Now That’s What I Call Music 3
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- July 23rd, 1984
This is a vintage summer for pop music. Wham, Duran Duran, The Weather Girls, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Phil Collins all released some of their biggest hits within month’s of each other. The quality is unbelievable. Compare it to this summer, where we had a Nicki Minaj impersonator with Fancy, Jason Derulo and Sam Smith, who are essentially photocopies of photocopies of interesting musicians, and charisma vacuum and one note Essex nightclub floor filler Calvin Harris.
According to WebMD, a five month old should be making rudimentary attempts at speech, and capable of sitting up without support for a few seconds at a time. Insert mandatory drunk joke here.
If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to be melted down to tarmac Chinese roads (Robbie Williams), that track would be… White Lines. It’s an Important Song which also has the benefit of being incredibly catchy and endlessly listenable. Grandmaster Flash is part of the foundation all hip hop is built upon, and he deserves even more credit than he already gets.
Track by track breakdown
Duran Duran : “The Reflex”
This is the Duran Duran I know and love. Everything about this song screams yes. The dumbest fun you can have without a bouncy castle.
Nik Kershaw : “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
It’s great, an honest to God great piece of massively dated pop. But… The way he sings sun like it has more than one ‘N’ at the end of the word really winds me up. I am a petty, petty man, and this can ruin songs for me. See also, Eeedeeeot Weeyaaand by Bob Dylan and any Oasis song where he says shine.
Sister Sledge : “Thinking of You”
Another reason this is the best Now album yet. If Pharrell was singing it, it would fit on Random Access Memories and still wouldn’t have aged. The dry delivery of the otherwise pedestrian lyrics makes it. She sounds bored of heaven. Brilliant.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark : “Locomotion”
The second best song of this title released in the 80’s. Kylie wins, on account of her song being a barbarous cover version which is at least memorable. This song happens, then it isn’t happening, and that’s about it.
Ultravox : “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”
A great song title, backed up by a fairly run of the mill song. I’d make a joke about how Bob Geldof was the only brains behind Live Aid, but that wouldn’t be very Midge Ure.
Howard Jones : “Pearl in the Shell”
The more he appears on these compilations, the more I believe he was put on this earth solely to annoy me.
Blancmange : “Don’t Tell Me”
Just a momentarily diverting piece of tack. Probably sounded very futuristic with its odd vocal sampling at the time. Dated.
Phil Collins : “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”
One of the greatest break up songs ever written. A million bad cover versions (and one beautiful one by The Postal Service) can’t dim it’s power.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood : “Two Tribes”
Cultural history may disagree, but this is a much better song than Relax. Also, Kruschev and Reagan wrestling. All foreign affairs should be resolved this way.
Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel : “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”
There are no words to express how brilliant this Giorgio Moroder groove and proto hip hop call and response jam is, save for;
Special A.K.A : “Nelson Mandela”
Unjustly maligned. Much better a celebration of a hero, than another turgid, worthy protest song. And let’s not forget that our current
Prime Minister didn’t agree with this sentiment.
Womack & Womack : “Love Wars”
Unoriginal metaphor, unoriginal song. Nothing much to see here.
Style Council : “You’re The Best Thing”
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I can’t stand Paul Weller. The Jam were one of the blandest punk bands, and his solo stuff is turgid pub rock. Thankfully, it’s generally acknowledged that the Style Council is a low point in his career. If you extend that era to include 1977 to the present day, I wholeheartedly agree.
Bob Marley & The Wailers : “One Love, People Get Ready”
A nice big anthemic piece of Bob Marley for you. As always, the sentiment is tired and clichéd, but you cant argue with the tunes.
Bronski Beat : “Smalltown Boy”
Powerful, haunting, and moving. This song covers for a lot of weak efforts in later days. I wish I had understood how great this song was when I saw Jimmy Somerville at the Radio 1 Roadshow in Newport, back in 1998. Instead, I came away loving The Levellers. Deep, deep shame on me.
Queen : “I Want to Break Free”
One of my favourite Queen songs. Inspiring, fun, and one of the first truly iconic music videos too! Makes hoovering fun.
Cyndi Lauper : “Time After Time”
It’s a step up from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. A million X Factor contestants and tacky weddings have dulled it’s impact, but without the thirty years of abuse, this is quite a sweet and heartfelt song.
Alison Moyet : “Love Resurrection”
I love Yazoo, but despite Alison Moyet’s amazing voice and clear talent, I have never been able to fall in love with her solo career. I have the decency to feel guilty about this. I would probably like it much more if I could remove the high watermark of Don’t Go from my brain.
Bluebells : “Young at Heart”
This song wants me to hate it, from its hoedown fiddles to its saccharine lyrics. You failed song! You never fail to cheer me up! I have no idea why! I think it breaks so hard through the naff barrier that I can only conclude you’re actually that sincere that you could only be made this way. Yee, and indeed, haw.
Bananarama : “Robert De Niro’s Waiting…”
Hilariously plastic. I much prefer Adam an Joe’s Robert De Niro song. Deep joy.
Propaganda : “Doctor Mabuse”
I live for dumb, odd crap like this. Who wants a dark synthpop retelling of Doctor Faustus? Me. And you, if you have any sense.
Tina Turner : “What’s Love Got to Do with It”
Reggae soul (seggae? reggoul?) and just a brilliant song. Obviously. Has anybody else managed to consistently release great hits across 4 decades? If you say Cliff Richard I will have to punch you in the kidneys on principle.
Flying Pickets : “When You’re Young and in Love”
The year I was born was a very good year for post barbershop acapella jams. I’m going to assume that that is the first and last use of that phrase on the entire Internet. Not massively different from Only You, but who else was mining this rich seam?
Wham! : “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
Admit it to yourself. They’re up there with ABBA and The Spice Girls as one of the most perfect pop groups. Everything about this song jumps along like it’s drunk five bottles of cherryade.
The Thompson Twins : “You Take Me Up”
An overlong intro suggests they may have thought they were more arty and intelligent than they actually were. Then, hilariously, a harmonica comes in and destroys any tension they may have built. A deeply and unintentionally silly song. At least it’s better than You Raise Me Up by Westlife. I’m dreading the Now album that’s on.
Weather Girls : “It’s Raining Men”
It’s brilliant. You can’t deny this. Also, thanks to some wit I cannot remember, I now hear “It’s raining Ben, Hallelujah it’s raining Ben, Amen”. I should make it my wrestling theme. If only I wrestled.
Gary Glitter : “Dance Me Up”
Ooh. Difficult, especially given the middle eight repeats the refrain “Bring on the Girls”, which now sounds very sinister. However, paedophilia has not dulled the power of Michael Jackson’s music, so let’s be objective. Objectively, Rock n Roll part 2, Leader of the Gang, and others deserve their place in the glam rock canon. This, however, is by the numbers, turgid, and bland.
The Art Company : “Susanna”
Ron Jeremy’s pornstachioed cousin sings awful white boy reggae over a bassline shoplifted from Bill Withers. If I were Susanna, I’d be deeply offended that this is the song I got.
Madness : “One Better Day”
Not classic Madness. Not even their best song starting with One. I’m going to listen to One Step Beyond instead. Much better.
David Sylvian : “Red Guitar”
It’s not good. But it’s different. Stumbles around with some odd discordant jazz noodling, that falls in and out of coherence. A pass, but could do better.
Final verdict: 19 out of 30, or 63% pure pukka pop.
Edit: A more thoughtful consideration of Now 3