Now That’s What I Call Music (EMI / Virgin, 1983)

Now 1 RS

Now 1r

I bought this record in Wexford on 8 December 1983. It was a game-changer and showed me the way in terms of compilation sequencing. However it lacks a certain something which can be attributed to a number of factors:
1) It’s an overview of 1983 rather than a focus on the last third of the year. You Can’t Hurry Love was actually released in late 1982!
2) Ashley Abram is not involved.
3) It features 11 number ones. A good thing but over-familiarity has sucked a certain amount of life out of these tracks.

There are four instances of doubling-up:
Phil Collins solo and Genesis.
Two UB40 tracks.
A pair of gems from Culture Club.
Two Kajagoogoo tracks (and one from Limahl).

Every time I hear Give It Up on the radio, in someone’s house or from a car stereo on the street, I then expect the opening bars of Double Dutch to kick-in. The Safety Dance just doesn’t sound right unless it’s followed by Too Shy. That’s how hard-wired on my brain this compilation is. Despite of the presence of so many big hits, there’s a handful of buried treasures here. The infectious hip-hop of the Rock Steady Crew, Will Powers’ hypnotic self-help anthem about kissing and the thoughtful Madness single The Sun And The Rain.

Bands who were already clogging up my collection by Christmas 1983 included Heaven 17 and the unforgettable Temptation, the Human League’s inventive Fascination and Duran Duran’s otherwise unobtainable Is There Something I Should Know? (you had to wait until 1989’s Decade for this to be compiled elsewhere).

The number ones were confined to the first three sides. They’re a varied bunch and range from an overblown mega-ballad (Total Eclipse Of The Heart) to youthful pop (Candy Girl) via heart-on-sleeve experience (Baby Jane). However it’s the fourth and final lap is what I return to most often. Tracey Ullman’s swirling pop, two epics from Genesis and Simple Minds and that staple of my local disco – Love Cats. The album concludes with the overblown theatrics of Culture Club’s Victims – “Almost certain number one by the time you read this”. It had to settle for bronze.

Favourite tracks
Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch

Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination

Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance

Culture Club – Victims

Lest we forget
Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence.

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Remember the blurb from the original sleeve?
“For information only. These were the other number ones of 1983.”

There were five in total and yes, they have been compiled elsewhere.

Michael Jackson – Billie Jean. Now 30 Years.
David Bowie – Let’s Dance. Now Millennium Series 1983.
Spandau Ballet – True. Now 10th Anniversary Series 1983.
The Police – Every Breath You Take. Now 10th Anniversary Series 1983.
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl. Now Millennium Series 1983.

The VHS release included three tracks that did not appear on the main album.
Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now.
The Assembly – Never Never.
Freeez – I.O.U.

All three turned up on Now 10th Anniversary Series 1983 while Hold Me Now also made it onto Now 2.

Other memorable tracks from 1983 that could have featured
New Order – Blue Monday. Now Millennium Series 1983.
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams. Now 10th Anniversary Series 1983.

This album was finally released for its 25th anniversary in early 2009. Unfortunately they used different edits for the Limahl and Malcolm McLaren songs. It’s now out of print and goes for vastly inflated prices on the second hand market. Avoid. If you want to hear the first Now album on CD then buy a mint vinyl copy and rip your own. That’s what I did.


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27 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music (EMI / Virgin, 1983)

  1. nlgbbbblth says:

    There was a second television advert which was voiced by Gary Crowley.

  2. Paul K says:

    Amazingly, I never obtained a copy of this until well later in that decade! I’d just started work by the time it came out and was splashing out my hard-earned on the singles! Not that I ever looked down on it – I just didn’t feel the need to have it! Same with the CD re-issue!

    Certainly oozed a little more class package-wise than the Ronco & K-Tels of the same period and with the top-drawer selection of tracks and hefty promotional clout, it couldn’t fail!

    (Eventually, Mr. Abram was lured away from Ronco to the NOW camp – he was the compiler of ‘Raiders Of The Pop Charts’, one of their big sellers in late 1982)

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Some people thought that Chart Hits 83 and Raiders Of The Pop Charts looked kinda cheap when placed against this. However looks can be deceiving and both compilations are far superior to this first Now album (albeit Raiders is a 1982 LP). I replaced my played-lots Now LP with a mint copy last year. The CD reissue was very disappointing for the reasons outlined in the review.

  3. Feel the Quality says:

    The CD also has slightly different versions of Candy Girl and Waterfront. Candy Girl now contains the “Candy…Candy Girl” bit in the middle of the song that was missing from the vinyl. Waterfront now has the intro instead of starting with the drum crash.

  4. Feel the Quality says:

    I got the CD on the day of release and the track order was the same as the vinyl. I looked on amazon and eBay and the CDs there have the same running order as the vinyl. I notice on the Wikipedia page that the CD has a different running order on there but I don’t see a source.

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  19. nlgbbbblth says:

    For information only these were the 10 songs that originally featured on earlier compilations:
    Hotline: Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love, Men At Work – Down Under.
    Chart Stars: Heaven 17 – Temptation.
    Hits On Fire: Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow.
    Headline Hits: KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up, Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home).
    The Hit Squad Chart-tracking: Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch, New Edition – Candy Girl.
    Chart Hits ’83: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence.

    That left 20 previously uncompiled tracks – which is pretty impressive when you consider the number of compilations released during 1983.

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