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.
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.