A record stays at number one for five weeks and they don’t play it on Top Of The Pops. This has got to be good. With a birthday coming up I asked for and received 19 inches of Frankie action. Eight years later The Sugarcubes hummed about sticking around for joy; back in the spring of 1984 Relax hung around the charts like a menacing minder.
Its inclusion on Now That’s What I Call Music II ensured that the masses got to hear it. Side 3, track 1. Nicely sequenced before the Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain. Thirty years may have passed since then but this remains my second favourite ever Now album. Early 1984 was a bleak time in Ireland; the weather was quite grim (coming off the back of a harsh winter) and austerity seemed to be permanent. The charts were fantastic though and this compilation really nails it – a proper mixture of the sunny and serious with the emphasis firmly on the latter. It’s worth noting that compiler extraordinaire Ashley Abram is now on board.
There are four number ones here which is as many as reached the chart summit during the period since the first volume. The aforementioned Relax, the Flying Pickets covering Only You and the cold war-tinged 99 Red Balloons and Pipes Of Peace. Tracey Ullman and Madness make their second successive appearance with the moody My Guy and somewhat sinister Michael Caine.
Other curveballs on the compilation included Snowy White’s arresting Bird Of Paradise, Carmel’s sprightly More, More, More and Julia & Company’s funky Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba). All three seem to have slipped through the cracks of pop history but they’re immortalised here. If you prefer more traditional fare then look no further than Joe Fagin plus a cracking Big Country ‘n’ Slade sequence.
This 12 year old was particularly taken by the third side as ploughed a more melancholic and introspective furrow. China Crisis’ Wishful Thinking was a particularly brooding track while Fiction Fictory’s (Feels Like) Heaven and The Smiths’ one and only appearance – What Difference Does It Make? – just seemed on another level. I could see the indie signposts ahead.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
David Bowie – Modern Love
Julia and Company – Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba)
The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?
Lest we forget
Carmel – More, More, More
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The VHS release included nine tracks that did not appear on the main album.
Victims and Doctor, Doctor ended up on Now 1 and Now 4 respectively.
Tina Turner’s Help reached #40 and is the worst track on Private Dancer.
Status Quo’s Marguerita Time and Marilyn’s Cry And Be Free can be found on the 1985 Band Aid Special CD (a Japanese release featuring artists who sung on the project).
Icicle Works’ Birds Fly and Bourgie Bourgie’s Breaking Point were new singles at the time of release; neither reached the top 40.
Kajagoogoo – The Lion’s Mouth. “We’re very normal people whereas Limahl likes the bright lights”. They never appeared again but Limahl’s Never Ending Story lit up Now 4.
Shannon’s Let The Music Play is the strongest of this motley bunch and spent 15 weeks on the chart. It would have fitted very well instead of Joe Fagin.
Other songs that could have featured include:
Kool and The Gang’s Joanna and the Style Council’s My Ever Changing Moods. See Now 10th Anniversary 1984 for the former.
Perhaps a novelty number would have been nice. In the spring of 1984 you could choose from Roland Rat, The Fraggles or Alexei Sayle.
Here’s the Music Week advert from March 1984. Thanks to David Hannah for sharing.
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Due on CD in April 2019.
The acid test: will we get 7″ edits of Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba) and What Difference Does It Make?
As it turned out, yes for Breakin’ Down and no for What Difference? The 7″ edit DOES still exist for the latter as I downloaded it from iTunes ten years ago. You also pointed out on NOW’s Facebook page that it’s a different mix for Relax than what appeared on the original NOW 2 LP. Apart from those – remasters aside – are the other songs the same edits as appeared on the original record? (the Queen, Rolling Stones, Duran Duran and Paul McCarney tracks are listed on Amazon as being remastered)
Hi, still waiting to get my own CD of Now 2 to confirm any other changes. A neighbour got a copy delivered yesterday so that’s where I heard Relax.
Re: The Smiths – yes, it does exist digitally just not on CD.
Anything fewer than four errors in total is an improvement on Now 1 reissue.
Someone who has the actual CD might confirm – reports of two more album versions:
Michael Caine (“I think we got it there don’t you” bit at the end) and
Pipes Of Peace (longer intro)
I also noticed looking on Amazon that Sony are reviving The Hits Album brand for budget compilations, releasing three of them the same Friday that NOWs 2 & 102 were released. They use the logotype of Hits 4-8 & 10.
I did see that – they look nice and are cheap. No idea what mixes are on but not too many tracks that originally featured on the Hits series. I might pick one up.
I’ve ordered my copy of Now 2 and spotted the “Hits” albums over the weekend. Presumably the rights issues that were present in the 80s are no longer there so Sony have more flexibility over what is included.
I understand Now 2 has also been re-released on vinyl. If so, has the packaging been kept the same as on the original including the advert for Now 1?
Hi Martin, I have seen a photo of the CD inlay and the advert is there. Presume the reissued vinyl is the same. Won’t have a copy of the CD for another week at least.
The Hits albums look nice…..
The CD inlay has an altered advert for NOW1 that removes the reference to the video but includes a reference to the CD. Yes, the reference to the cassette version is still there, but good luck trying to find the cassette re-release as that’s been done in small quantities!
Just seen the new HITS compilations in my local Asda. Sony Music are the distributors but they’ve allied themselves with Universal Music for these albums.
You’re welcome 😁
Full list of incorrect versions on the Now 2 CD:
Michael Caine – album version
That’s Livin’ Alright – different take – not the 45
Bird Of Paradise – too long, not the single mix
Relax – Come Fighting instead of the original 7″ (Move)
Here Comes The Rain Again – different edit
What Difference Does It Make? – album version not the never-on-CD-before 7″ edit
The Politics Of Dancing – shorter edit
Pipes Of Peace – has longer intro
I actually brought the re released vinyl, CD and cassette of Now 1 all at the same time last year on the day of their release and also got a “Now” bag from HMV to put them in.
Shocking that as many as 8 tracks were different versions than on the original. With regards to “Bird Of Paradise” would I be right in thinking the version on the CD rerelease is the one where the guitar section at the end continues for a bit longer than on the version on the original where the track fades?
Bird Of Paradise – they used the album version as far as I can make out. Sheer laziness!
Thanks for your response. I have the cassette of “White Flames” somewhere but it’s one album I’ve never listened to before so not sure what the album version sounds like.
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Now 2 Dream
Record 1 Side 1
01 Queen – Radio Ga Ga
02 Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good?
03 Thompson Twins – Doctor Doctor
04 Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
05 Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods
06 Madness – Michael Caine
07 Flying Pickets – Only You
Record 1 Side 2
08 Nena – 99 Red Balloons
09 Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
10 Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me
11 Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
12 Shannon – Let The Music Play
13 Kool & The Gang – Joanna
14 Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)
15 Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise
Record 2 Side 1
01 Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
02 Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
03 Howard Jones – What Is Love?
04 The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?
05 Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven
06 Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing
07 Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive
08 China Crisis – Wishful Thinking
Record 2 Side 2
09 Lionel Richie – Hello
10 Culture Club – It’s A Miracle
11 Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
12 Big Country – Wonderland
13 Slade – Run Runaway
14 Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday
15 Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace
I clearly remember that documentary nearly a decade ago where it was implied that Paul McCartney had to be persuaded that “Pipes Of Peace” would work well as the last track when he wanted it to be the first.
Are there many other examples where it is clear the last track on the album has been placed as the last track deliberately eg to end the album in the right way?
Victims on the first Now – more or less a brand new release that was expected to do well.
Fairytale Of New York on Now 10 – likewise.