song gets bonus points for inspiring the Lothian Buses ‘Karma Chameleon’ no. 26 bus, which was one of my favourite stories of 2017. It goes to Edinburgh Zoo, is painted in red, gold and green, and says ‘we come and go’ on the back! I am in love. I never go to zoos ’cause I always think the animals look sad, but I gotta get myself on that bus sometime when I’m in Edinburgh.
Um, back to The War Song. ‘War is stupid, and people are stupid‘, and in all honesty I find these lyrics irritatingly stupid too. Sorry.
Track 10: Elton John – Passengers
I quite like this bouncy song when I’m in the right mood, especially the chanting on the chorus.
Track 11: Julian Lennon – Too Late For Goodbyes
Nice upbeat track, though it’s more of a ‘background’ one for me.
Track 12: The Style Council – Shout To The Top!
I’m not usually that keen on the Style Council, but this one’s actually all right – I like the strings on the intro and the slightly urgent atmosphere.
Track 13: Thompson Twins – Doctor! Doctor!
I just remembered I really like this one (great synth line!), so maybe I was a bit hasty in writing off the Thompson Twins during yesterday’s review. Another one that was used well in The Doctor Who Years, which was kind of an obvious choice if you think about it.
Track 14: Heaven 17 – Sunset Now
Typically nice pop from Heaven 17, though I prefer their more synth-y stuff.
Track 15: Kane Gang – Respect Yourself
I’m a big fan of this one, largely because the video was filmed in central Newcastle, and as I only moved to Newcastle in 2015 (and had never been here in my life until Geth and I came to househunt a month before we were due to move), I find it fascinating to see what the Quayside looked like in the mid-’80s before it was de-industrialised and gentrified. Quite like the song too.
Track 16: Tina Turner – Private Dancer
I can’t put my finger on why, but I’ve never really liked this one, even though it does have a couple of nice sax solos.
Track 17: Queen – It’s A Hard Life
Not my favourite Queen song, but I can’t say they ever did a bad song – it’s still a good chair-swayer.
Track 18: Status Quo – The Wanderer
I quite like the jauntiness of this one. It might even make my list of ‘songs I’d dance to at a wedding reception’ – if I’d had a lot of cider.
Track 19: Big Country – East Of Eden
Probably one of the best Big Country songs in my opinion. Great tune and atmosphere.
Track 20: U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Most of the song is a bit dull, but I do quite like the chorus.
Track 21: Feargal Sharkey – Listen To Your Father
Not only is this song not on Spotify, but there’s no tribute version either, so I couldn’t be lazy this time – I had to pause the playlist and hit up YouTube. So inconvenient.
As for the song, I quite like this one – nice uptempo track and instrumentals, even if the lyrics are a little irritating.
Track 22: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Tesla Girls
Awesome uptempo synthpop. OMD delivering the goods as usual.
Track 23: Kim Wilde – The Second Time
Great piece of pop! It’s everything I love about the ’80s – great bassline and instrumentals, epic atmosphere, strong lyrics. It’s begging to be played on vinyl on my dad’s old sound system, rather than digitally through my tinny laptop earphones.
Incidentally, I’m going to see Kim Wilde at the Sage Gateshead tomorrow! I’M SO EXCITED. Watch out for my review of the gig on Tuesday.
Track 24: Nik Kershaw – Human Racing
A bit slow and dull for me, and there’s something I’m not keen on in the tune. Nice lyrics though.
Track 25: Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
How can you not love this one? The ultimate party song.
I also have many happy memories of playing it on Lego Rock Band. Now that I live in a detached house, I have got to break out those Rock Band drums again. It’s just a case of finding the time!
Track 26: UB40 – If It Happens Again
Another good chair-swayer, but again this one’s a bit more ‘background’ for me.
Track 27: Pointer Sisters – Jump (For My Love)
It’s an okay party song, but I’ve always been a bit ‘meh’ about this one.
Track 28: Level 42 – Hot Water
Good danceable song, great instrumentals.
Track 29: Eurythmics – Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
I really like Eurythmics, and this one’s a great dance song with chantable lyrics. It vastly improves what has been a relatively poor second disc so far.
Track 30: Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
I LOVE this song. Great sing-along track, great for Hallowe’en playlists, great for parties. Awesome video too.
Track 31: Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly
Quite a nice chillout track until the spoken word kicks in. Is there an instrumental version of this?
Track 32: Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home Tonight
Fairly typical ’80s soul. Nice tune, if a bit slow.