Now That’s What I Call Music 1988: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1988

Now Millennium 1988 r

“We’re The Smiths’ fans’ second favourite band.” (David Gedge)

1987 saw the demise of The Smiths and two months later, the release of The Wedding Present’s thrilling debut album George Best. February 1988: the guitar heroes from Leeds up their game with a revealing NME interview and a storming non-album single, Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm, which would eventually peak at #2 in John Peel’s Festive 50. In other news – what an odd decision; in 1988, Julia Fordham released a single called Woman Of The ’80s. It seemed to place her firmly in quicksand – an ’80s artist forever – when in fact, her sound is more ’90s. The inclusion of Happy Ever After here is a welcome treat; immaculately produced sophisti-pop with a melancholy edge and a perfect voice.

It’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt with 33 of the tracks already discussed on:
Now That’s What I Call Music 11: Billy Ocean – Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Eddy Grant – Gimme Hope Jo’anna, Joyce Sims – Come Into My Life, Johnny Hates Jazz – Turn Back The Clock.
Now That’s What I Call Music 12: Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand, Hothouse Flowers – Don’t Go, Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer, Heart – These Dreams, Bananarama – I Want You Back, Hazell Dean – Who’s Leaving Who, Climie Fisher – Love Changes (Everything), Maxi Priest – Wild World.
The Hits Album 8: Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now, Aswad – Don’t Turn Around, Cher – I Found Someone.
Now That’s What I Call Music 13: Phil Collins – A Groovy Kind Of Love, Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother), Art Of Noise and Tom Jones – Kiss, The Christians – Harvest For The World, Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour, The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour, Erasure – A Little Respect, Yello – The Race, Yazz and The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up, Womack and Womack – Teardrops, Inner City – Big Fun, Kim Wilde – You Came, Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
The Hits Album 9: Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down This Crazy River.
Now That’s What I Call Music 14: INXS – Need You Tonight, Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance, Robin Beck – The First Time.

1988 was the year of Bros. Their debut single I Owe You Nothing was released on Monday 31 August 1987, the same day as Michael Jackson’s Bad and also coincided with me starting a part-time job at my local L&N supermarket. The single failed to chart and while When Will I Be Famous reached #62 in December, it felt that a proper er, “push” was required to get them into the national consciousness. Almost immediately, Famous was re-born and climbed to #2 in February 1988. At the Valentine’s Day discos you could spot the Brosettes a mile off. By Easter, Drop The Boy had nearly gone all the way, stalling for a silver while Aswad and then the Pet Shop Boys took gold. The album Push hit the shops at the end of March, a furtive LP purchase. There’s one particularly fond classroom memory of singing Liar with my friend Terence beside me. He knew all the words! Great days.

The remixed I Owe You Nothing finally saw Bros top the charts for a glorious fortnight at the end of June / beginning of July, kick-starting the Summer of Possibility. “Sixteen, clumsy and shy” etc. By the time a fourth single was lifted from the album, we were back at school. I Quit made #4. The year zipped by: 19 shows at Wembley, one at Dublin’s RDS and a Christmas single that went straight in at #2 – Cat Among The Pigeons backed with Silent Night. It could only go one way after that. The force of Robin Beck was too much.
“Yes, Matt was definitely the more accessible of the two. Probably less outgoing, but more accommodating. Luke had a live-in girlfriend, lived out in Surrey and didn’t really hang around chatting with the fans (he did sometimes, but nowhere near as much as Matt). Matt was lonely and really encouraged the fans. I went to Luke’s house a few times, only when Matt was away I think, but I’m pretty sure there was a group of girls at Luke’s permanently, nowhere near as many as there were at Matt’s though.” (Keris)

“Education In Reverse” is etched in the run-out groove of Morrissey’s Viva Hate LP. A record of two halves; the first side having the edge on the second. Late Night, Maudlin Street is an epic for the ages, a form of Desolation Row or Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands for the 1980s. The song is set in 1972, the year of my birth. Amid a background of power cuts and house moves the narrator faces a private battle against ugliness, pill-taking, family deaths and fantasy love. Paradoxically, the greatest moments of nostalgia are reserved for a place where the narrator failed to experience a single happy hour. The Australian edition was initially titled Education In Reverse and import copies of same were available for £12.99 from Sister Ray. Advertisements in the NME every week.

“We’re The Smiths you can dance to.” (Neil Tennant)

Sadly both Bros and Moz are not here. Despite their polar positions, both are key figures in the story of the year. Nevertheless, this Millennium edition does contain the Pet Shop Boys’ Heart, the fourth and final single from the superb Actually. Their fourth and final number one single. This supreme slice of pop was strangely absent from every major compilation released during 1988; Now 12 being the obvious resting place. The song was remixed for single release and contains a wah-wah guitar sound which gives it an almost ’70s feel. Sadly the Actually version was included on PopArt. Its music video was shot in Slovenia and is based on Nosferatu – check out Ian McKellen’s hammy vampire.
“As a man who has just this minute given up believing that all good things turn wretched, I am thunderstruck. The gap between my lips is wide. After their lugubrious reading of Always On My Mind, things diminish further with this sour self-parody. Destitute of all light. What happened to the friskiness? This abject surrender, I trust, is temporary. Or there will be trouble at t’mill. You’ve had it too easy my friends. What happened to my admiration? It lies so limp. If Pet Shop Boys are starting to slide, if they continue to frazzle, God help us all. This is lazy thinking. It must stop. Think of irony. Sleep in a hat. Something. wasn’t it Picasso who used to wander off in the middle of sexual intercourse to count his money? Now that’s what we need.”
(Jon Wilde, Melody Maker, 26 March 1988)

“My favourite of the four PSB number ones. Nothing much to add here except that Heart, for me, is one of the great spring pop records. I love the syn drums, the false ending and the whole feeling of upward, onward motion it has. I always tend to dig it out and play it on the first few sunny days of March. And I love I’m Not Scared too. I had no idea it was set in May 1968” (Will)
“I’ve learned to love this over the years. On Actually this is a throwaway, but the single remix is an 8 or 9. Where it really works is between Always On My Mind and Domino Dancing on Discography. Apart from the awesomeness of the sequence, you can see a narrative: he’s comfortable enough with his lover to smirk through the relationship…until the doubt starts to creep in.” (Alfred)

After a very successful 1987, Erasure turned up the heat in ’88. The Innocents and its associated singles made them superstars in the UK and broke the band in the US. Almost 30 years on, it remains their best-selling album, a Stephen Hague production. Ship Of Fools was released in February, a shivering and shimmering synth pop spectacular. The uptempo Chains Of Love came out in May, a heartfelt wish for acceptance. And in September, A Little Respect, a plea for compassion. The Innocents 21st anniversary edition came out in 2009. I highly recommend the limited edition two CD plus DVD set, packed inside a CD-sized 20-page hardback book that includes interviews with Vince Clarke and Andy Bell about the making of the record and their thoughts on all the tracks. The second CD includes various rarities, including the 7″ version of River Deep, Mountain High and US-specific remixes of Chains of Love and A Little Respect. Most of the DVD is taken up by the exuberant Birmingham NEC concert of 15 November 1988.

U2’s Rattle and Hum arrived in October 1988 with a companion rockumentary less than three weeks later. The project captures their continued experiences with American roots music on the Joshua Tree Tour, further incorporating elements of blues rock, folk rock, and gospel music into their sound. It’s a rag-bag collection of new studio tracks, live performances, and cover songs. Many of the criticisms stemmed from a view that band were trying to place themselves on a pedestal alongside rock legends such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Billie Holiday etc. I see it more as a homage or tribute; certainly there’s quite a bit to savour across the four sides. Lead single Desire is a short ‘n’ sharp rock shock. The sweetly sung Angel Of Harlem refers to various New York City-area landmarks, including JFK airport, WBLS radio and Harlem. It also focuses on jazz history with references to John Coltrane , Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.
“Rattle and Hum was conceived as a scrapbook, a memento of that time spent in America on the Joshua Tree tour. It changed when the movie, which was initially conceived of as a low-budget film, suddenly became a big Hollywood affair. That put a different emphasis on the album, which suffered from the huge promotion and publicity, and people reacted against it.” (The Edge)

Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – Heart

Erasure – A Little Respect

INXS – Need You Tonight

All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour

Lest we forget
Julia Fordham – Happy Ever After

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1988 is almost on a par with the 1987 edition. The opening 1960s throwback at the beginning works really well despite the ubiquitous nature of both songs. Belinda Carlisle’s Circle In The Sand is always welcome and it’s good to hear Need You Tonight without the last couple of seconds being cut off like they were on Now 14. Props to Ashley Abram for giving us Jane Wiedlin’s supreme Rush Hour and All About Eve’s touching Martha’s Harbour. Dragging it down: Don’t Turn Around, Gimme Hope Jo’Anna, Don’t Worry Be Happy. And possibly Wild World. CD2’s pairing of Heart and A Little Respect is very clever ushers in a dance-heavy sequence of welcome end of year classics like Buffalo Stance and Big Fun. Although we could really do with more acid house. Ending with Robin Beck’s nostalgic pull First Time is a nice touch. There were two official videos but the song plays best with the Coca-Cola advertisement.

I much prefer the 1988 Millennium edition to Now’s 10th Anniversary. There are 20 overlapping tracks – Billy Ocean, Eddy Grant, Joyce Sims, Hothouse Flowers, Danny Wilson, Heart, Bananarama, Climie Fisher, Phil Collins, Hollies, Art Of Noise and Tom Jones, Erasure, Yello, Yazz and The Plastic Population, Womack and Womack, Inner City, Kim Wilde, Bobby McFerrin, Aswad, Tiffany. Note: INXS and Neneh Cherry were included on Now That’s What I Call Music 1989 (albeit Need omits “You’re one of my kind”). There were three regular Now albums released in 1988 and 26 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry. PS: three songs here would first appear on 1989’s Now 14.

Aside from Always On Mind which was deservedly the Christmas #1 for 1987, 19 songs reached #1 on the UK charts during 1988. While Heaven Is A Place On Earth turned up on the 1987 Millennium series, seven other chart toppers are here while the 10th Anniversary set had 12 (Belinda’s signature song would also appear on the 1987 10th Anniversary). Missed: S-Express, The Timelords and Whitney’s One Moment In Time. More: Michael Narada Walden’s soulful Divine Emotions, anything from Kylie Minogue (two #1s and three #2s in ’88), Brother Beyond’s The Harder I Try and Taylor Dayne’s Tell It To My Heart. More, more: Jason Donovan – Nothing Can Divide Us, Sabrina – Boys, Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True, Breathe – Hands To Heaven, George Michael – One More Try, Deacon Blue – Dignity, Voice Of The Beehive – Don’t Call Me Baby. “It was a good lay.”

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Now That’s What I Call Music 1987: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1987

Now Millennium 1987 r

30 years on and the music of 1987 looms large. Sitting beside me is the Super Deluxe Edition of Whitesnake’s self-titled album. Out for delivery: INXS – Kick (30th Anniversary Edition) while I’ve already gorged myself on boxes from Fleetwood Mac (Tango In The Night), U2 (The Joshua Tree), George Michael (Faith), Def Leppard (Hysteria) and T’Pau (Bridge Of Spies). I’m still waiting for Sign Of The Times to get the same treatment. 1987 was also the first year that CD singles were considered for inclusion in the UK charts. The first #1 being Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).

A sizeable number of these songs have already been discussed in the following reviews:
Now That’s What I Call Music 9: Robbie Nevil – C’est La Vie, Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing (Remix), Pepsi and Shirlie – Heartache, Boy George – Everything I Own.
The Hits Album 6: Living In A Box – Living In A Box, Mel and Kim – Respectable, Labi Siffre – (Something Inside) So Strong, Whitesnake – Is This Love, Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams, Bruce Willis – Under The Boardwalk.
Now That’s What I Call Music – Smash Hits: Hue and Cry – Labour Of Love (Now 10 too).
Now That’s What I Call Music 10: Los Lobos – La Bamba, ABC – When Smokey Sings, Communards – Never Can Say Goodbye, Bananarama – Love In The First Degree, T’Pau – China In Your Hand, Heart – Alone, M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume, Fat Boys – Wipe Out, Squeeze – Hourglass, Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme)
The Hits Album 7: LL Cool J – I Need Love.
Now That’s What I Call Music 11: Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Krush – House Arrest.
Smash Hits Party ’88: The Proclaimers – Letter To America.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1987: Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin, Was (Not Was) – Walk The Dinosaur, Level 42 – Running In The Family, Steve Winwood – Valerie, Black – Wonderful Life.

To the roof: there is no street with no name. There is only somewhere far away. The 1987 Millennium series begins with the single edit of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name, omitting the ghostly wall of sound introduction. At the time of release, The Joshua Tree felt like a record that would gradually reveal its secrets after many listens. 30 years on, I’m still getting more from it – thanks in no small part to Daniel Lanois. There’s Running To Stand Still, the devastating ballad about a couple in the throes of heroin addiction.
“I see seven towers,
But I only see one way out.”

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For has a gospel feel, a real spiritual yearning. It’s perfect for that 6.00am feeling – when you’ve been up all night and the buzz is coming to an end. I read a quote on the YouTube comments that says: “Happiness is for the ones who live in the struggle, happiness is not something you can achieve. Happiness is something you live.”

New Order’s True Faith appears in 12″ format, just as we got it on Substance. It’s hard to imagine it now but back in summer 1987, I got a phenomenal buzz when Factory Records announced their intention to release this singles compilation. So much so, that I bought it on vinyl, cassette and CD. I haven’t done that with any other album. Naturally, it has flaws – omissions and differences from the original single releases:
1) Ceremony is the version recorded after Gillian Gilbert joined the band. The original trio version – the first New Order recording following the dissolution of Joy Division — would not be re-released until the Singles collection in 2005.
2) Temptation and Confusion were re-recorded in 1987 specifically for Substance and neither original version appears.
3) The Perfect Kiss (CD version only), Sub-culture, Shellshock and Hurt are all edited down from their original 12″ recordings.
4) Cries and Whispers is incorrectly labelled as Mesh on all versions, and only on the cassette version does the original Mesh actually appear, itself mistitled as Cries And Whispers. To add to the confusion, the iTunes Store release, based from the CD version, labels the Cries And Whispers as Mesh (Cries And Whispers).
5) The standard tape version, due to the extra space befitting the format, also contains extra tracks – Dub-vulture, Shellcock, and Bizarre Dub Triangle, as well as the actual Mesh. Only on the limited edition cassette version does True Dub appear, as the last track on the second tape. On all cassette versions, Murder is after Thieves Like Us on the first cassette, whereas on the CD / DAT versions it appears on the second half of the album.

Duran Duran’s Skin Trade hit the racks in January. The title was derived from the Dylan Thomas book Adventures in the Skin Trade which John Taylor had on him during recording of the album. The lyrics reflect on how everyone is selling themselves, and “there’s a little hooker in each of us.” The single was quite a departure for the band. You get Simon Le Bon sounding like Prince with a cool falsetto while there’s a prominent horn section. There’s a great 1985 – 1986 melting pot of atmospheric Duran Duran associated tunes. John Taylor – I Do What I Do, Andy Taylor – When The Rain Comes Down, Arcadia – The Promise, Power Station – Lonely Tonight, Duran Duran – Winter Marches On. Donald Guarisco on Skin Trade: “The music lends contrast to the angry tone of the lyrics by creating a sultry, mellow melody that juxtaposes verses with a soft, hypnotic ebb and flow with an ever-ascending chorus that revs up the song’s inherent drama.”

Jackie vs Jack: I Get The Sweetest Feeling dates from 1968 and was recorded during his Chicago period when he replaced lost energy (not sure if Lucozade was a help) and started to record again. The track was written by Van McCoy and Alicia Evelyn. The orchestra was directed by Willie Henderson with Motown’s in-house band Funk Brothers performing the instrumental track with The Andantes providing the background vocals. It peaked at #3, doubtless helped by another video from the mysterious Giblets. Meanwhile 30 years on – and sadly not here – the #1 that shouldn’t have been. Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s brilliant Jack Your Body was released on a 12″ that was over 25 minutes long, exceeding the maximum time for a record to be classified as a single. Instead it should have been treated as an album. If so, during the two weeks it spent at number one, Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite would have been topped the charts for a fifth week while I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) would then have hit the summit seven days earlier.

12 months ago I was busy promoting Shattered Dreams. 1987 was a key sophisti-pop year and there are half a dozen tracks here that fall into that category. The Christians’ gorgeous Ideal World is an inspired selection, solid and soulful with a social conscience. Then ABC’s When Smokey Sings, an obvious choice even though I’d rank it behind The King Has Lost His Crown and The Night You Murdered Love. They were on their fourth album, Alphabet City, yet another different direction. Tim Robinson-Ayer makes a very valid point:
“ABC’s mis-step was that they released the equivalent of Roxy Music’s Avalon and followed it up with Flesh + Blood, both of which are killer LPs in their own regard. Now if ABC had released Beauty Stab first they would have made an initial splash and been a band to watch and then Lexicon would have solidified their reputation. The follow up of Zillionaire wouldn’t have been that much off-kilter in that progression, too.”

My next big mix project is 1980s soundtracks with the emphasis firmly focused on the lesser known tracks that appeared on the decade’s films. It’s coming in early 2018 and could be in 10+ parts. Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and Married To The Mob are two classic examples of a quality curated aural accompaniment. In March 1987, the Fine Young Cannibals’ storming cover of the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love reached the UK top 10. It polarised opinions everywhere with truculent old punks aghast at Roland Gift’s vocal. I love it and so did Mr Demme as it’s one of 10 tracks (43 were used in the movie) that made the Something Wild soundtrack LP. In a circular twist, there’s a unique version of New Order’s Temptation also included. “I can hardly wait, Charlie.”

Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin

Whitesnake – Is This Love

Fine Young Cannibals – Ever Fallen In Love

Squeeze – Hourglass

Lest we forget
Level 42 – Running In The Family

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1987 improves upon the previous year’s edition and is on a par with any other retrospective from that year. Kicking off with U2 sets the scene before three successive number ones follow and then a brace of Stephen Hague belters. The SAW 1-2 punch at the end of CD1 is a nice touch; I never get tired of Respectable and Love In The First Degree. The second half has a number of neat mini-sequences like China In Your Hand – Alone – Is This Love and then acidic passages like Pump Up The Volume – House Arrest. As stated earlier, sophisti-pop fans are well catered for with Hue & Cry, Johnny Hates Jazz, The Christians and Black all getting a run out. And it’s a chilled finale with the moody Crocketts Theme, some moonlighting from Bruce Willis and the evergreen LL Cool J still needing love. 1987 saw the trend for truncated CD compilations initially continuing with Now 9 and Hits 6 both coming out as single discs. Two survivors from the Hits 6 double LP are Shattered Dreams and Under The Boardwalk.

Let’s compare it with Now’s 10th Anniversary. There are 23 overlapping tracks between the two sets – Boy George, Los Lobos, ABC, Communards, Bananarama, T’Pau, Heart, M/A/R/R/S, Squeeze, Hue and Cry, Jan Hammer, Belinda Carlisle, Living In A Box, Mel and Kim, Labi Siffre, Whitesnake, LL Cool J, The Proclaimers, Pet Shop Boys, Was (Not Was), Level 42, Steve Winwood, Black. There were two regular Now albums released in 1987 and 15 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry (including Hue and Cry’s Labour Of Love which first appeared on the Now Smash Hits spin-off). PS: two songs here would first appear on 1988’s Now 11. Almost one third – 11 – tracks did not appear on any of the canon compilations of 1987 although five of these are on the 10th Anniversary CDs.

Aside from Reet Petite which was the Christmas #1 for 1986, 19 songs reached #1 on the UK charts during 1987. Six of them are here while the 10th Anniversary set had 12. The first new chart topper of the year, Jack Your Body, is sorely missed and should have joined M/A/R/R/S and Krush. The ongoing omission of George Michael is also a negative while I would have gladly put the Bee Gees instead of Los Lobos. Also MIA: Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Misfit, Atlantic Starr’s immoral tale of Secret Lovers, Johnny Logan’s heartfelt Eurovision winner Hold Me Now, Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister, Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love and Def Leppard’s Animal. In an ideal world, you’d get three Genesis tracks but even Tonight, Tonight, Tonight on its own would have been nice. And the absolute long shot: The Fall. Draw lots for Hit The North or There’s A Ghost In My House.

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Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1986

Now Millennium 1986 r

The Year Of The Tiger. A time to remember the following events:
8 January: Reagan freezes Libyan assets in the U.S.
20 February: Plans are announced for a new tunnel linking England and France.
20 March: Actor James Cagney dies aged 86.
25 April: U.S. planes bomb Libya.
25 May: In America, millions form human chain for charity.
29 June: Argentina win the World Cip.
8 July: Coca-Cola’s new formula is dropped after 10 weeks.
25 August: 1,200 people are killed by natural toxic gas eruption in Cameroon.
25 September: 38 prisoners escape from the Maze prison.
10 October: The FBI seizes over two tonnes of cocaine in largest ever bust.
18 November: Insider trading causes major Wall Street scandal.
21 December: 50,000 students protest in call for democratic reforms in China.

34 of the 36 songs on Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: The Millennium Series have already been compiled elsewhere. Take a look at these reviews:
Hits 4: Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds, Belouis Some – Imagination, Double – The Captain Of Her Heart.
Now That’s What I Call Music 7: Queen – A King Of Magic, Peter Gabriel – Sledge Hammer, Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going), David Bowie – Absolute Beginners, Bananarama – Venus, Sly Fox – Let’s Go All The Way, Level 42 – Lessons In Love, Chris De Burgh – The Lady In Red.
The Greatest Hits Of 1986: Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
Hits 5: Robert Palmer – Addicted To Love, Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth.
Now That’s What I Call Music ’86: Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent, Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.
Now That’s What I Call Music 8: Cameo – Word Up, Steve Winwood – Higher Love, Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia, It Bites – Calling All The Heroes, Huey Lewis and The News – Stuck With You, Status Quo – In The Army Now, Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way, Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hanging On, Human League – Human, Debbie Harry – French Kissin’ In The USA, Swing Out Sister – Breakout, Duran Duran – Notorious, Mel and Kim – Showing Out, Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight.
Now That’s What I Call Music 9: Erasure – Sometimes, Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite, Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: James Brown – Living In America.

“From the front page news to the interviews
Its sink the reds and left the blues
They pretend they’re differing points of view
But it’s only different shades of blue”

After signing with Go Discs, the singles Happy Hour, Think For A Minute and their debut album London 0 Hull 4, propelled The Housemartins into the UK top 10. No student bedsit was quite the same for a couple of years. In December they released an acappella cover of the 1985 Isley-Jasper-Isley soul hit. It reached the summit on 16 December but was deposed by Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite a week later. The latter was originally recorded in 1957 but reissued in 1986 following the showing of its clay animation video on the BBC2’s documentary series Arena. The video was directed by Giblets, a London-based animation studio. Being almost Christmas Number One was, somehow, entirely fitting for a band with as much self-effacing humour and as many light-hearted sensibilities as they had political and social convictions.

Belouis Some was born Neville Keighley in 1959 and grew up in Forest Hill, sarf London. In 1982 he put a band together and started playing clubs and small venues as Belouis Some. This paid off and he was signed to Parlophone in 1983. While recording his debut album he opened up for Nik Kershaw on the latter’s UK tour. Imagination was initially released in 1985 with a video shot by Storm Thorgerson that caused controversy because of its full frontal nudity. The dance mix was compiled on Now Dance – The 12″ Mixes. A #50 chart position was disappointing although the second single, Some People, did crack the top 40. In January 1986, Imagination was reissued and hit #17. A subsequent slot supporting Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the US and an appearance on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack LP (Round Round) was as good as it got. His greatest song, Jerusalem, peaked at #98 in August 1986. The debut album is a fine example of sophisti-pop and is best heard on the original CD, available on promo only and made in Japan.

“Suburbia, where the suburbs met Utopia”

Sign of the times or how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the music.
April 1986: Sinnott’s, Waterford
Purchased Pet Shop Boys – Please on LP £8 and CD £18.
April 2016: Golden Discs, Newbridge
Purchased Pet Shop Boys – Super on LP €26 and CD €14.
They would go on to appear on seven successive Millennium series editions – from 1985 through 1991. Suburbia is track 13 on CD1. The song’s primary inspiration is the 1984 Penelope Spheeris film of the same name, and its depiction of violence and squalor in the suburbs of Los Angeles where the music video is also shot. The various versions of the song are punctuated by sounds of suburban violence, riots and smashing glass, as well as snarling dogs on the re-recorded single mix.

After Please, came Disco. It turned up in my school’s musical library at the end of November 1986. A stock of approximately 150 albums – equally divided between LP and cassette. I played it at lunchtime every day until I was overruled. It sounded unbelievably fresh, thrilling and wondrous. And still does today. Though not listed as such on the sleeve, the versions appearing on Disco are also known / were previously released as:
2) Suburbia (The Full Horror)
3) Opportunities (Version Latina)
4) Paninaro (Italian Remix)
5) Love Comes Quickly (Pettibone Mastermix)
The versions of In The Night and West End Girls are unique to this album although, the version of West End Girls is similar to West End Dub. The original version of In The Night was the B-side to the first release of Opportunities. Arthur Baker’s glorious Extended Mix of In The Night was used as the theme for the BBC’s The Clothes Show.

Paninaro was Italian slang in the 1980s for young men known for their fashionable clothes, Timberland boots, motor scooters, and fondness for large sandwiches known as “panini”, which which the term derives. Chris mentions several popular brands of men’s fashion popular in Italy (and other places):
Armani – Named for its founder, Italian designer Giorgio Armani,
Versace – Named for its founder, Italian designer Gianni Versace, who was infamously murdered outside his Miami Beach home in 1997.
Cinque – Italian for five, the name of a German company that specializes in Italian fashion. (Thanks to Wayne Studer for these)

Disco testimonials.
#1: “The most timeless CD in my collection. There hasn’t been any other music i have loved as equally now as when i was as young as 8 years old; Pettibone’s mixes of Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls still fill me with awe and pleasure just as they did then.” (Thomas Covenant)
#2: “The tracks take me right back to where I was and the rush I felt as I inhabited this beautiful, exciting and dangerous musical landscape.” (Curve Dare)
#3: “I listened to this so much on cassette back in the day that even now I still expect to hear the XDR tones before In The Night starts.” (Fifty Cent)

“Passion and love and sex and money
Violence, religion, injustice and death”

Let’s talk about #1 Talking Heads: Little Creatures is their most immediately accessible album, with tracks that sound like they were written as pop songs. While the overall vibe is aural ear candy, this is really accomplished stuff with a really confident streak. And She Was is the opening tune and second single released; the sophisti-pop sound of The Lady Don’t Mind was a worthy first course. Thanks to my neighbour Garrett Hussey for making me a taped copy in June 1985:
Look who’s talking #1 David Byrne: “I used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore, She once told me that she used to do acid (the drug, not music) and lay down on the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc. It seemed like such a tacky kind of transcendence… but it was real! A new kind of religion being born out of heaps of rusted cars and fast food joints. And this girl was flying above it all, but in it too.”
Look who’s talking #2 Chris Frantz: “It’s a story about a woman who has the power to levitate above the ground and to check out all her neighbours from a kind of bird’s eye view. And the guy who’s writing the song is in love with her and he kinda wishes she would just be more normal and, like, come on back down to the ground, but she doesn’t. She goes floating over the backyard and past the buildings and the schools and stuff and is absolutely superior to him in every way.”

Let’s talk about #2 Talk Talk: Filmed at Wimbledon Common, London, the promotional video for Life’s What You Make It shows the band performing during the early hours in a natural history setting. The video, directed by Tim Pope, enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV. Artist James Marsh created the single’s cover illustration. The song was one of the last to be conceived for The Colour of Spring, following concern from the band’s management at the lack of an obvious single. Initially unwilling, Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, the principal source of original material for the band, accepted the task as a sort of challenge. “I had a drum pattern loosely inspired by Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and Mark was playing Green Onions organ over the top.” remembers Friese-Greene. The Colour Of Spring is their great leap forward, a wonderful song cycle which follows the emotional ups and downs of relationships and ponders life in general. For many people in 1986 it was the gateway to another world. The production is nothing short of mind-blowing with complex rhythms and beautiful orchestration. Then there’s Happiness Is Easy with its children’s chorus that floats off into a superb hypnotic groove.

Rocky IV opened in Ireland on 24 January 1986 and played at my local cinema, The Ritz, for what seemed like weeks. It was a massive event with practically all of the town’s youth in attendance. I saw the film on Saturday 22 February and my most vivid memory is of extra wooden chairs (courtesy of our local Youth Centre, which would become home to many badminton triumphs) all laid out on the ground floor behind the regular sets. And bottles being flung off the balcony. James Brown’s Living In America plays like a US national anthem and was my first introduction to the Godfather. It still feels good.


Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Belouis Some – Imagination

Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth

James Brown – Living In America

Lest we forget
Talking Heads – And She Was

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1986 falls slightly short of the high standard set by the previous volumes. There are plenty big tunes during the first half of CD1 with the inclusion of I Heard It Through The Grapevine a nice touch. It’s good to see the Hits team getting a run out – Suspicious Minds is a great cover, while Imagination and World Shut Your Mouth are always welcome. However CD2 is more predictable with few surprises and ends with the wretched Lady In Red. 1986 saw the introduction of CD compilations with Hits 5, Now 8 and Now ’86 all appearing in time for Christmas. Once again, 10 of the latter’s 16 tracks are on this compilation – the same ones that also ended up on the 10th Anniversary set – while all bar one (Human) of the Now 8 entries had already received a digital release (either on the Now 8 CD or Now ’86). However it’s good to get three songs from the non-CD Hits 4 along with Julian Cope from the Hits 5 double LP and Erasure who did not make the CD version of Now 9.

So how does it compare with Now’s 10th Anniversary? Well there are 23 overlapping tracks between the two sets – Queen, Peter Gabriel, Billy Ocean, David Bowie, Sly Fox, Level 42, Bananarama, Chris De Burgh, Robert Palmer, Gwen Guthrie, Jermaine Stewart, Cameo, Steve Winwood, Huey Lewis and The News, Status Quo, Communards, Kim Wilde, Swing Out Sister, Mel and Kim, Cutting Crew, Erasure, Jackie Wilson, James Brown. Meanwhile Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Down To Earth was included on Now That’s What I Call Music 1987. There were two regular Now albums released in 1986 and 22 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry with two more being sourced from the CD-only Now ’86 spin-off. PS: three songs here would first appear on 1987’s Now 9.

20 songs reached the top of the UK charts during 1986. Just three of them are here (all are predictable) whereas the 10th Anniversary set had seven. The first new chart topper of the year, West End Girls, was already included on the 1985 Millennium edition. So yes, I feel short-changed by this. The omission of Wham! and George Michael, while unfortunate, is compensated somewhat by both being on the 10th Anniversary release. However The Sun Always Shines On TV plus Caravan Of Love are conspicuous by their absence. I’d also make a case for the joyous Living Doll from Cliff Richard and The Young Ones. Other missing #1s were called out in my 10th Anniversary review. More, more, more: Samantha Fox’s delightful Touch Me (I Want You Body), Nick Kamen’s epic Each Time You Break My Heart, anything by Genesis and maybe the Jesus and Mary Chain’s breakthrough Some Candy Talking. Last call: Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F-11.

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