I am 30 years old.
I think I’ve said this before. I never expected to be thirty, I’m not sure anyone does. The aging just happens while you’re concentrating on more important matters, like life and cronuts.
The Now That’s What I Call Music series is also 30. The first volume was released shortly before I was born, and we’re now somewhere in the high 80’s. A year or so ago, inspired by a pub conversation I listened to all of them, end to end. It was… informative. It was also interesting (to me) and a strange way to experience the recent history of pop music.
So I thought I would share in this, by blogging every single one, with my feelings on the music, incredibly biased reviews, and when I feel like it, my personal relationship with the song. If the song’s particularly good, has a particularly good or bad video, or if it entertains me, I’ll put the track on.
I hope you enjoy, but then, I’m doing this for me more than anyone else. But regardless, enjoy.
Now That’s What I Call Music
This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.
Released- November 28th, 1983
Even at this early stage, a lot of the 80’s style is already there. Pop is getting glossier, there are power ballads and electropop, early hip hop/electro (sort of, Rocksteady Crew), and the early alternative scene is represented by The Cure.
Still a temporary tenant in a studio flat made of amniotic fluid and womb. My tenancy ends in two and a half months.
If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to dissappear forever, that track would be… Bonnie Tyler and Total Eclipse of the Heart.. It may not be a credible song, but by God it’s fantastic. One to sing at the top of your voice when drunk.
Track by track breakdown
Phil Collins : “You Can’t Hurry Love”
Phil is no longer the enemy, regardless of his smugness, odious political views and weird tongue of hair. He’s responsible for some amazing music. This limp version of The Supremes does not fall in that category. A terrible start, and I am remembering that my mum loathed 80’s music because of things like this.
Duran Duran : “Is There Something I Should Know”
Brum’s second finest (Black Sabbath clearly win) with a makeweight song. Half baked, but I still love the yacht riding bastards.
UB40 : “Red Red Wine”
Brah-town’s fourth finest (The Streets) with a cover so good, Neil Diamond performs it this way himself now, like an easy listening Bob Dylan.
Limahl : “Only for Love”
Absolutely terrible. Camenbert. But it’s kind of endearing in it’s overproduced, incredibly dated way.
Heaven 17 : “Temptation”
Forever linked to Trainspotting in my head. But a cracking song. This is what Limahl was aiming for, and missing miserably. Would still fill a dance floor now.
KC & The Sunshine Band : “Give It Up”
Infectious, stupidly fun. Nan an an an an an an an ana. Probably should have taken their own advice after this though.
Malcolm McClaren : “Double Dutch”
Like a track from Paul Simon ‘s afrocentric Graceland album, except his voice is awful. Like an over enthused geography teacher. He was one of the coolest people in the music industry until he opened his mouth. Still love him though.
Bonnie Tyler : “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Culture Club : “Karma Chameleon”
Regardless of it’s actual quality, this is a full on earworm of a song. Musically, the chorus is quite jittery and odd, if you try to listen to it without expectations, which shouldn’t work in a pop song. It does work.
Men Without Hats : “The Safety Dance”
I like this song, but I never realised how self conscious the singer sounds before. It’s like he knows the song is really silly.
Kajagoogoo : “Too Shy”
You know how Spaceman by Babylon Zoo had an amazing chorus, but the rest of the song was a stinking pile? That.
Mike Oldfield : “Moonlight Shadow”
Just reminds me of the Fast Show sketch about an eco-warrior. Can’t take it at all seriously ever again.
Men at Work : “Down Under”
If you don’t love this song. you have no soul. Contains the only reference to inferior yeast based sandwich spread Vegimite in the history of popular music . Can’t help but think of twenty20 cricket when I hear it too, which is never a bad thing.
Rock Steady Crew : “Hey You (Rock Steady Crew)”
Hits all my electric boogaloo buttons.
Rod Stewart : “Baby Jane”
Saxophones, cheesy synths, does anybody believe Rod Stewart has any integrity whatsoever? He seems to do whatever is popular at the time, with his stupid gravelly voice and idiots lap it up. Embarrassing. Just made my skin crawl. Stay With Me remains a great song, however.
Paul Young : “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”
This is better, by dint of being listenable.
New Edition : “Candy Girl”
Unadulterated bubblegum joy. Though the Jackson 5 should probably have protected their copyright a little harder. Candy Girl, As easy as 1,2,3.
Kajagoogoo : “Big Apple”
This is why artists only get one song per Now album. Very blah.
Tina Turner : “Let’s Stay Together”
Tina killed the 80’s. Everyone knows that without her, Beyoncé would disappear like Marty McFly in that picture at the school ball. Sadly, this is one of the only weak points in her 80’s output. You don’t fuck about with the Rev. Al Green. Unless you’re Barack Obama.
The Human League : “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”
They can do no wrong in my eyes. I love the ‘Hey Hey Heys’. Great synth riff. This is exactly what I want from synthpop. It also reminds me of being 19 and playing Vice City for weeks on end.
Howard Jones : “New Song”
Yuck. I need to wash this song off me.
UB40 : “Please Don’t Make Me Cry”
Never been a lover’s rock person. This doesn’t change my mind. Not bad, just dull. And of course I’ve used up my Spotify skips so have to trudge through the whole somnabulistic affair.
Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack : “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love”
This is the sort of thing I normally hate. It gets a pass…just barely…because Roberta Flack sells it with a vulnerability that moves it from trite to touching.
Tracey Ullman : “They Don’t Know”
You can see the intention to record a 60’s girl group style song with 80’s production. The problem is the hideous, clean 80’s production. If it sounded a bit more rough and ready I’d probably stay awake for more of the song.
Will Powers : “Kissing with Confidence”
Starts promisingly. I love 80’s songs where someone talks over a lot of the music. Also I have never heard anyone sing about overbite. As this song goes on, I think this is the sort of wonderful curio 2manydjs would chuck in the middle of their set.
Genesis : “That’s All”
Not to get all Patrick Bateman, but Phil Collins’ Genesis gets a bad rap. Nowhere near as technical or clever, but a great pop band, and the balding cuntwit could play the drums.
The Cure : “The Love Cats”
One of my only other considerations for the best song on this record. One of my favourite Cure songs, precisely because it doesn’t sound overly Cure-like, beyond Robert Smith’s reedy voice.
Simple Minds : “Waterfront”
If you killed all the Simple Minds fans, Scotland would now be an independent country. There’s still time.
Madness : “The Sun and the Rain”
God bless Suggs. There is nothing about Madness which isn’t charming and fun. Great piano line, bouncy fun. Sometimes, seriousness in music is massively overrated.
Culture Club : “Victims”
Boy George is not a balladeer, the poor dear.
Final rating: 16/30, or 54% gold.
Edit: I have found a much more daring and foolhardy project than my own, to review every no.1 album since the founding of the charts, which is infinitely more highbrow than my own. Where they have a relavant article, I shall link it here: Now 1 with class