Now That’s What I Call Music 4
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- 26th November 1984
The first Now album released on compact disc. It was like a small vinyl. Or a really big, 3D printed corner of Spotify. I can’t believe I thought CDs were going to be around forever. They don’t get scratched (except they do).
My family won’t get a CD player for another 18 Now albums yet. Left in the past, all music I hear for the next six years will have the crackle of vinyl or radio static affecting the sound quality, with the result that, as an adult, I can’t help but love those noises.
If I had to save one track from this album, and all the others had to be sold to pay off the national debt, that track would be.. Hello by Lionel Richie. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. You like something or you don’t. Using the phrase guilty pleasure suggests that you think the person you’re talking to is such a snob that they would make a character judgement based on your liking an item of pop culture. Anyhoo, this is just a brilliant song, with a so bad it’s good video which has to be watched again and again. Just pipped Together in Electric Dreams for survival.
Track by track breakdown
Paul McCartney : “No More Lonely Nights”
Not a patch on The Frog Chorus.
Giorgio Moroder with Philip Oakey : “Together in Electric Dreams”
One of the single most beautiful songs of the decade. Moroder can turn the coldest most mechanical instruments into expressive machines, and the melody and lyrics are just sweet and genuine.
Bronski Beat : “Why?”
The soundtrack to the 80’s sports dramedy training montage in my mind. Contains a perfect balance of synths, trumpets, drum machines and Jimmy Somerville.
Limahl : “Never Ending Story”
Well the film has dated pretty badly too! That’s about the nicest thing I can say.
Nick Heyward : “Warning Sign”
The video has a creepy ventriloquist dummy in it and it’s from Starsky and Hutch. There is nothing else interesting about this song to say.
John Waite : “Missing You”
A straight up ballad, that’s inoffensive and presumably here so that there are a round number of tracks.
Michael Jackson : “Farewell My Summer Love”
Even the king has an off day. Inoffensive, but when every shot hits the back of the net, nobody wants to see you hit the post.
Lionel Richie : “Hello”
Remove any preconceptions from your brain. Listen to that haunting chord progression and the ambiguous lyrics. Is this a love song or a stalking song? It carries meanings both ways with a skill and deftness, which far outstrips the unfair reputation Lionel Richie has as being a little tacky. Sublime.
Culture Club : “The War Song”
War, war is stupid,
And people are stupid,
And love means nothing,
In some strange waters
Hang up your quill and parchment Siegfried Sassoon, your work is done.
Elton John : “Passengers”
It’s fairly good fun, but you can see why the African music thing died out as quickly as it began. It’s starting to look like racist cultural theft already.
Julian Lennon : “Too Late for Goodbyes”
I wanted to slate it, but you know what? It’s fairly sweet and fun, if utterly forgettable. And in a world where Lily Allen and Jacob Rees-Mogg exist, nor the worst child of somebody living off their name.
The Style Council : “Shout to the Top!”
In much the same way that Jeremy Clarkson isn’t as bad as Hitler, this isn’t as bad as You’re the Best Thing, so still an abomination, basically.
Thompson Twins : “Doctor! Doctor!”
Once again, a fairly average song rescued by a killer chorus. I suppose it all builds to the anticipation, but it makes it hard to judge a song on it’s merits. I mean, more of it is dull than brilliant but I still love it.
Heaven 17 : “Sunset Now”
Got to love Heaven 17. Could only have existed in one era, but still enjoyable today. More of what they do best, which is make you believe you’re in a club scene in a 1980s warehouse.
Kane Gang : “Respect Yourself”
If you really feel the need to listen to an inferior 80’s cover of the Staple Singers classic, Bruce Willis covered it too. Rendering this stink laden cover version even more redundant.
Tina Turner : “Private Dancer”
Is this the best Tina Turner song? It’s a close run thing. Big dramatic pianos, questionable subject matter, absolute classic.
Queen : “It’s a Hard Life”
The fact it’s still a good song, but wouldn’t even make my 20 favourite Queen songs just shows how bloody good they are.
Status Quo : “The Wanderer”
It’s Status Quo. It sounds like the other Quo songs. They have a song, and by God you will hear it again and again and again until you go mental.
Big Country : “East of Eden”
Who the hell liked Big Country? More turgid than adamantium. I try to listen to the whole of each track, but there are limits.
U2 : “Pride (In the Name of Love)”
For all their ills, you forget that a lot of early U2 is actually really good. This isn’t, and is really rather dull. At least I get to choose not to have it on my phone though.
Feargal Sharkey : “Listen to Your Father”
He was in The Undertones. This is basically that but minus joy, exuberance and rebellion. Charting a course from punk to wielding a briefcase in the name of the protection of music executives. Feargal Sharkey would have benefitted from the same our as John Lennon in 1980, because everything after is shameful.
O.M.D. : “Tesla Girls”
It’s better than average, and passes muster for the odd ‘No no no’ vocal, and for the respect for Nikolai Tesla. Edison can do one, frankly.
Kim Wilde : “The Second Time”
She is like the physical embodiment of the 80’s. The song is the same. Plonky funk bass, big synths, a heavy rock lite guitar. I love it.
Nik Kershaw : “Human Racing”
A wonky and odd slow song. A pleasant surprise of a song, and one of those nice reasons to do this. My expectations have been nicely subverted.
Ray Parker Jr. : “Ghostbusters”
Possibly the first song I ever loved. We had it on a free gift vinyl from the Fiat garage down the road. It had a panda on the cover. It’s still brilliant, as is the film. I miss the days when you had to actually write a song that fits in the title of the film to be on the soundtrack. And as it’s prize, Bill Murray is in the video.
UB40 : “If It Happens Again”
It’s nice that Alastair Campbell had a reggae band before he became a propagandist. Not their best song. Not bad, just bland.
Pointer Sisters : “Jump (For My Love)”
Stupidly infectious. Like party Ebola.
Level 42 : “Hot Water”
Rock that slap bass. The 80’s late era Red Hot Chili Peppers. As in lyrically suspect and a wee bit funky, but forgettable.
Eurythmics : “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)”
Nobodies favourite Eurythmics song, but a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Stewart/Lennox silliness.
Rockwell : “Somebody’s Watching Me”
Much better than it’s recent remix, and prescient given the spread of CCTV over the coming decades. It amuses me both that it’s aware it’s a pale imitation of Michael Jackson, and that it follows a song that references George Orwell. Fair play to whoever did the sequencing on this record!
Malcolm McLaren : “Madam Butterfly”
Not perfect by a long chalk, but it is an ambitious mix of Tom Tom Club funk, a reined in narration which highlights the better aspects of McLaren’s voice, and a Puccini sample, which probably makes it the most highbrow entry in the series thus far. I’m now hoping a 1990 Now album will have Nessun Dorma on it, because of the world cup, like.
Eugene Wilde : “Gotta Get You Home Tonight”
He does not photograph well. It’s basically the diet version of Sexual Healing. Like let’s postpone making love tonight, I’ve had a hell of a day and I can barely stay awake, Marvin. By the way, have you talked to your dad about getting rid of that gun? It’s an accident waiting to happen.
Final verdict: 18 out of 30. Which is way better than it felt when I was listening. The ones I disliked must have been worse. 62% pure AU.