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- 23rd March 1987
Not all that much happens. The first house music to reach number one, Aretha Franklin is the first woman inducted to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Ke$ha is born and Liberace dies.
I’m now three years old. I appear to be growing better than the music. I’m talking, and I believe I have written my first comprehensible word at my Nan and Grandad’s, that word being ‘waolway’. I shall write for the Guardian yet.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were burned in the inevitable culture burnings that will be coming to a dystopia near you, that track would be… Reet Petite by Jackie Wilson. Sorry present day, or slightly more recent past to be temporally correct, but nothing put out in this time can match the sheer fun of this song.
Track by track breakdown
Jackie Wilson : “Reet Petite”
Not really representative of pop music in 1987 BUT WHO CARES! Topping the charts due to it’s use in a Levi’s advert (remember those? they were like John Lewis adverts in terms of their deciding who would be number one!), this is a slice of stupid joy. About three comprehensible lines in the whole thing, otherwise deep, nonsensical joy.
Mental As Anything : “Live It Up”
Both band name and title make a promise that the song fails to keep by some distance.
Simply Red : “The Right Thing”
The distance of time has dulled my dislike of Simply Red. This slice of ‘Soul Music for Dummies’ is quite good fun really, especially the call and response bit.
Erasure : “Sometimes”
I almost always think of this band as the less clever, less fun Pet Shop Boys. It’s true, but does them a massive disservice- they write great, tonally strange pop songs. This is one of them.
Robbie Nevil : “C’est La Vie”
Should be a by the numbers pop song, but elevated by snappy, a greasiness drums and a wobbly, funky instrumentation. Great fun.
Hot Chocolate : “You Sexy Thing”
Coloured forever by it’s use in the film The Full Monty, a fun relic of disco soul, and perfectly listenable.
The Blow Monkeys : “It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way”
A whole bunch of high production values can’t disguise your off key singer and dull song. A rare thing, it’s a song that would sound better with auto tune.
The Housemartins : “Caravan of Love”
A beautifully downbeat cover that changes the whole tone of the song. The first acapella song for a couple of years. Given that every one has been great so far, I’m starting to think instruments are a massive waste of time.
Boy George : “Everything I Own”
Following the last track, this is how not to do a cover. Soullessly going through the motions.
UB40 : “Rat in Mi Kitchen”
If you get past white people doing patois, a great song. Dumb fun, inevitably spoilt by Rentokil.
Gap Band : “Big Fun”
Small and mediocre.
5 Star : “Stay Out Of My Life”
Charitably, I’m going to say that the song is clever, and sounds weak and ineffectual because she actually wants him back. If I’m right, it’s an okay song. If I’m wrong it’s just terrible.
Pepsi & Shirlie: “Heartache”
Really basic. In the so standard it hurts way. Every 80’s trope put together to make a bland Rubik Cube soup.
Bananarama : “Trick of the Night”
Save for an obscene amount of saxophone in the intro, not much happens.
Berlin : “Take My Breath Away”
Inseparable from Top Gun for me. I can’t judge this fairly, so I’ll just cry over Goose dying for the 96th time. WHY GOD! YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN MAVERICK OR ICEMAN YOU CRUEL DEITY!
Freddie Mercury : “The Great Pretender”
He’s got the voice to pull this cover off and more. Both the song and video are painful to watch now, given what happens next.
Ben E. King : “Stand by Me”
I can see, from the dreadful quality of some of the music on here, why plenty of people just bought 20 year old records instead. You know this one, it’s one of the most simple and beautiful songs ever written.
Curiosity Killed the Cat : “Down to Earth”
If you’re hoping satisfaction will bring it back, then it’s best you look elsewhere. Boring faux soul, like Bill Withers after a lobotomy.
Communards : “So Cold the Night”
I don’t think many opportunities to say heartbroken disco flamenco come up in life. So the Communards deserve every credit for making it work.
Steve “Silk” Hurley : “Jack Your Body”
Proto house classic. Sometimes I wonder if it ever got any better than this, or if it’s all a downward curve from Kraftwerk to Bambaata to A Guy Called Gerald. Then I remember Justice exist and realise I’m talking out my arse.
Taffy : “I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio)”
Yeah. LL Cool J said it better. But this is how to do 80’s pop. Big synths, big guitars, moronic content and an earworm chorus. Love her voice too.
Nick Kamen : “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever”
I listened to this while wandering down Birmingham’s busy New Street, so a lot of it was drowned out by buskers. No great loss, it sounded like a bunch of schmaltzy crap.
A-Ha : “Manhattan Skyline”
Not a patch on the song of the same name from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Weirdly scizophrenic. Starts as a mopey ballad, then turns into a nearly metal rage.
Westworld : “Sonic Boom Boy”
There is a lot of bland stuff on this particular edition, punctuated by moments of absolute genius. This falls into the former camp.
Bon Jovi : “Livin’ on a Prayer”
Bruce Springsteen meets high camp and melodrama. They commit all manner of musical sins later on, but for now, they are pound for pound the silliest fun you can have while wearing (tight leather) trousers.
Genesis : “Land of Confusion”
Aggressive but ultimately toothless late era number from Genesis here. Deserves credit for trying some interesting tonal shifts, but ends up dissapointing.
Europe: “The Final Countdown”
This album really appeals to my dopey, idiotic core. Best synth rock riff ever? Full of meaningless pomp, and none the worse for it. Also, do check out the fantastic cover by totalitarian fetishists Laibach.
Gary Moore : “Over the Hills and Far Away”
An almost admirable attempt to fuse metal and an Irish jig. Sadly fuses about as well as Seth Brundle and insects.
Ward Brothers : “Cross That Bridge”
Not bad inspirational nonsense. To keep myself amused, I’m going to believe this was a collaboration between X Factor winner Shane Ward and ex Millwall defender Darren Ward.
Pretenders : “Hymn to Her”
It’s nice. I think my dislike of Chrissie Hynde has faded with age and perspective. She has a lovely, expressive voice, that always sounds ever so slightly bored or defeated. It never really transcends nice though.
Final verdict: 15 out of 30, and a bare C grade, at 50%. Very close to being the worst one yet, save for occasional moments of greatness.