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- 11th July 1988
The first time there’s been a summer edition of the Now albums in a long while, and the start of it’s settling into it’s triannual schedule. In other news, French-Canadian Celine Dion got her big break, winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and Public Enemy and Guns ‘n’ Roses are competing to see who can scare the most parents within their respective genres.
I’m going to playschool. Which is all kinds of good. My best friend is a hyperactive loon who runs around shouting about being a fireman. He hasn’t changed all that much to this day, though he’s dropped the fireman bit, and become a civil servant. I still see the ladies from the playschool when I’m back in my home town, and it freaks me out that I’m taller than them, as I’m sure that they used to be giants…
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were doomed to be remembered in the same manner in which we remember racist 70’s comedians, that track would be… Doctorin’ The Tardis by The Timelords. It’s likely to be my only chance to celebrate the antagonistic joy of The KLF, so it just beats out Push It by Salt ‘n’ Pepa by a whisker.
Track by track breakdown
Wet Wet Wet : “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Proof, if proof were needed, of how great The Beatles are. Even a cover which adds nothing (and indeed, subtracts something) save for some show off vocals, and it’s still a great song. Although I miss Ringo Starr’s ‘singing’. Amusingly, the B-side is Billy Bragg, covering She’s Leaving Home.
Belinda Carlisle : “Circle in the Sand”
Much of a muchness. Trudges along, trying to to sound moody and atmospheric, like a goth with a suntan.
Maxi Priest : “Wild World”
Cat Stevens always needed a bit more West Indian flair to his music, and as if by magic, here is a reggae version of the same. A cover heavy start here, but neither cover has offended me, so I’ll let it slide.
Aswad : “Give a Little Love”
There seems to be a reggae boom every decade or so. This is an enjoyable result of that. Sentimental (Peter) Tosh, but all good nonetheless.
Climie Fisher : “Love Changes (Everything)”
Oh good lord I wish I were listening to The Ballad of Climie Fisher by Half Man Half Biscuit right now. Fisher hates gravel. And Fisher hates shale.
Elton John : “I Don’t Wanna Go on with You Like That”
Elton John, quite content to sound like Elton John, and not doing much more beyond that. Again, he did the hard yards back in the day, so he gets away with it.
Scritti Politti : “Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy)”
I couldn’t feel sorry if you and your family were eaten alive by rabid ferrets, Loverboy, now take your flaccid balladry elsewhere.
Phil Collins : “In the Air Tonight”
Some of the best use of percussive timbre in pop music history. Or BADDUM-BUDDUM-BADDUM-BUDDUM-BOOM-BOMP. As shoplifted by Eastenders. He really is a very good drummer.
Hothouse Flowers : “Don’t Go”
I always like a talky verse where it sounds like they’re listing everything they can think of. One of those rare songs where the verses are ill served by the chorus. Let down.
Morrissey : “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
If your heart isn’t filled with joy and mirth as he sings ‘Come armageddon, come armageddon come‘, you have never been a bored teenager.
Danny Wilson : “Mary’s Prayer”
The musical equivalent of a James Patterson novel. Clips along, doesn’t offend, is in fact rather pleasant, but it also has no art or soul, and feels as though it was put together by committee. Does its job.
Johnny Hates Jazz : “Heart of Gold”
Has a fun, swaggering rhythm. Definitely their best song yet, but still, it’s the Tesco Value version of Leave Me Alone by Michael Jackson.
Voice of the Beehive : “Don’t Call Me Baby”
I miss music sounding this jangly. There needs to be a jangle revival. This is a great song. A break up song from the much more interesting perspective of a couple that have moved on from each other meeting by chance down the line, all bittersweet and lovely. A brilliant track.
Iron Maiden : “Can I Play with Madness”
Not their best song, or most deserving to be here. But it’s Iron Maiden. On a pop compilation. That alone wins the day as far as I’m concerned. Even if they do support West Ham…
Heart : “These Dreams”
All the power ballad atmosphere is punctured brutally by the godawful use of synthesised marimba in the chorus. Honestly, it ruins an otherwise great track. If you want melodrama, don’t switch to The Little Mermaid in the middle of the song!
T’Pau : “I Will Be With You”
I have a massive bias towards power ballads. This is a colossus of power balladry. It only lacks cannons.
The Timelords : “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
Anything that combines Doctor Who and art terrorists The KLF can’t be bad. It’s basically a glam rock version of the wonderful Delia Derbyshire theme music from the series, complete with a call and response of ‘You What?’ With a dalek. Went on to inspire one of the greatest books on pop music ever written, the wonderful The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which is essential reading for any pop fan with a dry sense of humour. Buy it here.
Sabrina : “Boys (Summertime Love)”
I still like it, even as I worry that people will see my goofy smile, and there’ll be enough leakage from my headphones that they’ll know this song is making me smile this way. Ah, to hell with them. I am a boy, boy, boy, and I enjoy good times.
Bananarama : “I Want You Back”
The start of the decline of Stock, Aitken, Waterman, the production trio who ruled the late 80’s with an iron fist. Still one of their biggest hits, but by this point, the best days of Bananarama have gone, and there’ll never be quite as much fun to be had with them.
Tiffany : “I Think We’re Alone Now”
The archetypal 80’s pop choice. It will imprint itself on your brain, complete with the odd choice of vocal echo in the bridge, and stay there for days. I need to pour some bleach in my ears to get it out again.
nb- Do not pour bleach in your ears. I don’t know what will happen, but I imagine it will be deeply unpleasant.
Hazell Dean : “Who’s Leaving Who”
Placeholder, by the numbers, various other clichés to say it’s just a nothing pop song.
The Communards : “There’s More to Love”
Lyrically, the best chorus of the 80’s, by a long chalk. For once, sadly, it’s not backed up by the music. However, I want to add that Rev. Richard Coles was an under appreciated force in making the Communards so good, and he seems like a lovely chap to boot!
Jermaine Stewart : “Get Lucky”
Almost as funky as the similarly titled Daft Punk number. But nowhere near as melodic and fun. Just alright.
Glenn Medeiros : “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You”
I will never understand man’s cruelty to man, or who buys shit like this. True story.
S-Express : “Theme from S-Express”
From the horn break on, you know that you’re enjoying a masterful tranche of 80’s glory. 2 parts soul, 2 parts house, 100% fun.
Salt ‘N’ Pepa : “Push It”
One of the 10 holy commandments of party mix making. Though shalt not leave off Push It. Seriously. Don’t even try and be clever and play another Salt ‘n’ Pepa track, or the remix. Only this will do.
Derek B : “Bad Young Brother”
Great forgotten slice of UK Hip Hop. Also has a Prince sample. We’ve gotten through the high point of Prince’s career and nothing has been on a Now album. What’s the deal Branson?
James Brown : “The Payback Mix (Part One)”
Essentially a big middle finger to all the hip hop artists making millions off the back of Funky Drummer samples. Good on him! Godfather of Soul, Forefather of Rap.
Rose Royce : “Car Wash”
You could just loop the intro and I’d love this. But thankfully it’s disco heaven for the full 5 minutes. Woot!
Natalie Cole : “Pink Cadillac”
Skittish, jittery, soul. Good fun, with a 60’s sense of simple melody, laid over 80’s excessive production to great effect. Works for me at least.
Jellybean featuring Adele Bertei : “Just a Mirage”
When your high watermark is mediocrity, it’s not hard to outdo yourself. It’s a personal best. By their low standards.
Will Downing : “A Love Supreme” (Radio Mix)
Bog standard, with some interesting grace notes from the backing singers being the only point of interest. John Coltrane would not approve.