Now That’s What I Call Music 6 went head-to-head with Hits 3 for the all-important festive number one slot. Neither of them got it. EMI and Virgin were the real winners as their first Now spin off – The Christmas Album reached the summit on 21 December 1985. The previous year saw The Hits Album comfortably take the honours against Now 4 so now it was time for the latter to up its game.
A cursory glance at Now 6 gives you the impression that they mean business. The pig is gone and the overall design is sleeker and just classier. The image is a leather jacket with a pen along with a list of just some of the artists with the standard “plus many more” tagline. The reverse of the sleeve has a bold statement “Feel the quality” and the paper inners contain cover art and tracklists for the previous releases in the series. Ashley Abram does a great job with the song flow; record 1 contains the big tunes and the more established artists while record 2 features a more idiosyncratic selection along with a most enjoyable dance side.
1985 was the year of Live Aid and the opening track – One Vision by Queen – is described as a tribute to Bob Geldof’s ongoing efforts. It’s a perfect introduction with some cool distorted vocals and a theatrical blow-out blitz. Nik Kershaw’s commercial swansong When A Heart Beats is next; a catchy and melodic number which unfortunately didn’t become his eighth consecutive top 20 hit [it stalled at #27]. Nevertheless I am sure that Nik was delighted to see his first eight singles compiled on albums such as these.
Wouldn’t It Be Good – Now II
Dancing Girls – Hungry For Hits
I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – Now 3
Human Racing – Now 4
The Riddle – Out Now!
Wide Boy – Hits 2
Don Quixote – Out Now!! 2
When A Heart Beats – Now 6
Top gun time now. A Good Heart and There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) both reached the top of the charts and remain radio staples today. The former was Feargal’s third 45 after the underrated Listen To Your Father [Now 4] and Loving You [Now 5 video selection only]. The Eurythmics single was magical the first time I heard it; wonderful vocals and great harmonica from Stevie Wonder. There’s a subtle rock switch now with Simple Minds windswept Alive And Kicking from the overblown Once Upon A Time LP. I was starting to lose faith in Jim Kerr’s lot by this stage but in retrospect that album [and its accompanying singles] sound a lot more palatable nowadays. Bryan Adams and Tina Turner duet effectively on It’s Only Love while Gary Moore’s gloomy and introspective Empty Rooms fits in well beside Marillion’s dilly-dilly blues of Lavender.
I always thought of side 2 as a more grown-up selection. Nikita is too serious for its own good while UB40 [getting two appearances – again] and Cliff Richard keep things dull with Don’t Break My Heart and the mawkish She’s So Beautiful. Phil Collins crowns a most successful year with another duet; this time with a woman – Marilyn Martin – and the emotional Separate Lives. Another person getting a second song is Tina Turner with the moody but extremely likeable theme from Mad Max 2. Also flying the flag for quality are Kate Bush with her stunning comeback single Running Up That Hill and Level 42’s continued move towards pop with Something About You.
1985 was also the year when Duran Duran got busy. They sung the new Bond theme and also split themselves into two side projects. While John and Andy rocked out with Robert Palmer in The Power Station, Simon, Nick and Roger kept a more new romantic vibe for Arcadia. Election Day was the first fruit and is an exotic belter complete with a mid-section spoke word piece from Grace Jones. Two more chart-toppers feature; UB40 and Chrissie Hynde’s evergreen cover of Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe and ex-Ultravox frontman Midge Ure’s surprisingly successful If I Was [this had already been bagged by Out Now!! 2]. Of much more interest however is the plaintive Blue by Fine Young Cannibals. This stopped short of the top 40 i.e. #41 and remains a genuine lost classic. The remaining quartet on this side are sublime. Check out the goth armageddon of Cities In Dust and the caustic Uncle Sam from Madness’ never-bettered Mad Not Mad phase. These are followed by Lloyd Cole’s delightful Lost Weekend and The Communards dignified piano-led debut You Are My World.
We come to dance.
Paul Hardcastle was always going to have a tough time following up 19. Just For Money is great caper fun and takes Laurence Olivier and Bob Hoskins along for the ride. Miami Vice had just started its second season in the winter of 1985 with the soundtrack album also hitting the shops. Jan Hammer’s theme is unforgettable. Body Rock is also a screen tie-in; the title song for the breakdancing film of the same name starring Lance from Falcon Crest. Maria Vidal’s rendition will stay with you long after the body-popping images fade.
Tarzan Boy was a smash hit all over Europe. Baltimora were based in Italy but frontman Jimmy McShane was a Derry boy. From a UK perspective this was a typical one hit wonder [they did enjoy other success in Europe] but it’s a memorable slice of quality Italo with great electronic rhythms. Moving on to Holland and Mai Tai – Body And Soul is a worthy successor to the addictive History. Next up are Cameo and their groovy jam Single Life while David Grant and Jaki Graham bringing up the rear with the animalistic Mated.
“Now listen to the record again!”
Arcadia – Election Day
Fine Young Cannibals – Blue
Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
Maria Vidal – Body Rock
Lest we forget
Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The video selection featured five tracks that didn’t make the main album. The Thompson Twins’ King For A Day was on Hits 3 while the Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls would end up on Hits 4. The other three were Ian Dury – Profoundly In Love With Pandora. This only made #45 despite featuring as the theme to the ITV series The Second Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. The Cult’s Revolution isn’t much cop while Depeche Mode’s It’s Called A Heart was the token new song on The Singles 81-85 so no chance of an inclusion here.
I would like to have seen Phil Collins – Take Me Home instead of Separate Lives. This also featured in Miami Vice.
Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon. Big sound.
Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm. Ideally after Election Day.
Kate Bush – Cloudbusting. This was the current single and is better than Running Up That Hill [and that’s saying something].
Simon May Orchestra – Theme From Howards’ Way. The nautical Dallas started that autumn and would continue every year at the same time [September – December] until 1990.
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms. The 7″ edit would have made a great final track for side 1.
Here’s the Music Week advert from November 1985. Thanks to David Hannah for sharing.