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- 14th August 1989
Bill Wyman is a dirty old man, Prince releases Batdance signalling for most people that his peak years have passed (not for me though), and small time Seattle Pixies tribute band Nirvana release their first album, Bleach. They’ll not get anywhere with that racket, mark my words.
My first Summer holiday from school. I believe I would have spent it somewhere in the South West, maybe Porthleven? I am now deep into Ghostbusters, but I think I start to become obsessed with Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles around this point. Apologies to anyone from overseas reading this, in the UK, the word Ninja was deemed too strong for children. I know. This is why the rest of the world laughs at England…
Also, my second ever single is on this edition (the first was Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal). Who doesn’t love and remember Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers? Especially when it’s played on repeat by an overenthusiastic five year old.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were to be used to trap the grease built up in your drains after Christmas feeding, that track would be… Say No Go by De La Soul. Beating off stern competition from both ex Housemartins, but both the Beautiful South and Norman cook will go on to release much better songs than their efforts here, whereas De La Soul have just recorded one of the defining records of the 20th Century.
Track by track breakdown
Queen : “I Want It All”
A throwaway, hard rock stomper, which due to being Queen, is miles better than it has any right to be.
Simple Minds : “Kick It In”
Ooh. Moody. Not awful. Lots of filters on the vocals, and interestingly wonky sounding at its best.
Fine Young Cannibals : “Good Thing”
Great. The piano and clapping snare recall the original version of Tainted Love, and the shoutbacks make this a brilliant upbeat track.
Holly Johnson : “Americanos”
Frankie leaves Hollywood. Music becomes about 50% less exciting as a result. Wins a couple of points back for some snark, but the muddled song itself is not worth the price of entry.
Transvision Vamp : “Baby I Don’t Care”
The singing may not be great, and the production horribly shiny, but despite it all, the infectiousness of the song, and the attitude of delivery carries regardless. Brilliant fun.
INXS : “Mystify”
Potters along being kind of cool and sort of catchy, but never really does all that much. It’s okay.
Roxette : “The Look”
Whenever I hear this (fairly good) song, I wish I was listening to U Got the Look by Prince. I know it’s unfair on Roxette.
Stevie Nicks : “Rooms on Fire”
Not as good as Fleetwood Mac, obviously, but a near enough facsimile that it’s enjoyable. She always sounds so bored. I suppose when you peaked with Rumours It’s tough to remain excited.
Paul McCartney : “My Brave Face”
Surprisingly good for 80’s McCartney, which is akin to saying surprisingly pleasant for a punch in the face, I know. Almost good enough for Wings, nowhere near Beatles standard.
Gerry Marsden / Paul McCartney / Holly Johnson and The Christians : “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey”
A deserving cause, but musically, not a patch on Gerry and the Pacemakers. But regardless of that, even as a lifelong Millwall fan, I remain disgusted that we’re still waiting for justice for the 96. So this still gets full marks, for doing the right thing by the victims.
The Beautiful South : “Song For Whoever”
One of the most beautiful, cynical songs ever written. Paul Heaton improves as a songwriter willing to approach traditional subject matter from brilliant, unexpected angles with every passing album, even 25 years hence.
Kirsty MacColl : “Days”
Cleaner and warmer than the slightly superior Kinks version, but has its own pastoral charm that justifies it’s existence. It’s a shame that MacColl ‘s own music doesn’t get enough recognition, what with her three best known songs being this, a Billy Bragg cover and a duet with The Pogues. She was great in her own right.
Danny Wilson : “The Second Summer Of Love”
Mumford & Sons clearly 20 years behind the curve in peddling murky folk turds to the idiot masses, judging by this horrible interlude.
Waterfront : “Cry”
I try to approach every song with a positive attitude, but this song made me want to chew out my carotid artery. PS. I haven’t escaped saxophone solos yet.
Hue And Cry : “Violently”
Essentially, how I reacted to this, and the previous song. Another sax solo. Seriously 1989, do one.
Cliff Richard : “The Best of Me”
Sir Cliff has had a pretty easy ride from me so far. It changes here. This is just horrible. Does for your ears what an ill cat’s fart does for your nose. Burn it.
Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler : “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)”
I can objectively see this is a good song, but I’ve never fallen in love with it as many have. I have no idea why, it’s made of parts that I would normally really like.
Neneh Cherry : “Manchild”
It’s stark, post soul sound predates Massive Attack by two years, making this a truly ahead of its time track. Neneh Cherry is another artist who has won me over as part of this trip through pop history, and deservedly so.
Bobby Brown : “Every Little Step”
Inoffensive, new jack soul that is a fleeting bit of fun. You don’t need it, but it doesn’t annoy.
Inner City : “Do You Love What You Feel”
The first wave of house is in the process of crashing. Deeply mediocre.
D-Mob featuring LRS : “It Is Time To Get Funky”
It is showing it’s age, but it totally lives up to the promise of it’s title. I’m feeling the aforementioned funkiness, thanks to great use of a primitive Roland sampler.
Donna Allen : “Joy And Pain”
80’s soul with actual soul. Absolute laid back brilliance. Perfect for a summer playlist, and I’m amazed some of its laid back groove hasn’t been sampled more.
Gladys Knight : “Licence To Kill”
I can only think of Die Another Day, You Know My Name and Moonraker that are more disappointing Bond themes. Doubly so because Gladys Knight is normally bloody brilliant. Not crap, but nowhere near classic.
Natalie Cole : “Miss You Like Crazy”
Disney ballad stuff. Lyrically weak, musically marginally better, but not by any stretch good.
Pet Shop Boys : “It’s Alright”
Pet Shop Boys do politics, fairly directly. Much less annoying than you might expect.
Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers : “Swing the Mood”
Another early addition to my record collection. Yes it’s intensely lazy, and the rock n roll megamix isn’t even stitched together that well, but the brilliance of the originals carries it.
Swing Out Sister : “You on My Mind”
Not my kind of thing, and definitely flawed, but it has a certain kineticism which is hard to argue against.
Bananarama : “Cruel Summer ’89”
Not too bad. I think I like it more by association with the classic DJ Yoda album How to Cut and Paste: The 80’s Edition which is a must for any lover of the decade.
De La Soul : “Say No Go”
De La at their 3 Feet High and Rising peak, with a Hall and Oates sample to boot. Nothing not to like here. D.A.I.S.Y. age brilliance, and it’s nowhere near the best song from the album.
Norman Cook & MC Wildski : “Blame It on the Bassline”
The second track by a former Housemartin, and another goody. Starts with a sample of the great John Peel, and only gets better from there. The start of 15 years of bouncing, infectious fun from Norman Cook.
Double Trouble and The Rebel MC : “Just Keep Rockin'”
The reggae sample makes this a bouncer, more big beat version of It Takes Two. Which could never be a bad thing. Funnily enough, following the last track, this almost sounds like Fatboy Slim.
The Cure : “Lullaby”
I realise there’s a special place in indie boy hell for me for saying this, but this is a little bit boring, isn’t it?
Final verdict: 19.5 from a possible 32, or 60%. The last couple of albums were, to put it mildly, poor, so it’s a massive relief to have a good summer edition of Now after a year! Or three weeks in my time…