Released- 13th November 1995
The Beatles release their first single in over 20 years, Free as a Bird, which actually turns out to be pretty good! Madonna’s security shoots a stalker outside her home. His name is Robert Hoskins, which leads to a great many ‘It’s good to stalk’ jokes (1- If only the internet had existed then, meme heaven, and 2- For context for any other readers, there was a fine actor called Bob Hoskins, who appeared in a series of adverts for the newly privatised British Telecoms, where he encouraged people to make calls, with the catchphrase ‘It’s good to talk). Tupac signs a three album deal with Death Row records on his release from prison. Suge Knight is soon to learn that hindsight is 20/20.
I am now at big school. I went to secondary in Sandwich, the town the snack comes from. I won’t name the place, as it probably doesn’t deserve the dent in its reputation. I also start guitar lessons, further deepening my obsession with music. My guitar is a lovely old nylon string acoustic my Mum was given in the 70’s, and I still have it to this day. At the time it just felt like a new toy, but actually I can see that this was fairly life changing now…
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest became the soundtrack for the forthcoming, much anticipated sequel to Batman Forever, that track would be… Yes by McAlmont and Butler. At the time, I thought it was okay. A year on, I liked it. 19 years hence I realise it was the Dusty Springfield single I never knew existed. Pure, unadulterated, joyous soul.
Track by Track Breakdown
Queen – “Heaven for Everyone”
The final great Queen song. Poignant and touching. It didn’t need to be good, but I’m glad it was.
Meat Loaf – “I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)”
Not his strongest song, but once again, masterful use of title length and brackets. I can’t dislike you, Robert Paulson.
Simply Red – “Fairground”
A return to form of sorts for Simply Red. Admittedly a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the sample of The Goodmen.
U2 – “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”
Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the association with Batman Forever. But this U2 song gets a pass from me.
Tina Turner – “GoldenEye” (Single Edit)
Who can resist a good Bond theme. Not me. Sadly it is the last truly great Bond theme until Skyfall.
Cher – “Walking in Memphis”
Theoretically it should be better than the original, with Cher’s lovely voice, but sadly, some hideous and intrusive drum machine removes some of its charm.
The Beautiful South – “Pretenders to the Throne”
Plaintive and bitingly funny. And I think about Hull. I feel the same way about the Birmingham, so the song charms the pants off me. And yes, Birmingham has class and excellence like you’ve never seen.
Louise – “Light of My Life”
She’s left Eternal! I had a massive crush on her as an 11 year old. But even that couldn’t hide that this song is just awful.
Jimmy Nail – “Big River”
The horror, the horror. Although the decline of industry in Newcastle has a good song in it, I’m sure, this isn’t it.
Sacred Spirit – “Wishes of Happiness and Prosperity (Yeha-Noha)”
Return to Innocence by Enigma is my one exception to the rule that all new age music is the devil.
Radiohead – “Lucky”
This interim charity single from Radiohead is the first sign of the bleak majesty to come on next year’s OK Computer. Even more impressive when you consider that the last interim single they released was Pop is Dead, a song which they now pretend never happened.
Pulp – “Sorted for E’s & Wizz”
Controversial at the time, for both the content, and for having an origami guide to drug parephenalia in the sleeve. The song, ironically, is about feeling alienated despite ingesting drugs that should make you feel happy. And it conveys it beautifully. Just a shame the other half of the single, the sublime Misshapes couldn’t be included too.
Blur – “Country House”
It’s the twentieth anniversary of Blur vs Oasis this year, an event that to my eleven year old mind would change music forever. I think with hindsight, Blur won, by bowing out after they recorded one bad album, the Coxon less Think Tank, rather than dragging on long past their sell by date. This song is good fun, silly and insubstantial, but is that a bad thing?
Cast – “Alright”
Unfairly maligned by some, John Power’s post The La’s band were solid for their first two albums, knocking out catchy rock standards with impressive regularity, and never betraying his scouse roots, singing in his natural accent. This is a fine example.
Oasis – “Roll with It”
I love how they’ve put Cast, a Liverpudlian band between Bur and Oasis, as if to say, ‘Calm down, calm down’ and prevent fisticuffs. A great single, but not their best, and probably the worst single off of Morning Glory.
McAlmont and Butler – “Yes”
The spirit of 60’s soul, carried by a vocal range most would kill for. More importantly it’s joyful, summery and defiant. While he never managed it again, Bernard Butler beats anything he ever did with Suede with this magnificent song.
Paul Weller – “Broken Stones”
I’m breaking my golden rule of doing these reviews, and not listening to more than a minute of this. Plodding blues influenced blandness. What did you expect, it’s Paul Weller.
Suggs – “I’m Only Sleeping”
I loved this at the time. And until my Dad told me that it was originally by The Beatles, I had no idea. Unsurprisingly it’s nowhere near as good. But it led to me buying Revolver on cassette, and falling in love with every single track.
The Smokin’ Mojo Filters – “Come Together”
After 32 Now albums and 1000 songs, finally Paul Weller is involved in acceptable song! Admittedly, The Beatles did the graft on this one, but it’s very faithful, and for War Child, which remains a great cause.
Coolio featuring L.V. –“Gangsta’s Paradise”
If you’re of my age, you’ll claim you got into hip hop with Tribe, or Biggie, and you’ll be full of shit because chances are it was this song. Which you still know all the words to.
Shaggy – “Boombastic”
Ragga PG rated filth. Brilliant song, but what the hell is cous cous perfume? Does Shaggy like his women to smell of grain? That is a weird fetish.
N-Trance featuring Ricardo Da Force – “Stayin’ Alive”
A good rapper might have gotten away with rapping over the Bee Gees. Ricardo Da Force is not that rapper.
Donna Summer – “I Feel Love” (Rollo & Sister Bliss Monster Mix)
I love Donna Summer. I like Faithless. The remix is unnecessary, but so much of the Moroder original remains that it’s still close enough to perfection.
Berri – “The Sunshine After the Rain”
Vicious track sequencing here. This samples I Feel Love. And was never going to hold up against a classic like that. Better sampled on its own.
Corona – “Try Me Out”
I can only assume that somebody in Corona had incriminating pictures of somebody involved in the Now albums.
The Original – “I Luv U Baby”
I wish I could explain why I like this. I can only assume it’s the lyrically limited chorus. See title for lyrics.
Everything but the Girl – “Missing”
It was so ubiquitous at the time, I loathed it, but over the last 19 years, it’s slowly but surely won me over. Autumnal and folorn, a thing of beauty.
Eternal – “Power of a Woman”
Can’t deny it’s popularity, but despite some good crunch in the production, every line is a cliché ridden stinker.
Soul II Soul – “I Care (Soul II Soul)”
The first four bars are okay. That’s the best you can say about it.
The Outhere Brothers – “La La La Hey Hey”
Gah. Distinctly average follow up to Boom Boom Boom. Pretty cool organ sound though.
Whigfield – “Big Time”
I like it in spite of myself. Whigfield, you have my permission to call yourself a two hit wonder on the back of this bouncy, silly thingummajig.
Alex Party – “Wrap Me Up”
A letdown after the last single. Great singer, boring song.
Josh Wink – “Higher State of Consciousness”
Here comes trance. On the strength of this, it sounds fucking amazing! Brain melting noises over house beats. Yes please.
Wildchild – “Renegade Master”
I switched the label on a cassette of this so that I could afford it in WH Smiths. I was petrified for days afterwards that they’d identify me from CCTV and I’d be locked up. In hindsight, this is a track I’d gladly do time for.
Goldie – “Inner City Life”
Bleak and bold drum and bass. Played a big part in getting critics to realise this was a serious and brilliant genre.
The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me” (Red Jerry 7 Inch Mix)
Why remix it? It was fine, and it adds nothing. But sod it, it’s still a great song, even with the pointless bells and whistles.
Candy Girls – “Fee Fi Fo Fum”
A rare instance of me finding something moronically bad, rather than brilliant.
Happy Clappers – “I Believe” (Radio Edit)
Harks back to 80’s house with its driving piano line and soul feel. And in this instance that is a really good thing.
Wild Colour – “Dreams”
Happy clapping cover of Fleetwood Mac. I suppose it serves a purpose.
E’voke – “Runaway”
Atmospheric and a little bit Massive Attack for the first 90 seconds. Generic untz untz vocal house for the second. A bit of a letdown.
25.5 out of 40. A fine and respectable 64%, aided by what I shall call the Britpop Bounce. Also aided by some maturity coming into the dance scene, and some filtering on the pop side as a result of both of these factors.
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.