Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #102

Now! #102 has been released today, 12th April 2019! EDIT: I only just realised that it’s been a whole year today since I started my marathon of the first 100 Now! compilations with Now! #1. Great timing!

April 2019
This is the way the world looks in April 2019, with me and my ‘absolute beginner ukuleles’ classmates doing our thing up on stage. Fun fact: one of the songs we performed appeared on Now! #54, while the other has never been on a Now! compilation.

Let’s have a look at the Now! compilers’ roundup of what’s been going on in the chart recently.

Now! That's What I Call Music #102

Track 1: Ariana Grande – 7 Rings

New Hits Friday review.

Still think this is a bit of a daft interpolation, but I don’t hate it as much as I used to.

Track 2: Ava Max – Sweet But Psycho

New Hits Friday review.

Pretty much loved this bit of synthy pop from the start, and I’m still a big fan. Should have been Christmas number one!

Track 3: Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like A Heart

New Hits Friday review.

Another great pop track. At first I wasn’t keen on the country edge, but I’ve really grown to love this one.

Track 4: Calvin Harris and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Giant

New Hits Friday review.

I’m still not a huge fan of this one – it just doesn’t hook me.

Track 5: Pink – Walk Me Home

New Hits Friday review.

Still too acoustic-y for me, but I have grown to like the epic feel on the chorus.

Track 6: Sam Smith and Normani – Dancing With A Stranger

New Hits Friday review.

I originally felt this one was a bit generic, but it’s become a fairly regular earworm for me, and I find I quite like it now.

Track 7: Tom Walker – Just You And I

New Hits Friday review.

It’s a little cheesy, but it’s a pleasant upbeat tune.

Track 8: Jonas Brothers – Sucker

New Hits Friday review.

A decade ago, I would not have believed you if you’d told me I would ever grow to like a Jonas Brothers song. They’ve grown up now, though, and they make much better music. This is a fairly decent pop song, and I always nod along when it’s on the radio.

Track 9: George Ezra – Pretty Shining People

New Hits Friday review.

I still can’t get over the blatant REM title ripoff. Urgh.

This one’s a little bland (can’t win ’em all, George), but it’s an okay tune.

Track 10: James Arthur – Empty Space

New Hits Friday review.

This one’s not been in the charts since last year, so I’m a bit surprised they’ve held it back for this Now! instalment. As is usually the case with James Arthur’s stuff, it’s too saccharine for me, but I’ll grant you it’s got a good atmosphere on the chorus.

Track 11: Lewis Capaldi – Grace

New Hits Friday review.

I first heard this one on the BBC over Christmas, and at first I thought it was a bit too wistful/singer-songwriter/acoustic-y etc. for me. But I’ve really come to like it – it’s a gorgeous tune.

Track 12: Jason Derulo, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Willy William – Goodbye

New Hits Friday review.

I could have told you that my feelings would not have changed about this ridiculous bastardisation of Andrea Bocelli’s Time To Say Goodbye. Awful interpolation that has me running screaming for the comfort of the original every single time.

Track 13: Little Mix and Ty Dolla Sign – Think About Us

New Hits Friday review.

Another frequent earworm. I quite like the staccato on the verse.

Track 14: Marshmello and Chvrches – Here With Me

New Hits Friday review.

I find this one a bit forgettable, though the tune is very pleasant when I do remember how it goes.

Track 15: Cardi B and Bruno Mars – Please Me

New Hits Friday review.

Still love the retro feel on this track. Straight out of 1988! Well, apart from the NSFW lyrical content.

Track 16: Khalid – Talk

New Hits Friday review.

I really like the soft bubbly synth effects on this one.

Track 17: Mabel – Don’t Call Me Up

New Hits Friday review.

I wasn’t keen at first, but it’s been a grower and I quite like this solid pop track now.

Track 18: Charli XCX and Troye Sivan – 1999

New Hits Friday review.

Liked it when it came out, love it now! Shamelessly retro, actually sounds like the year it’s celebrating. Great stuff.

Track 19: Sigrid – Don’t Feel Like Crying

New Hits Friday review.

Another good danceable pop track, probably my favourite of Sigrid’s output so far.

Track 20: CamelPhat, Cristoph and Jem Cooke – Breathe

New Hits Friday review.

It’s kind of nice to have a dance track on here now that dance tracks are becoming a bit rarer in the charts. Nice tune, too.

Track 21: Jax Jones and Years & Years – Play

New Hits Friday review.

Good tune – I always nod along to this one.

Track 22: Zedd and Katy Perry – 365

New Hits Friday review.

I do like the Spanish-tinged opening, and the atmosphere is great when it gets to the chorus.

Track 23: Zara Larsson – Ruin My Life

New Hits Friday review.

This one makes me really uncomfortable! I can’t get past the awful message in the lyrics, which is basically ‘go back to someone who’s really bad for you’.

Track 24: Dua Lipa – Swan Song

New Hits Friday review.

There’s some great stuff going on with the instrumentals, but I find the vocal line pretty bland.

Track 25: Ariana Grande – Thank You Next

New Hits Friday review.

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had Ariana Grande on track 1.

The tinkly instrumentals are quite nice, but I’m not sure how I feel about the ex-dissing lyrical content.

Track 26: Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

New Hits Friday review. (LOL I said it was too slow for me and now it’s my favourite song in the chart!)

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had Lewis Capaldi on track 11.

Not complaining though, because this is an absolutely beautiful tune that has deservedly just scored a seventh week at number one. Song of the year, whatever happens in the next eight months.

Track 27: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – Shallow

New Hits Friday review.

One of those tracks that I found a bit slow to begin with and have grown to appreciate. Lovely acoustic track from the A Star Is Born soundtrack (no interest in seeing the film, but the song is gorgeous).

Track 28: Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Cast – This Is Me

Another one where the Now! compilers have been a bit tardy – this track first entered the charts well over a year ago – but it’s a great feelgood musical number, and probably the best song on the soundtrack.

Track 29: Jess Glynne – Thursday

New Hits Friday review.

I’m still not particularly keen on this one – I just find the theme a bit awkward.

Track 30: Freya Ridings – Lost Without You

New Hits Friday review.

I do appreciate the simplicity of the song, but it’s just a bit too slow for me.

Track 31: James Arthur and Anne-Marie – Rewrite The Stars

New Hits Friday review.

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had James Arthur on track 10.

One of the tracks from the Greatest Showman Reimagined album, where pop stars do karaoke versions of the songs from the musical. It’s okay, but not a patch on the original.

Track 32: Jack Savoretti – Candlelight

This wasn’t a hit – it only got to number 70. As I’ve been discussing since Now! #99, the Now! compilers have recently started to include songs that haven’t actually made the Top 40, but have been featured on hit albums – there’s less crossover than there used to be between the album and singles chart (mainly because the former is for older people like me who prefer classic pop and rock, and the latter is for the kids who like these strange new songs I’m always ranting about on here after listening to the chart on Fridays!). I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I think I’m okay about it now. After all, it’s probably an older demographic who actually still buys Now! albums. The Radio 2 demographic, if you like. This album got to number one, so I think it’s allowed.

Anyway, this track’s got a great atmosphere – lovely eerie instrumentals, lots of piano. Love this kind of epic tune!

Track 33: The 1975 – It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)

Again not a hit on the singles chart – it only got to number 46 – but this was also a number one album.

Wonderfully retro-sounding as ever from the 1975. Great tune, great beat.

Track 34: Westlife – Hello My Love

New Hits Friday review.

This one’s still a bit too cheesy for me.

Track 35: Take That – Everlasting

This track wasn’t even released as a single, but again the album got to number one.

As I understand it, this is one of the few new tracks on Take That’s recent remastered retrospective. It’s a bit dull until the second chorus kicks in. Also, the self-referential spoken word bit at the end is a bit odd.

Track 36: Hozier – Almost (Sweet Music)

The single only got to number 82, but the album went top ten, getting to number six.

Great bit of soft rock – really like this one.

Track 37: Bryan Adams – Shine A Light

No single release for this song, but the album got to number two.

Great beat, but it’s a little too acoustic-y for me. Nice to see Bryan Adams still rockin’ up Now! compilations though.

Track 38: Michael Bublé – Love You Anymore

Again no single release, but it was a number one album.

As usual for Bublé, it’s far too saccharine for me, but it is nice and feelgood.

Track 39: Rod Stewart – Look In Her Eyes

Yet another one that wasn’t released as a single, but the album went to number one.

Love this danceable, atmospheric song! So yeah, this is the point where I’m officially on board with the Now! compilers including songs-from-hit-albums that didn’t make the singles chart, because the notion of Rod Stewart still managing to get his new songs onto Now! compilations is the BESTEST THING.

Track 40: Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya and The Greatest Showman Cast – The Greatest Show

Repeated artist alert! We’ve already had the Greatest Showman cast on track 28.

Great stompalong number though. Fab track.

Track 41: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

We’ve already had this track on Now! #2! How dare they be so lazy…wait. I can’t really start ranting in this case, because what’s going on here is that the Now! compilers have chosen to include six tracks from Now! #2 in order to advertise the fact that it’s had a re-release on CD today, the same release day as Now! #102. I’m hopeful that this pattern will continue, and will be scouting out the re-release for my collection this weekend!

Anyway, see the link for my review – it was track 16 on Now! #2.

Track 42: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

Still a classic from Nik Kershaw.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 2.

Track 43: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

I have this one on my running playlist these days!

See my review on Now! #2 – track 11.

Track 44: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want To Have Fun

One of my earliest ’80s favourites.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 9.

Track 45: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

Still love that daft boardgaming video!

See my review on Now! #2 – track 25.

Track 46: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

If you spend any time watching the Now! ’80s channel, which often replays the classic TV adverts for the classic ’80s Now! compilations, you will be familiar with this song as the centrepiece for the Now! #2 advert due to it’s ‘hold me now‘ (geddit?) refrain on the chorus. Still a great track, and it was a highlight when I saw Tom Bailey supporting Culture Club in November.

See my review on Now! #2 – track 3.

Great choices for those bonus tracks. Could have done with a bit of love for Duran Duran’s New Moon On Monday (track 29) but I’m hopeful for The Reflex if they do this again when they re-release Now! #3!

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 #4

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).

November 1984
In November 1984, there were still far more houseplants around than there are today, and soft furnishings featured a lot more brown (probably a hangover from the ’70s).

I wonder what the Now! compilers have in store for me today?

Now! That's What I Call Music #4
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.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #3

It’s day 3 of the Now! reviews!

Now! #3 was released on 23rd July 1984, so hopefully its summer release means that there won’t be any Christmas music on this one.

July 1984
This is how the world looked in July 1984! I am sort of in this picture, because it’s a picture of my pregnant mum and her awesome ’80s coat.

Review time!

Now! That's What I Call Music #3

Track 1: Duran Duran – The Reflex

What was it I said yesterday?  Yeah.  Insert daily ‘I love Duran Duran’ statement here.  This one, as ever, is brilliant from start to finish – the backing vocals, the slightly mad lyrics, the chant-along bits on the chorus.  Love it.

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

I find this one a bit repetitive.  Not Nik Kershaw’s most exciting song.

Track 3: Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You

Not hugely keen on the disco stuff that was still kicking about in the ’80s anyway, and this one’s not even danceable in my opinion.

Track 4: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Locomotion

Love me some OMD.  This one’s a bit bouncier and dafter than their usual stuff, but that’s no bad thing.

Track 5: Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

Good song – that short guitar intro is great, as is the tune in general – but the nuclear-war-themed video is really depressing!

Track 6: Howard Jones – Pearl In The Shell

Nice upbeat intro, nice synth line, nice vocals, and I do love a sax solo!  Fairly standard Howard Jones.

Track 7: Blancmange – Don’t Tell Me

Great synthpop track – and I would expect no less from Blancmange.

Track 8: Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)

Boring ballad.  Westlife and Mariah Carey did an even worse version of this in 1999, a pointless ’90s cover* if ever there was one.

Track 9: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes

Great party song!  Another nuclear-war-themed video that I find tough to watch despite its cleverness, because the Reagan and Gorbachev impersonators are really ‘uncanny valley’.  I guess we know what was on everyone’s minds in 1984.  This is the reason I decided to illustrate these posts with family photos rather than current events of the time.

Track 10: Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Do It)

A good head-nodder, with a great vocal, but not really my kind of thing.  I do quite like the fact that ostensibly anti-drug songs were a big thing in the ’80s (especially in comparison to the endless, boring and crass drug references in modern-day chart music), though I’m not sure how tongue-in-cheek this song’s message was.

Track 11: The Specials – Nelson Mandela

Another one that was used to good effect in Britain’s Got The Pop Factor.  This one always makes me think of the time in 1989 when my parents took me to the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ march on Glasgow Green (I still have the badge).

Track 12: Womack & Womack – Love Wars

I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like the atmosphere of the verse, before the chorus gets a bit haphazard.

Track 13: The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing

I find this one pretty dull, and the chorus annoys me for some reason.

Track 14: Bob Marley & The Wailers – One Love/People Get Ready

Classic sway-in-your-chair track.  Love this one!

Track 15: Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy

Wonderful synthpop – that stunning intro!  A favourite, and also a regular feature of Geth’s DJ setlists.

Track 16: Queen – I Want To Break Free

I’m not going to call this one a ‘guilty pleasure’, ’cause I don’t feel guilty about loving it at all.  Everything about it is awesome, from the epic intro to the Coronation Street homage in the video.

Track 17: Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time

Now this is a good ballad – nothing dreary about this one.  Beautiful tune, lovely instrumentals.

Track 18: Alison Moyet – Love Resurrection

This one reminds me of long car journeys as a kid with my dad’s Alison Moyet CD on the car stereo (I found out last Christmas that my brother vehemently hated that CD, but I really quite liked it).  I love Yazoo – as I mentioned yesterday, Only You is my all-time favourite song.  I’m not quite as keen on Moyet’s solo material, but it’s still good stuff.

Also, nowadays whenever I hear the lyric ‘show me one direction, I will not question again‘, I always think of One Direction.  Thanks, 21st century, for ruining things yet again.

Track 19: The Bluebells – Young At Heart

Another song (following Relax yesterday) that was re-released in 1993 and hence ended up on my Greatest Hits Of 1993 compilation!  Maybe it was 1993 that was the first true era of ’80s nostalgia.  I don’t blame people for wanting to get going with that as early as possible.

Track 20: Bananarama – Robert De Niro’s Waiting

I quite like this one, but then I’ve never come across a Bananarama track I didn’t like.  I remember knowing the title of this song for ages before I actually heard it, ’cause it’s mentioned in the blurb for Love In The First Degree on Now! #10 (we’ll get to that a week from today).

Track 21: Propaganda – Dr Mabuse

I wasn’t familiar with this one, but I like its dark, epic atmosphere and lyrics.

Track 22: Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It

Not my favourite Tina Turner song, but I do like the epic vocals on the chorus and the snatches of synth during the bridge.

Track 23: The Flying Pickets – When You’re Young And In Love

It’s no Only You, but still a nice a cappella cover.

Track 24: Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

A classic!  A perfect party tune, and then there’s the colourful video, which was one of those videos that really defined the ’80s, with the neon clothing and the Katharine Hamnett t-shirts (appropriately, I’m wearing her more recent Choose Love design today!)

Track 25: Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up

The harmonica instrumental annoys me, and I usually like harmonica.  I’m not a huge Thompson Twins fan anyway, but I’m really not keen on this one.

Track 26: The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men

We’re at a wedding reception, and I’m on the dancefloor again!  You can’t go wrong with this fabulous party track.

There have been various pointless ’90s and ’00s covers of this one.  I’ll forgive them, as it’s always a banger no matter who covers it, but the original is far and away the best.

Track 27: Gary Glitter – Dance Me Up

Um, I’m quite surprised that I’m actually able to stream Gary Glitter on Spotify given what we know about him now, but I’m guessing he doesn’t actually get any of the streaming royalties.  Um, right?  I should probably look into that.

The song itself isn’t much to write home about, certainly not compared to his early ’70s glam rock stuff.

Track 28: The Art Company – Susanna

The Art Company, in contrast, haven’t put their stuff on Spotify, so I’ve done the uber-lazy ‘tribute version on the playlist’ for this review.

It’s a good song, actually.  Maybe I’d better give the actual Art Company version another listen sometime!

Track 29: Madness – One Better Day

Bit of a slow one for Madness!  Nice tune though.

Track 30: David Sylvian – Red Guitar

I was only previously familiar with David Sylvian’s stuff with Japan, not any of his solo tracks.  This one’s a bit dull, but the instrumentals are nice.

 

*In my terminology (and, I imagine, that of quite a few other people), a ‘pointless cover’ is one that doesn’t change enough things from the original track to make it worth recording a new version, and is hence just a shameless cash-in.  The ’90s were absolutely terrible for this, but it’s happened frequently in other decades as well.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #2

Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984.  I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.

March 1984
This was the way the world looked in March 1984, with Grundig TVs and vinyl collections and houseplants everywhere! My dad is still into building harps and other folk instruments, proving that some things don’t change.

Right, on with the music!

Now That's What I Call Music #2
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga

I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception.  Sing along!

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.

Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.

Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths.  Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.

Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More

Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop.  Come on, Now! compilers…

Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine

…and it’s Madness.  That’ll do in a pinch!  A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.

Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You

The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it).  I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.

Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons

I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German.  I do like this one, though.

Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘.  I’m nothing if not literal.  It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?).  This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.

Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018.  Ouch.

Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me

I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock.  From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.

Politics aside, there is also a pleasing quantity of 20th century telephones in the video, and I am a huge geek for 20th century telephones.

Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too!  It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.

Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason.  It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music.  Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?

Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down

A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.

Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright

It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.

Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)

There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs.  I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’  I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.

Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.

Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette).  As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.

Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one.  Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.

Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?

Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris.  1984 in a nutshell.

Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?

The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s.  I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.

Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven

Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.

Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing

Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.

Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Great, unusual song for the time.  Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.

Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music.  Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.

Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love

I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me.  Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view.  I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.

Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book.  There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me.  Sorry.

Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night

It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night.  I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.

As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass.  What’s not to like?

Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland

I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.

They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents).  Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.

Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)!  Brilliant shout-along anthem.

Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!).  This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead.  I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist.  Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.

Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday

Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere.  This one is no exception.  I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song.  Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version).  Brilliant ’80s fun.

Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me).  Lovely song…when it’s December.