Now That’s What I Call Music 7 (EMI / Virgin, 1986)

Now 7

Now 7 r

Review
Now 7 was released on 11 August 1986 which was almost nine months since the previous volume. Just like 1985 then. While the Hits team at CBS and WEA put out their fourth instalment in March 1986, the subsequent months were quiet with no Now Dance or new entrants into the market. This effectively meant that Now 7 had the pick of about 22 or 23 weeks’ worth of chart hits; a nice wide net to fish from but this inevitably resulted in some major omissions.

Side 1 is pretty flawless. Sledgehammer was massive back then and is a great way to commence the album. Even if it has that quiet-synthesised-start that kinda caught some of us off guard. UB40’s Sing Our Own Song is a pleasant interlude before Sly Fox’s raunchy and suggestive Let’s Go All The Way blasts out of the speakers. My local disco bar played the video frequently during that time; with its anti-war footage ensuring that it remains a memorable one hit wonder. The military theme is continued with ex-Wall of Voodoo man Stan Ridgway’s Nam-twanging Camouflage which is expertly slotted after Max Headroom and The Art of Noise’s sleep-pleading Paranoimia. Also vying for attention are Level 42 and their barnstorming Lessons In Love, Pete Wylie’s timeless Sinful and the re-issued version of the Pet Shop Boys Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money). The latter is not just a fantastic pop song; the version here is the alternative 7″ mix which was mistakenly included here instead of the regular single take.

There are four number ones on Now 7. One of them starts the second side – Chris De Burgh’s Lady In Red – which was still climbing the charts as the sleeve went to press. It’s still grating and one of the decade’s least memorable tunes. On the other hand David Bowie’s Absolute Beginners is magnificent and for many people, erased the bad taste that the Tonight LP left behind. Genesis came back with a bang in 1986; Invisible Touch is one of the greatest pop albums ever with five smash hits; the title track being the taster. Meanwhile for big rock fans – Simple Minds released another track from Once Upon A Time, the improves-with-age All The Things She Said and Big Country’s Look Away [from The Seer] still retains that epic quality. Elsewhere The Housemartins finally make a breakthrough with the infectious Happy Hour [their third single after the lack of success for Flag Day and Sheep]. Once again Ashley Abram’s sequencing is spot on with the final two tracks being haunting synth masterpieces – Furniture’s haunting and enigmatic Brilliant Mind, Midge Ure’s brooding Call Of The Wild.

You will notice the sticker on the front sleeve stating that there’s a bonus track contained therein. Queen had already appeared on volumes 2, 3, 4, 6 and the Christmas album so it was expected that A Kind Of Magic would feature on Now 7. The single was released at the end of March but obviously its application for inclusion was only granted at the last minute. The sleeve and inner labels make no reference to the track; it appears right after Side 3, track 8 [Simply Red’s strong slow set mainstayer Holding Back The Years].

Two more chart toppers appear in the third quarter. Wham! had decided that The Edge Of Heaven would be their farewell single and it stormed to #1 in July, knocking Doctor and The Medics’ cover of Spirit In The Sky [also included here] off its celestial perch. Getting a Wham! track was a good coup for the compilers given that Freedom, Careless Whisper and I’m Your Man featured on the Hits series. The same could be said for A-ha’s Hunting High and Low (Remix) – Take On Me and The Sun Always Shines On TV had kick-started Hits 3 and Hits 4. There are three super slices of poptasticness here; Bananarama’s glorious cover of Shocking Blue’s Venus, Amazulu’s self-fulfilling Too Good To Be Forgotten and Bucks Fizz wonderful back-from-the-crash epic New Beginning (Mamba Seyra).

To the dance side.
Our fourth number one is from Billy Ocean. When The Going Gets Tough, The Touch Get Going. Some hipsters I know have removed the ‘i’ from ‘Going’ in some sort of ironic and chinstroking prog rock stunt. It’s a lame attempt at humour. Jaki Graham’s Set Me Free makes me want to dance till I drop and is her third successive appearance. Nu Shooz’s I Can’t Wait and Midnight Star’s Headlines are just perfect; quintessential mid-80s funk jams. Now for some dope hip hop: Fresh from the Roxanne wars is The Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee and (Bang Zoom) Let’s Go Go while it’s spooky vocoder time with Lovebug’s Starski’s chilling Amityville (The House On The Hill). We sign off with two smooth soul numbers; Aurra’s magical You And Me Tonight with its dual-interplay and the sweet duet On My Own from Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. Feel the quality.

Favourite tracks
Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven

Furniture – Brilliant Mind

Bucks Fizz – New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)

The Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee – (Bang Zoom) Let’s Go Go

Lest we forget
Amazulu – Too Good To Be Forgotten

Missing tracks and other thoughts
No Out Now! or Hungry For Hits meant that 1986 was not as well-documented as 1984 and 1985. Accordingly there’s quite a few songs that could have been considered or even featured on an extra compilation.
Culture Club – Move Away. Appears on the video selection.
Rolling Stones – Harlem Shuffle. Competent cover.
Samantha Fox – Touch Me. Do Ya… is on the video selection.
Falco – Rock Me Amadeus. Massive #1.
A-ha – Train Of Thought. Much better than Hunting High And Low and never gets comped.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11. Also a VHS tune.
Suzanne Vega – Marlene On The Wall. Probably difficult to licence.
Five Star – Can’t Wait Another Minute or Find The Time. 1986 was their year.
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry. A new version to promote Standing On A Beach. This mix has never appeared on CD.
Spitting Image – The Chicken Song. Another #1 and gets mentioned in the sleevenotes as being the reason why On My Own stalled at #2.
Matchroom Mob with Chas ‘N’ Dave – Snooker Loopy. The year I played a few shots with Jimmy White.
It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune). ‘Cause it’s a Balearic gem.

And one more thing – Now 7 was the last volume to just get a vinyl and cassette release. By the autumn of 1986 the record companies were gradually coming around to considering compact discs as a optional format for various artists compilations. Some tentative but abridged releases would shortly follow.

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26 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 7 (EMI / Virgin, 1986)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    Warning! Pedantic point incoming!!! (Absolute Beginners never got to #1). Seems all I ever do is point out mistakes. Great blog though, as I’ve been going through my old 80s compilations recently, this is essential reading for me.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi 🙂 No problem; glad somebody is! You’re right – it was a number #2 hit. Post amended. I was writing that one very late the other night. Glad you’re enjoying the posts.

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  3. I hadn’t actually noticed before that it was a different version of ‘Opportunities’ (in fact I didn’t even know there was one, not being a big PSB fan) but that is another selling point for Now 7 which is a pretty good one.
    Given that the Queen track was obviously only cleared after the sleeves had gone to press, I wonder why they decided where to put it in the sequence? I sort of like to think of it as a punishment for their reputed habit of demanding a prominent point at the start of the album or at least the start of a side.

  4. nlgbbbblth says:

    You can bet if Now 7 ever got a CD release that the version of Opportunities used would not be this one. I don’t think it will and don’t have any faith in Sony to get it right given the incorrect Limahl and Malcolm McLaren tracks on the reissue of Now 1.
    Queen – I guess it had to be at the end of a side given that the sleeves had been done and putting it anywhere else would have messed up the running order. I definitely wouldn’t have put it on side 4 but the end of the first side might have worked as well.

  5. In fairness, I presume it was a mistake to include the alternative mix in the first place so I suppose they’d call it a “correction”. Realistically, though, the chance of an official CD re-issue seems vanishingly small, at least until the copyrights run out in 2057.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      A faithful reissue should go right back to the original glass master. But as you say – they could defend it based on the original being an error. The only way to hear the early Nows on CD is to rip a near-mint vinyl copy [there’s still a few out there]. That’s what I did.

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        PS – I think it was short-sighted of EMI and Virgin to delay releasing CD versions [the Now 4 experiment notwithstanding]. The Germans and Dutch were much more proactive in this regard with CDs of V/A comps emerging from 1984.

    • Martin Davis says:

      Have only ever owned Now 7 on cassette and not vinyl so I’d be curious to find out, whilst the inlay doesn’t make any reference to the Queen track, does the label?

      Have also seen it floated about online that not all copies of the album contain the Queen track. Do you know if there’s any truth in this.

      I reckon in another world the Queen track would have opened the album rather than being tagged on at the end of a side.

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        Hi Martin,
        Label doesn’t refer to it.
        There was a sticker on the front of the LP which mentioned the extra track. I haven’t heard of copies that don’t contain it.

        Queen liked being track 1 on compilations.
        From my Classic Pop interview with Ashley Abram:
        “The first Now album had the whole year to choose from but there was only a limited period of time to compile Now 2 and a more limited pool of tracks. Now 1 had cleared big names like Rod Stewart and Genesis and coupled them successfully with current pop acts and we felt it was important to do this for the follow-up. We managed to get David Bowie and Eurythmics who’d refused permission for the first one and ended up striking a deal with Queen on the agreement that they would appear in the TV ad and be the first track on the album. On the basis that it would encourage other ‘superstar’ acts, Virgin and EMI went to great lengths to clear The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney for Now 2 as well.”

        And more on Now 7’s anomaly
        “…..while on 1986’s Now 7 we got treated to the Alternative 7” of Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).

        Abram recalls: “They were done deliberately – at least most of them were! In the 80s and 90s, the Now albums had long lead times but there was always pressure to get the mastering done very quickly. Component parts came into the studio in large numbers so it was always chaos in Abbey Road with packages of master tapes arriving the whole time so not everything always went exactly to plan. I think on Opportunities…, PSB didn’t mind which mix we used but when they found out we’d used the alternative version they asked EMI for a couple of boxes of samples of Now 7 as they thought it might become sought after at some point because of the alternative mix!”

        • Martin Davis says:

          Once again thanks for another really interesting response and for posting some text from your interview with Ashley Abraham.

          I remember watching that ITV documentary a few years ago about the Now series and remember that bit about how Queen and Paul McCartney both wanted to be first on Now 2.

          Interesting stuff about that version of “Opportunities”.

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  7. I wonder actually, given the slightly odd selections on the CD versions of Now 8 & 9, whether there might have been problems about licensing particular tracks for CD? Maybe that was one reason they were reluctant to do them any sooner than they did.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      That could be an angle as the tracklists for those CDs appear a little random – i.e. excluding a couple of #1s on Now 9. While other countries had started truncated CD releases a couple of years earlier, their selections also could be a little random. I suppose price was the over-riding factor for a double CD release given the disposable income of the target market.

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  14. antster1983 says:

    Welp, the 2020 CD reissue is finally out. Missing tracks due to incompetence in the Sony & Universal licensing divisions:

    David Bowie – Absolute Beginners (genuinely gutted, this was Bowie’s best single of the 1980s after Ashes to Ashes)
    The Real Roxanne & Hitman Howie Tee – Bang Zoom (Let’s Go-Go) (not a fan of this one)
    Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald – On My Own (a real shame, this one’s lush)

  15. Fluteboy says:

    According to our music teacher at the time, they had compiled the album and had all the sleeves and inlay cards pressed, when Queen stepped forward and said: “Hang on! Where’s our song? We are your biggest earners here!” Maybe they stopped short of saying: “If it wasn’t for us, EMI would cease to exist!”
    This was then solved by tacking them on the end of side three, which ruined its flow completely. The percussive Bucks Fizz, followed by the slow crescendo that is the A-ha number, all topped off nicely with The Simply Red jewel. Only for Freddie to then chime in!
    Our teacher then invited us to spare a thought for the poor bugger who had to slap a sticker on every damn sleeve! I swear he nearly uttered the F-word!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      It’s certainly somewhat intrusive and the effect is lessened when they appeared halfway through CD2 last year. That sticker duty must have been a major pain!

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