The Now That’s What I Call Music series released its first Christmas album in November 1985. 18 tracks were featured. It was released one week before Now 6 but the back sleeve [see above] did not feature the cover art for the latest volume in the main series.
Just over 60% of the selection [11 tracks] can be described as perennial seasonal favourites. These range from old-time trusty steeds – Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas – to the newer wave of festive staples like Jona Lewie’s Stop The Calvary, Chris De Burgh’s magical A Spaceman Came Travelling and Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas.
There’s glam stomp [Elton John, Slade, Roy Wood featuring Wizzard], Beatle jingles [John & Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime] and a one-off – Mike Oldfield’s spellbinding In Dulci Jublio. All 11 tracks have also featured on every subsequent Now Christmas album [2000, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013].
So what about the remaining seven tracks?
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas? Needs no introduction and also showed up on 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 instalments.
Johnny Mathis – When A Child Is Born. An early Christmas memory for me . Has enjoyed a resurgence in the 2010s with inclusion on Now Christmas 2012 and 2013.
Wham! – Last Christmas. A massive seller with a broken-hearted message that would have been number one if it weren’t for Band Aid. Like Mr Mathis it was omitted from subsequent Christmas compilations until returning for 2012 and 2013.
Mud – Lonely This Christmas. This downbeat groover also featured on 2000, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 volumes.
That leaves three curios which have not been compiled on any subsequent Now Christmas compilation.
Gary Glitter – Another Rock’n’Roll Christmas. For obvious reasons.
Queen – Thank God It’s Christmas. This was even omitted from later pressings of the LP and cassette.
Shakin’ Stevens – Blue Christmas. Underrated.
Mike Oldfield – In Dulcio Jublio
Wham! – Last Christmas
Lest we forget
Queen – Thank God It’s Christmas
The CD release followed one year later; just in time for December 1986. It contained 16 tracks [John & Yoko and Greg Lake being omitted] and was called The Christmas Compact Disc. After the poor-selling Now 4 CD, 1985 saw no UK compilations being released on the new format. However there was a shift during the second half of 1986 with Hits 5, Now ’86 and Now 8 all getting pressed on shiny discs. EMI saw a opportunity to grow sales in the hope that people would double-dip the Christmas album. I don’t have any concrete sales figures but while it’s scarce, copies can generally be found for under £30.
Here’s the Music Week advert from November 1985. Thanks to David Hannah for sharing.