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

Now 1 RS

Now 1r

Review
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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35 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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  24. nlgbbbblth says:

    One thing that seems to have been missed is this:

    The track timings on the original Now 1 LP’s labels are not correct.
    I spotted that these were wrong at the time. My music jotters (observations, timings, charts, fantasy tracklists) are still in my parents house. They come in handy for the reviews on my site. I manually timed the Now 1 tracks sometime in early 1984.
    Now these were done with a stopwatch at the time. Always a little more difficult to gauge the exact time of the last track on each side.
    CD timings are more accurate as when timing from an LP, there will always be an extra second or two gap after when you deem the song to “end” and the next one starts.
    The Discogs entry for the album reflects these incorrect label timings – I have amended same.

    The January 1984 timings are as follows:
    Side 1
    2:52
    4:09
    3:00
    3:47
    3:07
    4:09
    3:40
    4:30

    Side 2
    3:57
    2:44
    3:43
    3:35
    3:36
    3:47
    4:40
    3:51

    Side 3
    3:35
    4:10
    3:37
    3:43
    4:15
    3:25
    3:30

    Side 4
    3:00
    3:57
    4:22
    3:40
    4:42
    3:30
    4:54

  25. nlgbbbblth says:

    Sadly, there are four errors with the 2008 CD version which have been repeated on the 2015 RSD vinyl and also on the 2018 vinyl, CD and cassette reissues.
    For avoidance of doubt, these are as follows:
    Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch (uses album version rather than 7″ mix which was on the original Now 1),
    New Edition – Candy Girl (same),
    Limahl – Only For Love (20 seconds longer on CD) and
    Simple Minds – Waterfront (missing sticks intro that’s from the original single).

  26. Martin Davis says:

    Presumably Too Shy was included due to the fact it was one of the hits of the year and Big Apple was included due to it being the most recent single by the group but what about “Ooh To Be Ah” which was the follow up to “Too Shy”? Am I right in thinking it didn’t chart very high as am not aware of it being compiled anywhere.

  27. nlgbbbblth says:

    What if the first Now wasn’t conceived as a “Best Of 1983” and instead concentrated on the previous four months or so?

    You’d have to omit the following:
    Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love
    Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know
    Heaven 17 – Temptation
    Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
    Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
    Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow
    Men At Work – Down Under
    Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
    New Edition – Candy Girl
    Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination

    I’d also apply a no duplication rule and get rid of
    Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
    UB40 – Red Red Wine

    Replacements are
    The Police – Synchronicity II
    David Bowie – Modern Love
    Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
    Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
    Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
    The Assembly – Never Never
    Elton John – I’m Still Standing
    Wham! – Club Tropicana
    Style Council – Long Hot Summer
    Level 42 – The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)
    Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dear Prudence
    Eurythmics – Who’s That Girl

    Now 1 Dream
    Record 1 Side 1
    01 Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
    02 Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dear Prudence
    03 David Bowie – Modern Love
    04 Limahl – Only For Love
    05 Elton John – I’m Still Standing
    06 KC & The Sunshine Band – Give It Up
    07 Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch
    08 Eurythmics – Who’s That Girl

    Record 1 Side 2
    09 The Police – Synchronicity II
    10 Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
    11 Level 42 – The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)
    12 Style Council – Long Hot Summer
    13 Wham! – Club Tropicana
    14 Rock Steady Crew – Hey You (Rock Steady Crew)
    15 Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat

    Record 2 Side 1
    01 Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
    02 Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
    03 Kajagoogoo – Big Apple
    04 Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together
    05 The Assembly – Never Never
    06 Howard Jones – New Song
    07 UB40 – Please Don’t Make Me Cry
    08 Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack – Tonight I Celebrate My Love

    Record 2 Side 2
    09 Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know
    10 Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence
    11 Genesis – That’s All
    12 The Cure – The Love Cats
    13 Simple Minds – Waterfront
    14 Madness – The Sun And The Rain
    15 Culture Club – Victims

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