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 November 1987
Kylie Minogue and Guns n Roses are a thing that is happening now, both missed from this album, as is Bad by Michael Jackson and Faith by George Michael. Cliff Richard and Johnny Hates Jazz make the cut. I assume the compiler was found murdered shortly thereafter.
At 3 years and 9 months, I remember being told off for throwing stones at spiderweb, that I had a Brio trainset which even now I think is 97 types of amazing, and possibly wetting myself at playschool. Amazing what stays. Also, the pinball machine video from Sesame Street which counts to 12, which I now know was by the Pointer Sisters. Yeah, the first song I loved is cool!
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were remaindered, that track would be… Never Can Say Goodbye by The Communards. Sweet disco joy it’s good, and just edges out Heart.
Track by track breakdown
Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé : “Barcelona”
Not even close to the best song he was involved in, but the fact that he can hold his own against an opera singer shows you the sheer power of his voice. The contrast with Monserrat Caballe actually lends Freddie’s normally brash, powerful voice a degree of vulnerability that isn’t normally there.
Pet Shop Boys : “Rent”
I read a book about English music a few years ago, which gets to the center of why this song is so good. The chorus of I love you/ you pay my rent can make for two different songs, depending on whether the implied word between lines is and or because. Almost boringly brilliant.
Communards : “Never Can Say Goodbye”
Regardless of the quality of their other material (which is great) I’d put this on their best of three times, purely because it makes me really happy. Danceable wonder.
M/A/R/R/S : “Pump Up the Volume”
I do like this song a lot, but it annoys me that it gets so much credit for being groundbreaking in introducing sample culture when they’ve clearly just robbed wholesale from Steinski and his Lesson tracks.
Hue and Cry : “Labour of Love”
All this faux soul is one of the reasons the 80’s were such a musical dissapointment to so many. Blah blah blah.
Jellybean feat. Steven Dante : “The Real Thing”
See above. Not worth the single calorie I would burn thinking words and typing them.
Johnny Hates Jazz : “I Don’t Want to be a Hero”
Hate jazz all you want Johnny, but offer me an alternative that isn’t absolute bobbins please. I’d take 20 minutes of Miles Davis at his most indulgent over 30 more seconds of this narcoleptic waste of studio time.
The Style Council : “Wanted”
If I were given the chance to travel back in time and kill Hitler, I’d turn it down and ask to take out Paul Weller’s grandad instead.
T’Pau : “China in Your Hand”
Kate Bush lite, 20 years before Florence and the Machine tried the same shtick. Except with a saxophone solo. Cannot wait for time to consign the sax solo to history’s dustbin.
Heart : “Alone”
Fantastically OTT power balladry. The contrast between the gentle verses and the big, bombastic choruses pushes all my buttons.
Kiss : “Crazy Crazy Nights”
You know. It’s one of those Kiss songs about partying. No. Not Detroit Rock City, the other one. No, not God Gave Rock n Roll To You, the other one. No not New York Groove… still love the silly sods though.
Billy Idol : “Mony Mony”
Reasonable, sneered rock ‘n’ roll modernised for the mores of the era. It’s no great shakes, but reasonable enough. Billy Idol is capable of a lot more than this.
Whitesnake : “Here I Go Again (USA Remix)”
Slightly inferior version of the rock classic, tarnished by overproduction compared to the album version. A shame, as it has an endlessly singable chorus.
The Alarm : “Rain in the Summertime”
Wow. They’re trying really hard to sound like U2 but without the politics or the interesting bits. So basically they sound just like U2 post 1995. Eerily prophetic in that sense, at least.
Marillion : “Sugar Mice”
I would gladly be sent to Guantanamo Bay before I’d willingly listen to this miserable mope of a song again. There are some nice pinch harmonics in the guitar solo (when the guitar goes squeee on a note), and that is the nicest I can be about the whole endeavour.
Wet Wet Wet : “Sweet Little Mystery”
An argument not just against Scottish independence, but their continued existence. Still, Marti Pellow is the least likely rock and roll heroin addict ever, so not the most boring band ever.
Curiosity Killed the Cat : “Misfit”
An improvement on their prior entry, which bumps along reasonably, with our ever doing anything especially interesting.
Los Lobos : “La Bamba”
No habla Espanol. Soy ingles. La Bamba es cojones, muy bueno cojones. Always enjoy that picked bit at the end too.
Fat Boys and Beach Boys : “Wipeout”
Just because I quite enjoy the ridiculousness of the past it Beach Boys doing hip hop with the poor man’s Run DMC, and I do, it’s great fun, doesn’t mean that Mike Love is any less of a shitweasel.
Bananarama : “Love in the First Degree”
A piss poor metaphor pushed beyond breaking point. I love it! I have no idea why! I think it’s just how much fun it sounds like they’re having shoehorning judicial terminology into a pop song.
Cliff Richard : “My Pretty One”
Nothing wrong with it. It just happens, then stops happening. I have nothing to say about it. It’s a song, with some chords and a melody.
Karel Fialka : “Hey Matthew”
While I quite like the jaunty, scary fairground vibe, the whole WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN message of the song is pretty irritating.
Jan Hammer : “Crockett’s Theme” From Miami Vice
Moody synth instrumental. Probably sounded really futuristic at the time. Now dated, but still a great piece of music. I’d quite like to hear a less 80’s version. I reckon it would stand up well without the eightiesness.
Nina Simone : “My Baby Just Cares for Me”
A beautiful, almost child like celebration of the simple joys of love. Nothing else like it. Nina Simone really can speak right to your heart. Amazing.
Erasure : “The Circus”
Atonal noises over circus music is always going to freak me out. But I like my music to freak me out, so good work Erasure. Please dont let the clown kill me, you terrifying gits.
The Housemartins : “Build”
Sweet, inconsequential little number. Charts the evolution from this band to the Beautiful South nicely though.
Level 42 : “It’s Over”
If you had a pet that kept limping on in the manner Level 42 have, you’d do the decent thing, and take it round the back of the barn, feed it it’s favourite meal one last time, and end it’s pain.
ABC : “When Smokey Sings”
Love the ‘ooh ooh’s’ at the start, and any song offered up to Smokey Robinson can’t be all bad. The verses are pants, but the chorus is aces, so all the bits that matter are tight.
Squeeze : “Hourglass”
Nowhere near their best, but still a great chorus and better than 90% of the rest of this album.
The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl : “Fairytale of New York”
Yes. Overplayed every year. I know. But that intro, with the bruised, world weary tone, gets me every time. I feel Christmassy already. Genuine classic… and that’s why it’s played so much.
Final verdict: 17.5, or 58% gold, a mark that belies some of the absolute bilge that made it in.