Now That’s What I Call Music 4 (EMI / Virgin, 1984)

Now 4

Now 4r

11 – 4 – 3 – 1.
Tricky number sequence? Think of Chequered Flag [ZX Spectrum big-seller of 1984] and pole position. It’s chart-toppers I’m talking about and the fourth instalment of Now That’s What I Call Music only has one. And it’s nearly nine months old. Hello.

Last weekend I wrote about The Hits Album. Having no serious rival was great while it lasted but this idyll could not last and the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down. The Now team had to cope with some heavy muscle from CBS and WEA and it’s fair to say that they came off second best.
Now 4 isn’t bad; in fact it’s got many great moments but what it lacks is the wow factor of the second and third volumes. We start somewhat incongruously with Arthur Baker’s special dance mix of Macca’s No More Lonely Nights. It’s a fine ballad in its own right but Ashley Abram had other ideas. This sideways shift is immediately rectified by three diamonds – Together In Electric Dreams, Bronski Beat’s fine follow-up Why? and Limahl’s finest moment. However Nick Heyward’s Warning Sign is just forgettable while John Waite’s Missing You would have been more suited to the Hits franchise. And speaking of Hits [you cannot write about Now 4 and not] – it’s got to be said that Thriller sans Vincent Price is still way better than the staid Farewell My Summer Love.

The second side prolongs the underdone vibe. The War Song ain’t no Two Tribes and the underdog in me would have gone for worthy follow-up The Medal Song [Sun go east! Sun go west!]. Elton’s Passengers has got some charm but Julian Lennon’s Too Late For Goodbyes is pretty insipid stuff. Disliked it at the time, hate it now. Heaven 17’s Sunset Now is marvellous though and a killer 45 from an much misunderstood album. Its fellow singles …(And That’s No Lie) and This Is Mine are equally fantastic. Tina’s back with the single edit of Private Dancer; The Kane Gang should have stayed at home – Respect Yourself is poor and a shocking follow-up to the sublime Closest Thing To Heaven.

Time to bring out the big rock. It’s A Hard Life is the third Queen side-starter in a row. I’d have preferred Hammer To Fall but this will do nicely. The Wanderer is turgid but East Of Eden from Big Country [a unique version] and U2’s Pride hit the right spots. It’s nice to have Feargal Sharkey’s debut single preserved here; Listen To Your Father is a catchy and oozes fun. A perfect antidote to the sombre but super Never Never by The Assembly [check out the VHS selection on the first Now]. The momentum is preserved with Kim Wilde’s inspirational The Second Time, Nik Kershaw’s downbeat Human Racing and the no-no-no singalong that is Tesla Girls.

The second record definitely has the edge on the first. This is borne out by a fairly decent fourth side. Ghostbusters saw unprecedented queues at my local cinema and the simple theme song never loses the power to thrill while Level 42’s massively energetic white-funk of Hot Water is just crucial. Three of my favourites feature in the final furlong. The Eurythmics best track ever Sex Crime [always associated with Gerry Ryan’s The Twelve Inches of Christmas on RTE Radio 2, 25/12/84], Malcolm McLaren’s masterpiece Madam Butterfly. and Eugene Wilde’s sleazefest a.k.a. the slow jam of love.


Favourite tracks
Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly

Eurythmics – Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Kim Wilde – The Second Time

Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home Tonight

Lest we forget
Feargal Sharkey – Listen To Your Father

Now That’s What I Call Music 4 CD
Now 4 CD

Now 4 CDr use

The release of Now 4 on CD was an unusual move. The format was in its infancy in 1984 with just a limited selection of titles available in the shops at fairly high prices. Back then the target market for chart compilations was not considered affluent; indeed many of the buyers were people who couldn’t afford to buy singles regularly. Therefore it was quite a surprise to see the Now 4 CD in its “patent pending” case in my local record shop just before Christmas that year. It retailed for IR£24.99 and was still there when the shop closed two years later. Needless to say I didn’t buy it…

The CD contains 15 tracks and to further confuse matters only 10 of them are from Now 4. You also get four songs that appeared on Now 3 [The Reflex, Against All Odds, Locomotion and What’s Love Got To Do With It] and the opener from Now II [Radio Ga Ga]. I don’t have sales figures for this format but I guess that it was a commercial failure. This is borne out by the relative scarcity of copies and the prices paid on the second hand market. It’s the holy grail for Now collectors and has gone for as high as £500 on Ebay in the past. After a frenzy last year [following the ITV documentary on the Now phenomenon] demand has fallen slightly in recent times with the a copy being sold for £250 earlier this month.

Missing tracks and other thoughts
This is the first Now album to feature 32 tracks. Volumes 5 and 6 would go back to having 30 tunes. At least five of them should be nowhere near this record on the basis of when they charted. The Thompson Twins and Rockwell could have featured on Now II while Michael Jackson, the Pointer Sisters and Lionel Richie are of Now 3’s vintage. You actually could make the argument that the exhumation of Farewell My Summer Love with a sprinkling of 1984 fairy dust has no place on any compilation. If they wanted contemporary Motown then The Temptations’ Treat Her Like A Lady would have sufficed.

So what would I have done differently?
David Bowie – Blue Jean. Fellow EMI artist. Why not?
Duran Duran – Wild Boys. Including this would have been a major coup (a Victims for 1984 – and even better as it was a standalone release).
Lionel Richie – Stuck On You or Penny Lover. At least they’re more recent than Hello.
Pointer Sisters – I Need You or I’m So Excited. Likewise – Jump (For My Love) was early summer.
Ultravox – Love’s Great Adventure. Epic.
Tears For Fears – Mothers Talk. A quality late summer tune.
Kraftwerk – Tour De France. Would have slotted in nicely after Shout To The Top.
Human League – Louise. This never features on compilations and is gorgeously morose in 7″ form.
Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok. It’s got that exotic touch.
Stephanie Mills – The Medicine Song. Would gladly sacrifice The Wanderer for this.
Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together. Despite being a fan of the Arthur Baker remix of No More Lonely Nights, it’s a strange and somewhat underwhelming start to the album. This touching number with its unforgettable animation video would have made for a perfect closing track. A novelty finale to rival Neil who signed off The Hits Album.

As always there was a video selection. Waifs and strays from the VHS medium include two tracks that ended up on The Hits Album [Modern Girl and Sister Of Mercy] along with Depeche Mode’s genuinely thought-provoking Blasphemous Rumours and Iron Maiden’s steam-rolling Aces High.


Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.
Now 4 advert

Here’s the Music Week advert from November 1984. Thanks to David Hannah for sharing.
Now 4.1 advert

Now 4.2 advert

Now 4.3 advert

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25 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 4 (EMI / Virgin, 1984)

  1. Paul K says:

    Ah! The ‘4’ – legendary in some circles for one simple reason – that CD! Values may have dipped, but it still makes hardened collector’s salivate (a close friend of mine would kill for one!), simply because of the scarcity of the thing!

    I should imagine the inclusion of ‘Hello’ was a desperate stopgap – when 4 was unleashed, it was the only British chart-topper left from that year that was left untouched, so they could’ve really only used that as a selling point (I’m guessing that Jim Diamond’s toe-curling ‘I Should Have Known Better’ arrived too late in the day to be included and Stevie Wonder’s stuff from this period was notorious for NEVER being compiled!)

    Some of your choices for inclusion may have also been a little late for contemplation, fine though they are – I guess the little dip in quality was due to Mr. Abram having to work with what he had, considering how the competition had suddenly appeared from nowhere. (His choices became even slimmer the following year when ‘Out Now’ joined in the fun – probably why there was only two NOW’s that year). Still, a fine, (if a little fractured) snapshot of late 1984 stuff.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I’d love to know how many copies of the CD were sold. Agree with your Hello theory; there literally was nothing else. Out Now, Now Dance and Now 5 all coming in a couple of weeks; will get Hits 2 up on Sunday.

    • Martin Davis says:

      It seems as though Now 4 is having a CD re release in November.

      Will be interesting to see if they use the same versions of the tracks as on the original or whether they will use different versions.

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        Hi Martin
        I’d say around 8 or 25% incorrect versions. Big Country is a unique mix so won’t be there. Nick Heyward 7″ mix never on CD before so unlikely to make its debut. I expect Farewell My Summer Love to be the longer album version. Plus the Macca will it / won’t it question…….

        • Martin Davis says:

          Hello again Paul

          I didn’t realise the “Big Country Track” was a unique version. Is it actually unique to Now 4 or unique in another way.

          I have a best of Nick Heyward and Haircut 100 CD which presumably contains “Warning Sign”. I’m guessing from your post that the version on this CD is not the 7′ version?

          Has that dance version of “No More Lonely Nights” ever featured anywhere else than on Now 4?

          • nlgbbbblth says:

            East Of Eden – A slightly different version to the album and single versions of this song. The change occurs at 3:35 where an extra chorus is sung instead of the instrumental break. Unique to Now 4 and not found anywhere else.

            Warning Sign – the 7″ has two raps – one at 2:07, the other 2:55. That’s on the original Now 4. Most CDs either have the 12″ or the other version which has the first rap but not the second (instead it comes out of the chorus in a jarring edit back to the bridge).

            No More Lonely Nights – that version also appears on the 1993 CD reissue of Give My Regards To Broad Street.

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  11. nlgbbbblth says:

    Now 4 CD errors

    Nick Heyward – Warning Sign (Now 4 LP has the 7″ mix which contains two raps – at 2:07 and 2:55. This slightly shorter version doesn’t)
    Culture Club – The War Song (Album version used instead of 7″ mix which was on Now 4 LP & original CD)
    Style Council – Shout To The Top (Matches the mix used on The Singular Adventures Of which runs very slightly longer than the one used on Now 4 LP & original CD)
    Thompson Twins – Doctor Doctor (Album version used. On the Now 4 LP & original CD it ran about 10 seconds shorter – possibly video version)
    The Kane Gang – Respect Yourself (Album version used instead of 7″ mix which was on Now 4 LP. Very obvious – 1 min 45 secs longer)
    Big Country – East Of Eden (7″ mix included here. The version on the original Now 4 remains unique – at 3:35 an extra chorus is sung instead of the instrumental break)
    Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Tesla Girls (Compilation version used – as on 1988’s Best Of OMD. About 8 seconds longer than 7″ edit on Now 4 LP)
    Kim Wilde – The Second Time (Album version used instead of 7″ mix which was on Now 4 LP. Quite a different beginning)
    Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home Tonight (Album version used instead of 7″ mix which was on Now 4 LP. Very obvious – 1 min 45 secs longer)

    It’s good to see that the original CD should remain sought after given that it contains correct versions of three of the above tracks

  12. nlgbbbblth says:

    My what-might-have-been tracklist for Now 4 if The Hits Album hadn’t been released:

    Side 1
    01 Wham! – Freedom
    02 Giorgio Moroder with Philip Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams
    03 Limahl – The Never Ending Story
    04 Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
    05 Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
    06 Pointer Sisters – I Need You
    07 John Waite – Missing You
    08 Tina Turner – Private Dancer

    Side 2
    01 Duran Duran – The Wild Boys
    02 Howard Jones – Like To Get To Know You Well
    03 Alison Moyet – All Cried Out
    04 Alphaville – Big In Japan
    05 Spandau Ballet – I’ll Fly For You
    06 Heaven 17 – This Is Mine
    07 Blancmange – The Day Before You Came

    Side 3
    01 Queen – It’s A Hard Life
    02 U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
    03 Style Council – Shout To The Top
    04 Level 42 – Hot Water
    05 Bronski Beat – Why
    06 Kim Wilde – The Second Time
    07 Laura Branigan – Self Control
    08 Nik Kershaw – The Riddle

    Side 4
    01 George Michael – Careless Whisper
    02 Culture Club – The Medal Song
    03 David Bowie – Blue Jean
    04 Eurythmics – Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)
    05 Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
    06 Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly
    07 Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together

    • Martin Davis says:

      Thats one impressive tracklist Paul. I always have wondered how Now 4 might have looked had the Hits Album not come out.

      I do wonder whether Sister Of Mercy and Modern Girl would have also been included had they not been snapped up by Hits. Also out of curiosity do you think Thriller would have made it to Now 4 had it not been included on Hits?

      I thought The Riddle was 1985 rather than 1984 but didn’t it appear on Out Now rather than a Hits Album?

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        Thanks Martin,
        I don’t Now would have got Thriller. Farewell My Summer Love was a Motown track from mid 70s given a reissue in 1984 (along with Girl You’re So Together) – much easier to hand over that track than the mega-selling Thriller (released on Epic). The Hits Album got it because of CBS being Epic’s parent. I fully expect that Sister Of Mercy would have been on Now 4.

        The Riddle single came out on 5 November 1984; the album followed a fortnight later. So two albums for Nik that year. It was quite old by the time Out Now! included it (more than five months on)

        • Martin Davis says:

          Once again thanks for a helpful response. TBH I had no idea The Riddle came out in 1984. I always assumed 1985.

          Am guessing having Thriller on the Hits Album gave it a much needed boost and it does make you wonder why no MJ tracks made it onto subsequent volumes in the series.

          The lack of the Stevie Wonder track is also rather suprising given it was one of the only remaining No1s Hits hadnt touched and like with the Lionel Richie and MJ tracks it was on Motown. Was it maybe Stevie Wonder’s decision not to be included?

          Both “The War Song” and “The Medal Song” are favourites of mine. I read somewhere that “The War Song” stalled at No2 behind Stevie Wonder but I’m assuming The Medal Song didn’t chart as high. However was it the band’s most recent release at the time
          Now 4 came out?

          • nlgbbbblth says:

            I thought some of the Bad singles would have made The Hits Albums 7 or 8. The lack of inclusion of Stevie Wonder may be to do with the fact that the soundtrack album for The Women In Red was quite recent – and not very good – so licensing its strongest song may not have been the best move.

            The Medal Song was released late November – could have been brand new “hot tip” like Victims was on Now 1.

            • Martin Davis says:

              Once again thanks for your response.

              I was thinking the same thing about how singles from the “Bad” album would have fitted in well on either Hits 7 or Hits 8.

              I have the Woman In Red soundtrack (albeit only on cassette) but not heard it yet. Will have to listen to it and see what I think of it.

              Thanks for clarifying when “The Medal Song” was released. Come to think of it I’m not aware of that track being compiled anywhere. Am sure I once read somewhere it was the group’s last single before they disbanded?

  13. nlgbbbblth says:

    Martin – The Medal Song is rarely compiled. The single version is very rare on CD but can be found on this Japanese release
    They had two more hits in 1986 – Move Away and God Thank You Woman

  14. nlgbbbblth says:

    Now 4 Dream
    Record 1 Side 1
    01 Paul McCartney – No More Lonely Nights
    02 Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams
    03 Bronski Beat – Why
    04 Limahl – The Never Ending Story
    05 Nick Heyward – Warning Sign
    06 John Waite – Missing You
    07 Freddie Mercury – Love Kills
    08 Lionel Richie – Penny Lover

    Record 1 Side 2
    09 Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
    10 Elton John – Passengers
    11 Julian Lennon – Too Late For Goodbyes
    12 Style Council – Shout To The Top
    13 Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours
    14 Heaven 17 – Sunset Now
    15 Human League – Louise
    16 Tina Turner – Private Dancer

    Record 2 Side 1
    01 Queen – It’s A Hard Life
    02 David Bowie – Blue Jean
    03 Big Country – East Of Eden
    04 U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
    05 Ultravox – Love’s Great Adventure
    06 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Tesla Girls
    07 Kim Wilde – The Second Time
    08 Nik Kershaw – Human Racing

    Record 2 Side 2
    09 Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters
    10 UB40 – If It Happens Again
    11 Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited
    12 Level 42 – Hot Water
    13 Eurythmics – Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)
    14 The Smiths – William It Was Really Nothing
    15 Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly
    16 Duran Duran – The Wild Boys

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